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Old 01-24-2005, 11:59 AM   #1
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Default Groups overlooked by AG developers? "Yes, boys 8 - 13."

Okay so I just finally read Ask the Developers. This bit totally caught my eye:

Quote:
Are there specific groups that are interested in adventure gaming that have been overlooked by developers?

Carolyn: Yes, boys 8 - 13.
Holy crap how right is she? How old was I when I was hooked on adventure gaming (how old were you?)... I was 11. The games? Monkey Island 2, Day of the Tentacle. I think LucasArts thought they were selling those games to an older audience but I bet 8-13 year old boys were their bread and butter.

Sidebar: It is probably a sad sign that those same games appeal to me now (or maybe its a sign of their timeless quality ) but the fact that this audience (and that type of game) is ignored is, as usual, baffling to me.

Later in that same question Tony mentions Harry Potter, which is a good example, but I don't think its quite the same as what appealed to me. Harry Potter is something that at first glance looks like its for a very very young audience but at close examinination appeals to older people too, but the stuff I liked when I was 10-13 (or whatever) was stuff that maybe at first glance looked, to me, like it was targeted at people exactly my age, or possibly a bit older. The LucasArts games didn't talk down to me, they didn't try to be cooler than they were (or more innocent than they were). They just tried to be interesting, by being adventurous, fantastic(al), and loaded with comedy, clever storytelling, striking artwork, weird sci fi and mysticism.

Sidebar: For more on this subject matter see: good comic books.

I think marketeers are under the impression that they've lost the 8-13 year old demographic to kids obsessed with being cool late teenagers and not interested in the stuff kids that age used to be interested in... but that's a huge load of bullshit. Kids may dress slightly more trendily and listen to different music, but far as I can tell they still like cheezy action adventure cartoons on the WB and crap like that. Many of them probably have spider man posters on their wall and that sort of thing too. I don't know.

When it comes to games, these kids might be playing Grand Theft Auto and other games where you shoot and blow people up (Mercenaries? heh), but I don't think that, to them, it's that much different from my friends and I playing Contra, or Double Dragon or something. There aren't prostitutes that you run over in Contra, but it's still a lot of slightly abstracted mowing down a billion guys. GTA and the like are just the evolution of that genre of game. I played that kind of game all the time, but that doesn't mean I didn't also play silly platformers, fantasy adventure games, or graphic adventures.

Just because you do one (eg: play violent action games) doesn't mean you don't do the other (eg: play adventure games). That was the case when I was a kid/early teen, and I don't think the way human beings and their minds are constructed has changed that much in ten years, so it's probably the same now.

Sidebar: Adults and late teens are like that too. You know, capable of liking many kinds of games. Some people here don't seem to grasp that idea either, so maybe that's where the problem lies.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:10 PM   #2
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As a little followup thought, I think that all the marketing of adult culture,or late teen culture, to kids and early teens is actually very related to why I liked what I liked when I was younger. It's a hook that fills in the same hole, I guess?

I mean, ... wow this is hard to explain. I think kids are looking for answers, certain types of fulfillment, and they get that from.. feh. nevermind. That's not what I mean at all. I promise you there is some sort of connection though

Maybe I will be able to figure out what I'm trying to say but I doubt it. If I do, I'll post it here. Until then, please read my first post
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:16 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake
As a little followup thought, I think that all the marketing of adult culture,or late teen culture, to kids and early teens is actually very related to why I liked what I liked when I was younger. It's a hook that fills in the same hole, I guess?

I mean, ... wow this is hard to explain. I think kids are looking for answers, certain types of fulfillment, and they get that from.. feh. nevermind. That's not what I mean at all. I promise you there is some sort of connection though

Maybe I will be able to figure out what I'm trying to say but I doubt it. If I do, I'll post it here. Until then, please read my first post
Jake, the question of audience is important. You seem to be saying that pre-teens want stuff that's really for them, not for a mixed audience (like Harry Potter and much of what passes for "children's" culture these days is--a mishmash of innocuous stuff plus veiled jokes for adults--think of Robin Williams in Aladdin). But were the LucasArts games really for kids EITHER? It seems to me that that humor was as much or MORE adult, and maybe that's what you're saying. That we shouldn't pander to kids?

