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Having visited ourselves upon groups of Family Gamers and Silver Gamers, we now turn the labs over to Missing Gamers in an attempt to discover what is keeping them from playing games as they did in their youth.
Although the ranks of the gaming masses are swelling more than ever, there are still thousands who used to play games when they were younger that have yet to return to the pastime.
Their lives have obviously changed in the intervening years -- so that available time, money, and attention are now in more limited supply.
But beyond these generalizations, we wanted to discern the detail of what it was that kept them from picking up controller, mouse, or remote. Over a few weeks in the summer we organized a series of play sessions with some of these absentee gamers, a group ranging in age from 25 to 35.
As with our Silver Gamer sessions, we weren't sure what would result but again, by the end of each day we had armfuls of notes on what they now wanted from games.
From these experiences and discussions we have compiled the following list of what our Missing Gamers really want from a video gaming experience:
Despite not owning a games console themselves, most of the missing gamers in our tests were happy to invest a lot of time in various social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
"I don't mind wasting my time on Facebook, because I feel like I'm doing it with my friends," one Missing Gamer thoughtfully retorted when asked why she was happy to spend non-productive time on Facebook but not on video games.
When we introduced one group to Xbox Live and its community features (with something of a twinkle in our eye) we were surprised at the lack of enthusiasm. "How do I update my status, though? And how about adding pictures and links?"
It seems that the rich experiences of their existing networks mean the usability bar is pretty high for these would-be gamers.
A more successful tack seemed to be introducing them to ways which gaming could plug into and integrate with their existing networks. The MSN features of Xbox Live, and the Xbox Facebook and iPhone applications were met with pleasant surprise and enthusiasm. These features seemed to go some way to "making sense" of games for the group.
The bottom line here seems to be that most games platforms have a "come join our community" ethic, but members of this group of would-be gamers already have well-established, functioning networks of their own.
They respond much better to services that enhance and amend these existing groups, both online and in real life. When they discover that games can "come to their community" they are much more willing to invest some time and money.