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MAKING GAMES FOR THE TOUGHEST CRITICS: GAME DESIGN FOR KIDS<br />By Martine Spaans<br />
SPIL GAMES Fact Sheet<br />Offers 39 localized(content and domain) online game destinations in 19 languages <br />Attracts...
Distinct Target Groups<br />CORE AUDIENCES<br />WOMEN 20-35 and kids under 8 (family)<br />
Distinct Target Groups<br />CORE AUDIENCES<br />TEENS 10-15<br />(boys & girls)<br />TEENS+ 16-25<br />МОЛОДЕЖЬ<br />16-25...
Distinct Target Groups<br />CORE AUDIENCES<br />GIRLS 8-12<br />
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT KIDS?<br />
Kids Are Different <br />Assignment: Draw a line from the yellow square to the red circle.<br />http://hcil.cs.umd.edu/trs...
Age Groups <br />Preschoolers (< 5 years)<br />Early Childhood (5-8 years)<br />Middle Childhood (9-12 years)<br />Teenage...
Preschoolers<br />Self-centered<br />Starting to build social skills<br />Short play-sessions (10 min.)<br />Limited onlin...
Early Childhood<br />Starting to read<br />Increasing attention span<br />Can play in larger groups<br />Rule-based play<b...
Middle Childhood<br />Starting to develop abstract thinking<br />Refining skills<br />Shift from traditional games to comp...
Teenagers<br />Verbal reasoning<br />Abstract thinking<br />Sense of fairness<br />Selective friendships<br />Expand to vi...
Time Spent<br />Light multitasking while online<br />39% Watching TV <br />43% Listening to music<br />USA Research 2009, ...
Stuff Kids Hate<br />Won’t read “How to play”<br />Long storylines they can’t skip<br />Loading time<br />User-unfriendly ...
Brands Kids Love<br />Hypes and Brands<br />Rank    Brand <br />Wii<br />McDonalds<br />M&M’s<br />Disney Channel<br />Ore...
Stuff Kids Love<br />Colors<br />Short animations<br />Sounds<br />Browse on Spel.nl and find a game you want to play…<br />
Who Plays What? <br />Dutch Research 2009, http://www.mijnkindonline.nl/<br />
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND<br />
Language and Text<br />Own language<br />Signs and short words<br />
Practical Side<br />Older PCs and slower systems<br />
Practical Side<br />Mouse control is a challenge<br />Point-and-click is better than drag-and-drop<br />
Practical Side<br />Understanding of ads<br />
Practical Side<br />No wallet…<br />BUT the power to convince parents<br />
Multiplayer<br />Playing side-by-side<br />Playing online with real friends (ages 5-8)<br />Pro-social: Reward the player ...
Distribution<br />Parental control<br />PEGI rating (http://www.pegi.info)<br />Online wanderers; no targeted searches<br ...
Observe<br />Watch kids play.<br />Ask them to do small assignments and observe.<br />“Find and play Uphill Rush.”<br />“F...
Fine-Tuning Your Game <br />Difficulty<br />Goal<br />Storyline<br />Animations<br />Tone of voice<br />Colors<br />Contro...
Testing & Feedback<br />Direct feedback: very polite<br />Anonymous feedback: merciless critics<br />
Send your games to :<br />Martine Spaans, Senior Licensing Manager<br />Martine.Spaans@spilgames.com<br />P:	+31 (0) 35 64...
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2011/02 Casual Connect &quot;Making Games for the Toughest Critics: Game Design for Kids&quot;

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The time when computer games were strongly associated with kids is long past, but haven’t we forgotten that kids are still a big part of the casual gaming audience? What do kids like to play, and what do they hate? How do they behave during their gaming sessions, and what should a game designer consider when creating for kids? Grab your favorite teddy bear and snuggle up to listen to some eye-opening bedtime stories from the designer’s studio.

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  • We have all been kids, and we all have our own experience in being a kid, but that doesn’t automatically mean that we all know how to design a game for kids. So today I would like to dive a bit deeper into that subject and discuss the logics and unlogical things about Game Design for kids.
  • But first of all, I’d like to tell you a bit more about the company I work for. SPIL Games is a worldwide online developer and publisher of casual online games. To sum up some quick facts..
  • OK, so what do we know about kids. As I said, we’ve all been kids. For some it’s a bit longer ago then for others, but probably none of us can really remember the way you did things or thought about daily things back then. So it’s good that there are a lot of studies done about the behavior of kids. Take this one for example (show slide). The assignment was “Draw a line from the yellow square to the red dot”. Left are the results from grownups, right are the results from 4 year old kids.I think this is a perfect illustration to point out that kids behave very different from grownups. And this is also reflected in behavior behind the computer.
