Guest Blog Post: Striking the Fine Line Between Appealing to Both Kids and Adult Gamers


guyoncouchVideo games are a mainstream form of entertainment, and more people are playing games than ever before. Currently, 67% of all American households contain gamers, and the average age of the game consumer is 34, with the 18-49 year-old demographic making up one half of the gaming demographic. As a result, producers pour an incredible sum of money marketing their titles toward the more mature gamer.

That said, 25% of the gamer community is under 18, and many adult gamers get into it as a way to keep an eye on their young gamers. Indeed, some research suggests that up to 97% of all kids play video games at least some of the time, many an hour or more per day.

Playing games together is a time-honored tradition in many families, and it’s the natural extension of family board game nights in techno-savvy households. The challenge for developers, then, is balancing the needs of both kids and adult gamers to create a game that will appeal to a wide target audience.

Key Considerations

At their core, gamers of all ages want just one thing: a good game. Within that, though, certain things will appeal better to some players than others. Here are some tips for designing a game that will appeal to players of all ages:

  • Use humor.

Kids love humor, and adults will appreciate a few high-brow jokes hidden in innocuous places. One game that succeeds wonderfully at this is Viva Pinata, where a decidedly adult subtext sails right over the heads of young players while providing amusement to their parents.

  • Consider creating a sandbox-style game.


[Image: Disney Infinity, rumored to be a full sandbox game]

Although it’s not the only model that can be successful, sandbox games give you an automatic advantage when designing a game for a wide audience. Since players can create their own goals, the game can be engaging for people of multiple skill levels.

  • Make sure the controls are simple.

The more buttons involved in game play, the harder the learning curve and the more likely that young players will get frustrated. There’s a reason why the Wii dominates among families: Simple, intuitive controls make for a more enjoyable immersive gaming experience.

  • Make the art style interesting.

biggreentreeWhile photorealism is a popular choice among adult-oriented games, it’s not as captivating for kids (and admittedly a few older gamers) who are more accustomed to cartoons and brightly-clad superheroes. You don’t have to go for a cartoony look, but a unique visual style will signal that this is a game that kids would like.

  • Make it easy to put down.

While adults are often very happy to sit down for a weekend-long game session, kids are usually playing in short bursts between school and homework. Design your game in such a way that real achievements or progress can be made in 30 minutes of game time, and the game can be saved at any point. This will also make it easier for a busy parent to sit down and play along.

Striking The Balance

There are many enjoyable all-ages video game franchises on the market, including Epic Mickey, Little Big Planet and Viva Pinata. These games are all very different, but they have one thing in common…

… They’re all well-made, excellent games.

Whether you’re creating a sandbox-style game or a puzzle-based platformer, paying attention to quality is what will make your game stand out from the crowd. Formal education through game design programs offered at places like the New York Film Academy can help you hone your natural ability to craft this, but ultimately it’s through practice that you’ll hone your eye for a balanced experience.

marioKids might be forgiving about thin story or repetitive game play, but adults require more intellectual stimulation. At the same time, adults have more patience for slow-moving games, but kids demand to be entertained without being bored. Learning to balance your pacing, difficulty level and content quality won’t just help you make a better family game; it’ll also make you a better game designer in general.

New York Film Academy
Guest Blogger

Acting & Film School
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