Just trying to help/figure out . . .

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Old 01-24-2005, 12:24 PM   #4
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I don't think that kids want to play games targetted at them. Not those who choose their own games, anyway. They want to play games that are fun, and that have a good story, and those are qualities that all gamers expect.

That said, young people look at games differently. My understanding of the Monkey Island games, for example, changed considerably as I grew up. When I was 6 or 7 I didn't get the humour, and liked them for the outlandish stories. Perhaps there IS something in that. Younger people appreciate the LucasArts kind of story more than those of 'serious' adventure games, and perhaps that's why they have a more diverse appeal.

Did that make any sense?
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:30 PM   #5
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I agree, I think, RLacey. I'm not sure it's a question of finding a game that's precisely aimed AT children, because as the person Jake was quoting pointed out, the Nancy Drew games themselves have a huge CROSSOVER audience--adults and kids, but (intended to be) more female than male.

That said, I'm not sure I really see a kid playing TLJ or Syberia and loving it. Maybe I am wrong, but those seemed much more drama-y to me. As I kid I wanted either fantasy or humor--and preferrably both.



Thoughts still evolving on this. Good question Jake. Of course, I was never an 8-13 year old boy, so my opinion may be of limited value.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:32 PM   #6
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I was 10 when I started playing adventure games. Granted, I'm not a boy, but the same kinds of games appealed to me at 10 that I'm sure did to some of the boys of my generation -- King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, etc., etc. If I'd known the Monkey Island games existed at the time, I'm sure I would have loved those too.

When I was home over Christmas I went shopping with my mom and a friend of hers, who has a 12 year old son. He'd just gotten a PC for Christmas because they hadn't been able to find good games for the Mac. He got Myst (or a Myst sequel, not sure) for Christmas too. (I was a little confused by this because Myst is available for the Mac, but I didn't get into it with her. Could be they got him Revelation and didn't have a DVD drive on their Mac.) Anyway, she asked me if I could recommend good non-violent games for him... and the first that came to mind were Tierra's King's Quest remakes. I liked them at that age, shouldn't he?!

But I couldn't think of any commercial games to recommend, and this is exactly why. THERE ARE NONE. As a kid I probably would have loved the Nancy Drew games, but would a boy be caught dead playing one of those? I actually think Future Boy would be a good game for "tween" boys (and girls), if they have a little patience for the reading. I'm actually planning to recommend it to my mom's friend. But I really can't think of other newish games that would be appropriate for / interesting to that age group.

-emily
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EasilyConfused
That said, I'm not sure I really see a kid playing TLJ or Syberia and loving it. Maybe I am wrong, but those seemed much more drama-y to me. As I kid I wanted either fantasy or humor--and preferrably both.
Precisely. Look at the TV and films aimed at kids. If yours is the same as the imports we get in the UK, there are lots of OTT cartoons and obviously plotted films. I'm not complaining about this, as this is what appeals to younger children, but it goes some way to explaining why younger games enjoy Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle but not Syberia.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:33 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EasilyConfused
Jake, the question of audience is important. You seem to be saying that pre-teens want stuff that's really for them, not for a mixed audience (like Harry Potter and much of what passes for "children's" culture these days is--a mishmash of innocuous stuff plus veiled jokes for adults--think of Robin Williams in Aladdin). But were the LucasArts games really for kids EITHER? It seems to me that that humor was as much or MORE adult, and maybe that's what you're saying. That we shouldn't pander to kids?

Just trying to help/figure out . . .