  • When we look at the behavior of children, we can differentiate 4 age groups. I will explain some more about these age groups on the following slides, but first it’s interesting to have a look at this graph. Of all the kids between 8 and 12 years old who play games, 100% is into casual gaming! So you bet that this is definitely a target audience for us. Be sure to pay attention ;)
  • Now, about these age groups. Preschoolers: Not active online. Very self-centered. Logical, because all they know are caregivers. Short play-sessions (10 minutes). Beginning to build social skills.
  • Middle Childhood 5 - 8: Starting to read, increasing attention span, can play in larger groups, based on rule-based play. These are also the kids that are starting to develop themselves online. In a lot of countries, children of this age are also taught at school how to use the computer.
  • 9 - 12: Beginning of abstract thinking, refining skills, Girls strongly focusing on social activities instead of traditional games or computer games. Boys moving from traditional games to computer games. In-person multiplayer (competition with friends). Also limited virtual multiplayer (limited chat).
  • 13+: Verbal reasoning, abstract thinking, sense of fairness. Starting to become selective in friendships. Starting to expand to virtual friends. Friendship becomes more and more important.
  • Time SpentThis chart shows us how kids within the age from 8 to 18 spend their time online. As you can see, social media are a bit of a threat here, but also an opportunity for social games targeted at a younger audience. Actually, our biggest threats seem to be homework and YouTube.But kids also do a lot of multitasking. They watch some TV or listen to music in the background. This is also often done through YouTube. So that leaves us with homework as a time consuming threat. I’m afraid there isn’t much we can do about that ;)
  • What do kids hate?So when we are designing for kids, what are the things we should keep in mind?Firstly, kids don’t read How To Play manuals. Either because the game is not in their native language, or just because they are too impatient, or if they are a bit older they think that they all know it already. The gameplay should be really intuitive. For the same impatient reason, kids don’t follow long storylines. Either because they cannot read it, or because they do not care. A solution could be to make your storyline very animated and fun to watch, or you should add a clearly visible and understandable Skip-button.Loading time. Again the impatience! If a game doesn’t load within a couple of seconds, kids are likely to think that the game is broken, because that is what they are used to when they are loading other web pages. If you have a bigger game with a longer loading period, be sure there is a loading bar running, or a small animation during the loading period so kids can understand that they are waiting for something.And of course user friendliness. The picture on the right is from a YouTube clip called “Angry German Gamer”. It turned out to be a fake clip, but I think it is a good illustration of what a frustrating game can do to youngsters ;)
  • OK, so these are the things they don’t like. But what is it that kids do like? Something to keep in mind is that kids are exposed to a lot of media that is targeted at them. Kids are easier to influence, and that becomes very clear when we look at this list. This is an American study where kids from various ages were asked to name their favorite brands. It’s a bit scary to see all the food-brands in there (the green ones), but at the top there are unmistakably Gaming brands. There is definitely an opportunity here to build an online brand that kids want to relate to. For example, Mario and Guitar Hero were also in this list, a little more down.
  • A bit of a no-brainer is that kids like colorful things, with short funny animations and nice music and sounds. An important thing to remember when you are designing the look and feel of your game is that the thumbnail of the game will decide whether your game will be played or not. I will now show you two short movies of a recent study we did. We asked these boys, both 12 years old, to browse on Spel.nl and find a random game they would like to play. The conversation you hear is in Dutch, but that does not matter. Please have a look at the way they are browsing on our site.
  • As you can see, both of them are quickly looking at the thumbnails, and they make their decision based on a thumbnail they like. So if you have a nice thumbnail that kids want to click on, how do you make your game attractive for them? These are maybe also a bit of no-brainers, but still it is important to keep in mind. Kids are still developing their skills to read, and so the texts should be short. It’s even better to use signs, like symbols for a pause-button or music-button. And although most kids are learning to read English at an early age, it’s better to offer them a game in their own language.
  • The standard of home and school PC’s differs a lot around the world. Most kids nowadays have a computer access at school and at home. They might be allowed to play games on the computer of their parents, but they might have an older PC especially for the kids to play games on. Kids are not the audience that goes to an Internet Café to play games. Generally they are too young to be spending cash on Internet and online games.
  • - Small hands, trouble with the mouse (mouse control game = very hard for younger part)- Point and Click is easier than drag and drop, especially for dress up games where the result is more important than the process of the gameplay.
