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  • The Nature of Games in the 21st Century

    [03.05.09]
    - Lewis Pulsipher
  • Title box"I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody."

    —Herbert B. Swope

    Games have changed over the past few decades, because player preferences have changed. It's hard to say whether video games helped cause this or merely take advantage of the differences.

    If you are designing for publication, you are not designing a game for you. You are much too unusual to be representative of a large target audience.

    As a designer you need to be aware of these changes. If the target audience for a game is people 50 and older, their game interests will be quite different from those of the latest generation (Millennials born around 1980 and younger).

    I am going to contrast present-day preferences with those of the 1950s-80s, and you'll see how video games fit these newer preferences.

    Here is a list of these characteristics. Afterward, I'll discuss each one.
    • Positive scoring mechanisms that reinforce success and encourage the player to continue
    • Disinclination to plan or study
    • Players won't write things down
    • Players won't do even simple math
    • Players want a reduced number of plausible choices, and not many pieces/items to deal with
    • Not much down time
    • No look-up tables
    • Episodic
    • Dice versus cards
    • No player elimination
    • Simple and short
    • Pacifism
    • Sharing and cooperation
    • Much stronger visual orientation
    • Uncertainty of information is much more common
    • Player interaction without overt conflict
    • Generational differences
    (These remarks address both non-electronic and video games. Most of game design is the same whether you use computers or not, and if you're starting to learn game design, you should be designing non-electronic games because they make it easy for you to experiment with your results, rather than be caught in the "production trap" where you spend almost all your time trying to get the video game to work. See "Pulling the Plug: In Defense of Non-Digital Teaching and Learning.")

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