A typical videogame user is no longer a teenage boy sitting in his bedroom for hours on end clicking away, a tower of soda cans and pizza crust scattered aimlessly near his trashcan. Now insert into this picture some friends, girls included, and instead of them frozen with thumbs feverishly gliding across a controller, they are jumping up and down playing Dance Dance Revolution. What are the important changes in this second scenario? It’s important to note they are no longer motionless because we’ve seen a shift in game design to include body movement, and with this shift a demographic change to include women. Why is this important? Could this shift in video game design, aimed to confront the obesity issue and remain innovative, cause the side effect of expanding the target market?
The other night in our Interaction Design class we played video games, which was really cool. Most of these games fall into the casual gaming category because they are not “hard-core games such as first-person shooters and fantasy games” (Hayes, 23). We were asked to think about what characteristics make these games exciting (or boring) and our overall thoughts while playing these games. The games were diverse, from PacMan to Rockband to Lego Star Wars and online games like LambdaMOO, Tower Defense and the Club Live game portal.
Looking around the room during this session I took away two key observations. One was a general desire of everyone in the class to try the games; there were no people unwilling to give it a shot. People also tended to classify themselves without thinking about it, saying things like they didn’t “know anything about video games.” This unconsciousness classification is interesting because it demonstrates that we know something about videogames, even if we know nothing.
My second observation dealt with seeing the seasoned players willing and without question to help the amateurs learn the newer games like Wii Tennis and Rockband. I think this second point is important because it shows the shift in perception of video games, meaning the tight conception of “gamer nerds” is splintering and experiences are becoming shared. This sharing aspect might have been a contributing factor to the inclusion of women into the video gaming experience, as well as the research linking increased female participation to casual gaming, “women tend to play more casual games such as Tetris and Solitaire, or games like The Sims” (Hayes, 23).
While playing the games, it was easy to understand what made the games interesting to me personally. For example, I played the clarinet for 9 years so I have a better understanding of music then someone who didn’t have a similar experience. It would make sense Rockband was easier for me to learn than Lego Star Wars which had no obvious goal presented during my brief use. While the cute graphics and design of Lego Star Wars was the reason I choose that specific PSP game from the others available, I would enjoy playing it again because of nostalgia and the cuteness factor. The common characteristics of games I enjoyed had an attractive visual appeal, interaction beyond just the hand controller, a clear and simple goal.
There were games I would not play again, like Tower Defense. The user interface was confusing and the subject matter did not appeal to me. I became bored easily and was not inclined to learn how to play; for me to enjoy a game the goal has to be blatantly obvious, I assume this is similar to other people who play casual games. Characteristics which made the games unattractive was the lack of music, the need to download additional software to play, like in the case of LambdaMOO, and having to query answers online, like the game Enlivenment.
From our session it became apparent that our experiences as individuals can shape what we find engaging (or not) in a video game. We can see the perception change in the typical video game player as we make ourselves more open to trying instead of denying. As Hayes notes, video games are more often becoming a child’s first foray into the digital world, so I believe we are in for a bigger perception change and increased innovation in the interaction design of games.
Hayes, E. (2005, September). Women, Video Gaming & Learning: Beyond Stereotypes. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 49(5), 23-28. Retrieved October 5, 2008, from Academic Search Complete database.