  • Kids have trouble differentiating advertisement from games. It may often happen that a child accidentally clicks on an advertisement. With our grownup trained eyes we see that there is a banner on the left side of the screen, but for a kid all the images look like games. This might sound like a good way to earn some extra clicks on your banners, but it will provide a bad user experience.
  • Kids do not have any money of their own to spend online. They have no wallet, no creditcard, no PayPal or anything. What they do have, is the power to convince their parents. I have heard stories where kids with a good school report were not rewarded with a toy or candy, but instead they were rewarded with credits for their online game like Club Penguin or Stardoll. So if your game is an online world or community, the trick here is to make the game attractive enough for kids, but to create an environment that feels trusted, secure and safe enough so the parents will agree to it. Toy brands and food brands do exactly the same. If you go to the store and grab a bag of candy, there is a big chance that it will say something like “With extra vitamin C”, or “No artificial flavors”.
  • Multiplayer. Not all kids are good for multiplayer games. Sometimes when I talk to developers they say that they are making an online world for kids from 5 years old. That is very ambitious of course, but 5-year old kids are still in the process of discovering themselves and the world around them. They do not yet have the need to discover a new world online.When you are designing a multiplayer for such young kids, make it a side-by-side multiplayer. A game that the kid can play together with a friend or a parent sitting behind the same computer. This is interaction that they can understand .When they are getting a little bit older, they are interested in playing online against or with other players, but still they are not ready to interact with strangers online. They want to play with their own friends in an online environment. Classic console multiplayer is an example, but also finding their own real-life friends online on a social platform like Club Penguin.When they become a bit older, starting at the age of 9, they do have the understanding of making new friends online, but they will still be cautious. They have learned and they are warned not to talk to strangers. So a pro-social environment where players have to work together to achieve new goals is a good solution to create an online community within your Kids MMO. That way they will have to interact with “strangers” to proceed.Understanding things is very important here. Don’t just reward every step the player makes, but model things and explain what is good behavior and what is bad. Kids are actually quite eager to learn new things, just as long as you keep it interesting.From 13 and up, this is no problem anymore. The kids are now wise enough to judge if another online player is ok or not (or at least they think they are wise enough). Kids in this phase of life will not just befriend anyone, but they will be selective in choosing their friends. Just like most grown-ups, you only befriend people you like and who you think you can trust.Conclusion: Making a Social Game for kids is very different from a social game for an older audience. Study what is important in their phase of life.Games and non-gamers: Not different in the rest of their free time spent. Single players = less time with friends offline. Multiplayers = more time with friends offline.
  • DistributionSo to get your game out there, there are some things you might want to give extra attention. Make sure your game is advertised on safe websites. Sites that parents allow. Also, something that is coming up is the PEGI rating. PEGI is an organization that is trying to label all games, both online and console, and they are growing out to be the leading trademark within the gaming industry. Fitting your game with a PEGI symbol is not an easy process, because your game should be checked by this organization, but for bigger projects like an MMO it might be worth the investment. Parents will see they can trust your game and your brand. Kids are not good at online searches. They make a lot of typing errors, they do now exactly know where to look and they are not good in thinking of alternatives. So if you are investing in search engine keywords, you might also want to invest in some mistypes. Try to keep the name of your game as easy as possible.
  • To learn the way kids think and behave involves a lot of study. Ask them if you may look over their shoulder when you see them playing online, ask them to do small assignments and see how they do it. I will show you two more short clips. We asked this guy, the same 12-year old boy as in the other clip, to look up the game Uphill Rush. Let’s see what happened.Then the other boy. We asked him to “find a racing game”. Let’s see how he navigates around our website.
  • Don’t mismatch, think about every detail.
  • You can also ask kids to beta-test your game. Ask them what they think of the graphics, if they understand the story, if they think the controls are good, check if it’s not too easy or too difficult, etc. And when you are beta-testing with these kids, keep in mind that there are 2 very different forms of feedback. When you are sitting next to them and asking them questions, they will realize that you made this game, and that you put a lot of effort in it. It’s not polite to say bad things about the game. So if you ask them what they think of the colors or something, they might tell you that they think it’s a bit boring, but they will never say “Man, this looks baaaad. Even my blind grandma can do better!”But when you ask for their feedback anonymously, these are the results you might get. Especially in a public comment-box like we have on our game pages, because throwing some rough language out there is cool. And then you realize, you are in fact designing for the toughest critics!
