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October 22, 2014, 09:12:50 PM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreativeDesignWho do you design for?
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hmm
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« on: December 28, 2012, 04:12:09 PM »

Hi all,

My question to you today is about who do you design your games for?

I have always designed games for myself. However, now that I am looking to begin game design as a career, 'myself' just isn't a big enough market. And so, the companies who are offering jobs are not necessarily making games that I would eagerly play.

As such, I am facing the dilemma of who I should be designing games for? Me or Them?

So, some questions:
  • Who do you design for?
  • Why?
  • Do you change who you design for?

I think that there is value in designing for other demographics. Afterall, game design is in the service of other people. And therein lies a challenge to any good designer. How does one design for a demographic that is so far removed from their own?

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alastair
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2012, 04:34:35 PM »

Myself, because obviously its more enjoyable to make a game you like yourself.

I can imagine that if I eventually have the privilege of collaborating with another human, there would need to be compromises in the design to make them happy, but I think I'd be ok with that since working alone all the time sucks.
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J-Snake
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2012, 04:35:17 PM »

You have to ask yourself what is fun to you. Stick to it but take into account the majority playing your game will be them and not you. So I think it is healthy to find a compromise, for you and for them.

For example if it was for me I would make my current puzzler even more challenging/interesting, borderline hardcore. There are these hard moments, like it would be brilliant to add this and that level but I have learned to stay tough and take others into account. Others simply don't have the perfect relationship to the game I have. But as long as the actual core is decently provided I am satisfied with that.
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Alec S.
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2012, 08:11:30 PM »

I think the core thing is to design what you like, but also design to convince other people to like it.  That's where polish, interface design, pacing and player feedback come in.  You shouldn't be trying to please everybody, but there will be a lot of people who can appreciate a more niche idea as long as it's still polished and accessible.
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« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2012, 09:23:00 PM »

Lately I've been thinking that it would be really awesome to make a game for 8 year old girls. Most games I'm aware of aimed at 8 year old girls are, basically, shit focused around banal shit like becoming a babysitter or looking after dogs or whatever. My experience with 8 year old girls is that they're bright, curious, creative, enthusiastic, and are the sort of people I would like to make games for (7-8 year old girls are by far my favourite age group to teach). I like many children's novels and whatnot, so it's not like our taste is irreconcilable.

I dunno - it's not really a Me vs Them thing. I wouldn't design something I don't personally like to try and appeal more to them, because that way lies the path of games about becoming a babysitter, or whatever other soulless junk people try and market to them. It's about finding the common denominator between what I find appealing and what they find appealing. Of course, it would mean making decisions I wouldn't normally make, but it's more like an interesting creative constraint to work with than anything, I dunno - 'vision-compromising', or whatever.

All this being hypothetical, of course, because none of this has gone past the 'wouldn't if be cool if...' stage of development.
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2012, 11:01:35 PM »

i'm thinking about the kind of experiences i liked, the kind of experiences i wish i had, and reading through things i had said over the years and seeing how it differs from what i believe now. so i'm designing for "me" but not just the present me, there's the past me, there's the future me, and the people around me, like my mother who can see skill in something like slot machines, and the technology around me, for example i'm targeting win8 so i'm thinking about utilizing traditional controls+touch, and i'll take all that into consideration. no shit i have thoughts of what a game should/shouldn't be, of what kind of game i think i'd like to play, of what kind of game i think i'd like to make, and thoughts outside of gaming (like actual, personal beliefs) but none of it matches up. so i'm reconsidering everything. prioritizing what's important and what's not important, what has some value to someone else, or my future self, what meets my needs in the short-term and in the long run, and what games still even mean to me after years of this nonsense.

i'm designing with these values in mind, that i call the pillars of dum: 1)anyone can play. 2)challenge everything. 3)everything is dum.

1)anyone can play - it can mean accesibility features (control settings, language settings, difficulty settings, content skip settings(cutscene, puzzle, combat, the whole fucking game, why should i care?)). it can mean not assuming the player is "hardcore" or "casual" or "white male 16-20" or whatever. it can mean multiplatform.
2)challenge everything - as ea says, challenge everything. challenge myself, my game, and the player. in "design", challenge what "skill" or "depth" or "mechanics" and all those other gamer terms even mean.
3)everything is dum - this is the law of dum: everything is dum. there could be a rock somewhere floating in space that might not be dum but for now everything here on earth is dum. which means, as cool as i am and as cool as games are and as cool as master chief is it doesn't really matter cos everything is dum. this is to keep things in perspective(like my ego or anyone else's ego)
« Last Edit: December 28, 2012, 11:14:43 PM by _e_va » Logged
starsrift
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« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2012, 11:24:57 PM »

My games aren't very any good if they're not ones I like to play.

