Where There's a Whip

Where There's a Whip
The Forgotten Gamers

Dana Massey | 4 Jul 2006 12:02
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Right now, these types of games are marginalized as "casual games." They even get their own conference, and for the most part, they're ignored by the mainstream gaming media and developers. But it's these guys who will ride the next wave.

My father is not the target audience for any gaming company. He's 55 years old and has only the lowest level of computer knowledge. He looks at a screen; where I see armies marching, he sees chaos. The contradiction here is that my father is a gamer. He probably spends more time than I do playing games, and videogames are my livelihood.

His computer knowledge consists of navigating to the Zone, where he'll routinely whip my ass in chess, go, crokinole, checkers, cat and mouse, scrabble, cribbage, etc. Some of these games require strategy, some luck and even coordination; all essential elements of a videogame. Yet, despite this love of gaming and clear willingness, if not preference, to play online, my father will never buy a videogame.

That is a problem.

There is no principal holding him back, there just isn't a game he'd ever enjoy. This cannot be blamed on money either. My father will never play an MMOG, and it's not because it costs $15 a month. He pays more to join his chess club.

We just don't make games for him.

As an industry, there are two solutions to this problem. We can follow the current path and try and wait them out. In about 50 years, I'll be in my 70s and virtually everyone on the market will have been brought up with videogames. I'm sure by then we'll be able to put a gaming console in every home. Or we can expand our focus and make some games that will endure. Experts always say that software drives console sales, and it's true. So why don't we target anyone over the age of 30?

We've begun to show that non-traditional segments of the population can be brought into the market if they're just given something to enjoy. Women now make up a good chunk of the gaming market, and while there is a long way to go on that front, it is never too soon to consider the next one.

Pundits often lament that the garage game is dead. Who can afford the millions it requires for even the smallest games? This is their opening. The AAA developers are building on what's already been invented and indie developers simply cannot keep up. Stop trying. It's time to build new branches off the tree. The person who invents the next Sudoku will have a much easier time making rent than the designer who comes up with the next innovation in the RTS genre.

The evolution of gaming technology alienates more people every year. A huge number of my peers would rather play Mario 3 than any Xbox 360 title. Born earlier? Odds are that you prefer board games to anything built for the PC. I do not advocate stunting technological advances; there is a very proven market for the latest and greatest thing, but we need someone to come behind and pick up those lost along the way.

Dana "Lepidus" Massey is the Lead Content Editor for MMORPG.com and former Co-Lead Game Designer for Wish.

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