  • Transcript of "2011/02 Casual Connect &quot;Making Games for the Toughest Critics: Game Design for Kids&quot;"

    1. 1. MAKING GAMES FOR THE TOUGHEST CRITICS: GAME DESIGN FOR KIDS<br />By Martine Spaans<br />
    2. 2. SPIL GAMES Fact Sheet<br />Offers 39 localized(content and domain) online game destinations in 19 languages <br />Attracts more than 130 million unique visitors worldwide every month, including target-specific segments <br />Portfolio contains 4,000 free online games of all genres, including casual, skill, and download<br />Zapapa application to bring games to social networks<br />Championing HTML5 as a game development technology for mobile platforms<br />
    3. 3. Distinct Target Groups<br />CORE AUDIENCES<br />WOMEN 20-35 and kids under 8 (family)<br />
    4. 4. Distinct Target Groups<br />CORE AUDIENCES<br />TEENS 10-15<br />(boys & girls)<br />TEENS+ 16-25<br />МОЛОДЕЖЬ<br />16-25 лет<br />
    5. 5. Distinct Target Groups<br />CORE AUDIENCES<br />GIRLS 8-12<br />
    6. 6. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT KIDS?<br />
    7. 7. Kids Are Different <br />Assignment: Draw a line from the yellow square to the red circle.<br />http://hcil.cs.umd.edu/trs/2003-16/2003-16.html & http://www.playinvestigator.com <br />
    8. 8. Age Groups <br />Preschoolers (< 5 years)<br />Early Childhood (5-8 years)<br />Middle Childhood (9-12 years)<br />Teenagers (>13 years)<br />Dutch Research 2009,http://www.mijnkindonline.nl/<br />
    9. 9. Preschoolers<br />Self-centered<br />Starting to build social skills<br />Short play-sessions (10 min.)<br />Limited online activity<br />
    10. 10. Early Childhood<br />Starting to read<br />Increasing attention span<br />Can play in larger groups<br />Rule-based play<br />
    11. 11. Middle Childhood<br />Starting to develop abstract thinking<br />Refining skills<br />Shift from traditional games to computer games<br />Girls: strong focus on social activities<br />
    12. 12. Teenagers<br />Verbal reasoning<br />Abstract thinking<br />Sense of fairness<br />Selective friendships<br />Expand to virtual friendships<br />
    13. 13. Time Spent<br />Light multitasking while online<br />39% Watching TV <br />43% Listening to music<br />USA Research 2009, http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010_AppendixC_Toplines.pdf<br />
    14. 14. Stuff Kids Hate<br />Won’t read “How to play”<br />Long storylines they can’t skip<br />Loading time<br />User-unfriendly gameplay<br />
    15. 15. Brands Kids Love<br />Hypes and Brands<br />Rank Brand <br />Wii<br />McDonalds<br />M&M’s<br />Disney Channel<br />Oreo<br />Nintendo DS<br />Doritos<br />Popsicle<br />Chips Ahoy!<br />Nickelodeon<br />http://www.asksmartypants.com/younglove/Young_Love_Top_100.pdf<br />
    16. 16. Stuff Kids Love<br />Colors<br />Short animations<br />Sounds<br />Browse on Spel.nl and find a game you want to play…<br />
    17. 17. Who Plays What? <br />Dutch Research 2009, http://www.mijnkindonline.nl/<br />
    18. 18. THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND<br />
    19. 19. Language and Text<br />Own language<br />Signs and short words<br />
    20. 20. Practical Side<br />Older PCs and slower systems<br />
    21. 21. Practical Side<br />Mouse control is a challenge<br />Point-and-click is better than drag-and-drop<br />
    22. 22. Practical Side<br />Understanding of ads<br />
    23. 23. Practical Side<br />No wallet…<br />BUT the power to convince parents<br />
    24. 24. Multiplayer<br />Playing side-by-side<br />Playing online with real friends (ages 5-8)<br />Pro-social: Reward the player for interaction<br />Making new friends online (9+ years)<br />
    25. 25. Distribution<br />Parental control<br />PEGI rating (http://www.pegi.info)<br />Online wanderers; no targeted searches<br />Search mistypes<br />
    26. 26. Observe<br />Watch kids play.<br />Ask them to do small assignments and observe.<br />“Find and play Uphill Rush.”<br />“Find a racing game.”<br />
    27. 27. Fine-Tuning Your Game <br />Difficulty<br />Goal<br />Storyline<br />Animations<br />Tone of voice<br />Colors<br />Controls<br />Instructions<br />Etc.<br />
    28. 28. Testing & Feedback<br />Direct feedback: very polite<br />Anonymous feedback: merciless critics<br />
    29. 29. Send your games to :<br />Martine Spaans, Senior Licensing Manager<br />Martine.Spaans@spilgames.com<br />P: +31 (0) 35 646 6325 <br />M: +31 (0)6 104 969 88<br />Thank You<br />Questions?<br />
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