I have the cynical view that gamers are more interested in polish than mechanics, anyway. Which sounds unfair on the face of it, but when you dig down and consider it, is really okay. Like eva said, anyone can play. But it's how well-crafted a thing is that gets eyes on it.
And you can see it in the AAA industry too - they follow trends like a stampeding herd. The gamers don't change tastes en masse, some adventurous studio just does something really well and the gamers like it, so every senior manager and marketing exec goes "our company could make so much money if we could break into that market!!111eleventy!".
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hmm
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2012, 03:18:57 AM »

Hey, thanks for the responses. Some really interesting points have been made so far.

In general, I think its fair to say people tend to think at least partially in their own terms? And if you are designing for others, you're trying to find the 'you' in 'them' and the compromise.

But, consider Aik's hypothetical 8 year old girl audience (quite specific). Aren't they so far removed from who I am that my own tastes are irrelevant when designing for them? I mean, I never was, and probably never will be an 8 year old girl.

Starsrift raised another interesting point. Are tastes made by adventurous studios? If so, shouldn't we just keep making for us and hope that what we create somehow catches on?

All of this sounds a bit like desperate pandering to the masses, a desire to be liked by many. But then isn't it important for a game to be liked my many? It's a sad game that no one wants to play after all.
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2012, 03:59:05 AM »

Well I am pretty sure you cant design a game type you wouldnt enjoy, I mean I hate racing games myself and so any racing game I design would be rubbish by default... I dont understand the appeal of a racing game so how can I design one ?

So one could say you may not need to design a game for yourself, but you have to at least enjoy the genre or gametype to be able to design it... I would say.
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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2012, 04:46:28 AM »

Yes you can design stuff that you yourself don't like. The main trick, is to make sure to get lots of feedback and testing from the actual audience your designing it for. Also most stuff is really just re-makes or slight twists/iterations on existing designs, so its fairly easy to have a good starting point most of the time.
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feminazi
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2012, 05:08:45 AM »

i don't see it as compromise or pandering or mass appeal or whatever, just being open to perspectives that can possibly shape yours and possibly make a better game. i think more about "non-gamers" comments on games a lot more though as they haven't been exposed to game design discussions and forum hiveminds and gamasutra articles or whatever that probably clouds gamers judgments. i don't trust other gamers or reviewers or even myself these days to figure out what kind of game i'd like to play.
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Alchiggins
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2012, 11:59:23 AM »

Great discussion so far. Pertaining to the "me vs them" discussion, I don't think that the goal so much is to "compromise" between your tastes and your audiences taste and make a game that doesn't fit either of them, as much as to find where they overlap. It's no fun to sacrifice your vision and enjoyment to any extent.

Personally, when I make games I try to make something that's accessible to non-gamers and yet engaging for experienced ones. Since a game that's accessible to non-gamers generally wouldn't be very difficult, the challenging part for me is to find an alternative way to engage experienced gamers besides climbing the difficult curve. This generally means focusing on story, art, atmosphere, and writing, but I'm wondering if anyone has other ideas on how to appeal to both groups.
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Aik
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2012, 08:31:18 PM »

Quote
But, consider Aik's hypothetical 8 year old girl audience (quite specific). Aren't they so far removed from who I am that my own tastes are irrelevant when designing for them? I mean, I never was, and probably never will be an 8 year old girl.

Well, I've never been an 8 year old girl either, but I know quite a few of them. Also, I happen to really like a certain variety of fantasy that's found mostly in books aimed at that demographic (e.g. Penelope Farmer's books, The Land Behind the World by Anne Spencer Parry), fairytale fantasy, and (yesyes, I know) certain varieties of mahou shoujo.
So, I'm not sure about you, but for me my tastes are quite relevant - albeit, of course, only a certain subsection of my tastes. If you don't share anything in common with your target audience, you probably should reconsider making games for them.
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feminazi
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« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2012, 09:35:04 PM »

Great discussion so far. Pertaining to the "me vs them" discussion, I don't think that the goal so much is to "compromise" between your tastes and your audiences taste and make a game that doesn't fit either of them, as much as to find where they overlap. It's no fun to sacrifice your vision and enjoyment to any extent.

