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What Gamers Want: Family Gamers
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What Gamers Want: Family Gamers

April 29, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

5. Play Together

By far the most popular games in our lab were those that sported local multiplayer, particularly if there was a cooperative element. Our class of players found that teaming up together was not only great fun, but also enabled experienced players to guide and protect the novice player.

Local split screen action was notably absent from many of the PS3 and 360 games, with only the Wii consistently sporting this option. Super Mario Galaxy, for example, proved most popular for father-son gaming. Although the dads attested to enjoying helping their kids through the levels, further inspection often told a different story. The kids were often giving their carers essential help and advice -- something they relished.

6. Deep Localization

Game localization is obviously a hot topic these days, with much effort lavished on the likes of Elite Beat Agents or the Phoenix Wright games -- which can lead directly to success. Whilst these are excellent at matching the culture and language of their audience, our gamers were, at times, frustrated by the way the games ignored the finer points of childhood in their locale.

An interesting example was the use of spelling in tutorials. One parent remarked, "I spend all day enunciating letters phonically to help my little girl at school, and then all my hard work is undone by the game joining up all the letters again." These kids are being taught to pronounce letters the way they sound in words rather than (as used to be the case) as abstract concepts. For example, they are taught to pronounce "a" as an "ah" rather than as an "A" sound.

Admittedly, it's a technical point, but this is a key nuance of her children's education. It may seem like nit-picking, but as games court a wider audience, these are the concerns they face. Localization becomes a multifaceted problem, rather than just trying to make jokes funny in another language.

7. Simple Handicapping

Our families included players with different levels of experience. The gap between gamers and those who hadn't previously touched a controller was a real problem when trying to setup balanced multiplayer games.

Some of our games, such as Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, had a handicap setting that made the job of creating a level playing field a lot easier. However, other games only provided characters or vehicles with different stats. Successfully applying these to a field of varying players became an overly complex task.

One dad came up with an interesting suggestion for play leveling -- "Why not make the winners a bit worse each time and the losers a bit better -- that would level the field and make you more likely to play again when you have just been beaten." We have to admit that he seems to be onto something here; dynamic difficulty adjustments would really help games with players of differing ability.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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