Understanding Your Audience

In the previous section, we defined the elements of a game. But games don't exist in a vacuum ; they're intended to be played by people. A common misconception among game designers is that all players enjoy the same things that the designer enjoys, so the designer only has to examine his own experience to know how to make a game entertaining. This is dangerous hubris . The reason for making a computer game is to entertain an audience. You have to think about who those people are and what they like.

Generalities are always risky, and misguided assumptions about players can result in games that no one will buy. Still, unless the game you're designing has been commissioned by a single individual, you are making it for a class of people, not for one person, and that class will be defined by common characteristics. Another important question a publisher will ask you is "Who will buy this game?". Think carefully about the answer. What things do they have in common? What things set them apart from other gamers? What challenges do they enjoy? More important, what challenges do they not enjoy? What interests them, bores them, frustrates them, excites them, frightens them, and offends them? Answer these questions, and keep the answers close at hand as you design your game.

Core Versus Casual

In our opinion, the most significant distinction among player types is not between console-game players and computer-game players, not between men and women, and not even between children and adults. The most significant distinction is between core gamers and casual gamers.

Core gamers play a lot of games. Games are more than light entertainment to them; they're a hobby that demands time and money. Core gamers subscribe to game magazines, chat on game bulletin boards , and build fan web sites about their favorite games. Above all, core gamers play for the exhilaration of defeating the game. They tolerate frustration well because of the charge they get out of finally winning. The greater the obstacle , the greater the sense of achievement. Core gamers thrive on competition. They don't like games that are easy; they like games that are challenging.

By comparison, casual gamers play for the sheer enjoyment of playing the game. If the game stops being enjoyable or becomes frustrating, the casual gamer will stop playing. For the casual gamer, playing a game must be entertaining, whether it's competitive or not. A casual gamer is simply not willing to spend hours learning complex controls or getting killed again and again until he finds the one weak point in an otherwise invincible enemy. To design a game for casual gamers, you have to challenge their minds at least as much as their motor skills.

In reality, of course, there are as many types of gamer as there are gamers; everyone has their own reasons for playing computer games. But the casual/core distinction is a very powerful one. If you design a game specifically for one group , you almost certainly won't have a lot of sales to the other group. A few very well-designed games manage to appeal to both: Goldeneye , for example, could be played happily by both core and casual gamers. Core gamers could set the game at the highest difficulty level and drive themselves crazy trying to cut 15 seconds off the last time it took to play a mission. Casual gamers could set the game at the easiest level and blast away, enjoying the game's smooth controls and visual detail.

Even at the concept level, you must have some understanding of who will play your game and what they will enjoy about it. A game concept is not complete without a statement describing its intended audience.

Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design
Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design
ISBN: 1592730019
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 148

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