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[How should game creators build titles to appeal to wider audiences? Following Gamasutra's look at kid-focused gaming, we organized game play sessions with older gamers to find the top 10 lessons for game creators.]
The next step in our
endeavor to discover what gamers really want turns our attention to older
players. This group, which we are pigeonholing as "Silver Gamers", are
typified by the fact that they didn't grow up with video games and often would
consider themselves outside the market of game players. These players, who ranged from their 50s upwards, had a primary reaction
to an invitation to play some games of "that's not for me, but I'll
From these various
bits and observations, we have distilled another list of what this group most
wanted out of their video games.
Many of our players took a little longer than average to get to grips with the basics of the game mechanics. Tutorials often skimmed over some key issues and assumed a certain level of pre-existing knowledge.
However, unlike more
familiar players who would get frustrated and skip these sections, our older
gamers wanted the opportunity to repeat
the training sessions until they were sure they had understood. Only then were
they happy to proceed onto the game proper.
Surprisingly Madden 08 on the Wii scored particularly well in this department. Not only did it provide well-paced introductions to each control method, but you could also jump back to a practice session for the different motions during the game.
Touching again on comprehension, a related request was for better printed materials to explain the game premise and controls. Almost all the games on test only sported a limited pamphlet. Once you take into account the marketing and multi-language material, this often only amounted to three or four pages of prose.
It's easy to assume that gamers aren't interested in reading physical
training material. But this group of players made it clear that they very much
preferred reading on paper rather than the screen.
"Why not have a 'quick start' guide like I got with my phone?" wondered Fred, one of our gamers. "And why can't I have a proper instruction manual?" chimed in his other half. Our silver gamers largely agreed that to be able to read though a rudimentary manual before putting the disc would greatly reduce how intimidating the whole experience is perceived to be.
There was a surprise winner in this department - GTA IV! Although we didn't get very far into the game itself, everyone really appreciated having a printed map. One of our younger Silver Gamers commented that he remembered getting great materials with Elite on the BBC Micro, and how that really contributed to the whole experience for him.
"Holding a flight guide and keyboard layout made me feel like I was really in the game. I thought modern games would provide more of these things rather than less. It's a shame really."
Although they were wary of being stereotyped, many participants found that the text size, even on our larger High Definition screens, was often hard to read.
In fact some seemed to prefer the Standard Definition output that didn't shrink the text so much, even if it wasn't as sharp.
This combined with the limited amount of time some games provided to read the text to draw some of our most exasperated reactions.
"Wait, what did that say again?" was a common refrain. GTA IV was a prime offender here, with its help text quickly disappearing without any user interaction.
"Find Mii" on Wii Play, however, scored well, as you could bring up the instructions by holding the B button on the Wii remote. It also provided large text on a highly contrasted background, both aspects appreciated by this group of gamers.