Personally, when I make games I try to make something that's accessible to non-gamers and yet engaging for experienced ones. Since a game that's accessible to non-gamers generally wouldn't be very difficult, the challenging part for me is to find an alternative way to engage experienced gamers besides climbing the difficult curve. This generally means focusing on story, art, atmosphere, and writing, but I'm wondering if anyone has other ideas on how to appeal to both groups.
i think nonexperienced gamers can still enjoy a difficult game so long as you give them the tools to do so. like right now i'm palying rockband 3 on pro guitar which is like the close-to-real plastic guitar thing and these trainers seem effective for beginners.
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« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2012, 09:44:48 AM »

i think nonexperienced gamers can still enjoy a difficult game so long as you give them the tools to do so. like right now i'm palying rockband 3 on pro guitar which is like the close-to-real plastic guitar thing and these trainers seem effective for beginners.

I've heard lots of anecdotes/read some articles written by non-gamers who do things in games they play like repeatedly fail to make the first jump in a platformer or fail to make their character move in a straight line. For people who've been playing games their entire lives, basic character control is not a problem, and so tutorials/trainers addressing it are usually absent. I might be wrong, but it seems to be the more fundamental skills that challenge non-gamers than the nuanced ones.

I haven't played Rock Band, but it would seem to me that it would be much easier for someone to pick up the game if they are already used to using game controllers in general or if they are used to quickly processing visual information and responding to it appropriately. I might be wrong, but I think that even when games include tutorials they tend not to address the fundamental, universal gaming skills that non-gamers lack, although it is possible for them to do so.

 
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« Reply #15 on: December 30, 2012, 10:38:24 AM »

in my opinion, design in a small team is something awesome, its like making games for yourself. But in big companies it sucks, you cant be a free designer, you cant totally explore your ideas and you cant take risks WTF
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« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2012, 01:36:18 PM »

i think nonexperienced gamers can still enjoy a difficult game so long as you give them the tools to do so. like right now i'm palying rockband 3 on pro guitar which is like the close-to-real plastic guitar thing and these trainers seem effective for beginners.

I've heard lots of anecdotes/read some articles written by non-gamers who do things in games they play like repeatedly fail to make the first jump in a platformer or fail to make their character move in a straight line. For people who've been playing games their entire lives, basic character control is not a problem, and so tutorials/trainers addressing it are usually absent. I might be wrong, but it seems to be the more fundamental skills that challenge non-gamers than the nuanced ones.

I haven't played Rock Band, but it would seem to me that it would be much easier for someone to pick up the game if they are already used to using game controllers in general or if they are used to quickly processing visual information and responding to it appropriately. I might be wrong, but I think that even when games include tutorials they tend not to address the fundamental, universal gaming skills that non-gamers lack, although it is possible for them to do so.

 

games can teach anything if they tried. like the barrier to fps's is how to navigate with dual sticks and no game seems to properly teach this as if its prior knowledge for everyone
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« Reply #17 on: December 30, 2012, 02:36:22 PM »

Good thread, this is a question everyone should come back to regularly.

In brief, I design games that I'd like to play but don't exist yet. Complexity and high difficulty define my games, plus they usually revolve around some gimmick. I make an effort to find as many creative relations between game mechanics as possible, so puzzly/strategic gameplay comes naturally to me. The results tend to be pretty polarizing because I expect lots of investment from the players too.

I'd be lying if I said I make games purely for myself, in some kind of a void. Of course I think "how would people approach this" when designing levels, for example. And I feel the need to improve when a lot of feedback consists of people saying they "just don't get it".

But the process of creating is enough of a reason, as well as the feelings of accomplishment I get whenever I surprise myself somehow.
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« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2012, 04:44:40 PM »

Core design is always for myself and people who have similarly good taste. But it can get extended to include other people as well. I'd say one of the main points of any kind of art and entertainment is that you have to relate emotionally to it.

I've done educational games in the past. They simply didn't work because I had no idea what kids wanted. E.g. colors were too boring looking, puzzles were too difficult/too easy/too bland. If you go for a demographic outside your taste, you just won't 'hit' a lot of things.

To do a proper game for someone else, you'd need to be able to relate to them, at least partially. I had a talk with a children's show presenter over the weekend, and he's really childish in personality.
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« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2012, 12:32:52 AM »

I create game ideas based on the kind of games I would like to see exist, however when designing the game, I make all decisions based on a theoretical player's experience.  This may seem like an obvious design philosophy, but it can be easy to start thinking about what the game needs, instead of what the player needs.

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