Make Games for People (Not Demographics)
Every day I work with game designers who either want to make a living making games or want to learn how to make better games. Those of you who have had me as a coach know the kind of tangents I can get into when I get ranting about something I’m passionate about. Those of you who haven’t had me as a coach yet – here’s one for you.
Context: Rant sparked from a debate centered around who the most important figure is to the creation of a game – designer, artist or programmer. I was arguing for the Player:
“The player is centre to a game like the actor is centre to a play. Obviously there are many people extremely important to getting all the moving parts working on and off stage – but take the actor away and you have no play. Take the player away and you have no game. You have a film, a piece of music or a story – but not a game.”
Here’s the comment that set me off (poor guy):
“Player is an acronym for user or market, often mass market which is never creative”
…errr completely disagree [humanMale_00] – player means player. He who plays your game. The PERSON (real live human being) you are making a game for.
Markets and mass markets are nebulous terms that mean different things to different people.
As often as you can, try to stay away from vague and nebulous terms when you’re designing a game.
When you’re designing a game for your favourite young cousin Pippa who loves her DS but hasn’t played a good game since Pokemon – and wants something she can play outside with her friends – well, you can start picturing what that game might need to be.
But if you go into this thinking “I’m going to make a casual game for the handheld device market targeting girls ages 8 – 12…” – what the fuck does that mean? Can you picture that? Can you see what kind of game that would look like? Can you imagine what it would be like to play that game? Hell no!
Marketing Buzzword bullshit is just that…bullshit.
Now, on to the rest of the rant:
…people support people, not products. If we believe in what you’re doing we’ll help you on the forums, invite our friends to your playtesting events, tell EVERYONE we know when your game is ready to launch. Because you obviously give a shit. You obviously want to create something we’ll value, something worth our time and money because you respect us too much to give us yet more filler in an industry full of interactive mental junkfood.
You can’t respect a Demographic. You can’t respect a Target Market. You can’t even picture what the hell they would look like playing your game.
But you can respect someone you know. Someone you genuinely give a shit about.
Make a game for them. Make them the game they wish existed, make them an experience they’ve always wanted to have, give them a game that helps them solve a problem they’ve been struggling with for years.
This person can be you.
Whoever you choose as your muse they have to be someone real. Someone you can hand a playable to and say “How does this feel? What do you think?” and watch to see how they respond.
You’ll know you have what could be a great game when they don’t walk away. When they tell YOU about what the experience is like – as opposed to you trying to tell them.
And you know the truly amazing thing about making a game for someone you respect? There are probably people like them out there who have always wanted exactly the same thing.
Then it’s not about selling, it’s not about marketing or convincing people to buy your game…it’s just about making it as easy as possible for them to know it exists, where to find it and help support you so you can keep making great games.