No I didn't say they want something that's for them and not other groups. That's definitely not what is needed. See the current terrible "tween" market for horrible examples of people trying to make products "just for 9-12 year olds." (google for "tween" if you're really curious).

I used Harry Potter as an example of something that was good but not a perfect fit, because it skews young on first glance but appeals to older people, wheras the things that drew me in when I was ~10-13ish were things that were maybe the other way around - they looked maybe a bit older but actually hit all the right buttons for me. I think that might be ideal.

Yar! I think Lacey's point about the stories of the Monkey Island games might be close, in that younger kids get something different out of it than, say, me, but he's wrong too. At least for me, I got a lot of the jokes as a kid, and loved the piratey story and exotic locales, but it wasn't until later replays that I picked up on the ongoing themes and respected the occasional surreal bit more.

The Spider Man movies are probably another example, or the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. To a kid at least, those things look a bit older than them, but really they're exactly for them. Adults can get something out of them too but I don't really think that's who they're for, or who will benefit the most from them.

Obligatory sidebar: Some of that adult-benefit might come from the Alladin-esque two-layered humor, but that's not really it either. If it was, people would think Shrek is brilliant (some people find it funny, you know, because it contains jokes, but I don't think anyone would call it brilliant). I think the reason stories like the ones I mentioned (and Disney's Aladdin, even) appeal to everyone is just because they hit on important themes, situations, lessons, and human moments in a way that is very true. There's emotional passion behind them. That's another issue though.

I guess the backwards-Harry Potter appeal is the connection between Monkey Island 2 and dressing like you're older, too, but that's not quite right either Not what I was going for I mean, though I guess that's part of it.

Anyway that's not the point of this thread is it? Er maybe it is. I mainly wanted to say that I agree that there is room for adventure games marketed at pre-teen to early-teen kids, and that just because they might like something that isn't an adventure game, they might like adventure games too.

Gaming as a 'space' has become a lot more narrow thanks to loud marketing, hollywood tie ins, EA, console certification, and that sort of thing, but that doesn't mean people are different. They just don't know, because nobody is trying anymore.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fov
But I couldn't think of any commercial games to recommend, and this is exactly why. THERE ARE NONE. As a kid I probably would have loved the Nancy Drew games, but would a boy be caught dead playing one of those? I actually think Future Boy would be a good game for "tween" boys (and girls), if they have a little patience for the reading. I'm actually planning to recommend it to my mom's friend. But I really can't think of other newish games that would be appropriate for / interesting to that age group.
Of course, it's arguable that you should instead be picking up budget versions of old LucasArts and Sierra games. However, the sad fact of the matter is that technology has advanced, and many younger people are blinkered as to the charms of these older games because they don't instantly look appealing. Which is why it's so important that the genre comes up with some 'killer' titles in the not-too-distant future.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RLacey
I don't think that kids want to play games targetted at them. Not those who choose their own games, anyway. They want to play games that are fun, and that have a good story, and those are qualities that all gamers expect.
Kids also typically identify with the age group that's one notch above them. So if something is targetted at a 13 year old, it'll probably be perfect for a 10 year old.

The problem with a lot of today's games is that they are too adult, even unconsciously, for a younger kid. Runaway would be great... except for that stripper part, the drag queens, and the pot references... Or am I underestimating what an 8-13 year old is exposed to in the media already?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RLacey
Of course, it's arguable that you should instead be picking up budget versions of old LucasArts and Sierra games. However, the sad fact of the matter is that technology has advanced, and many younger people are blinkered as to the charms of these older games because they don't instantly look appealing.
That's why I suggested the remakes - they are slightly more appealing to the eye, they run on today's machines without tweaking, and they're free (so they can be tried out without any monetary investment). If it turns out he plays them and likes them (I intend to follow up and find out), I may suggest some of the originals for him to play. It's actually not too different from how many of us probably played our first adventure game -- without paying for it, either with a pirated copy (ack!) or at a friend's house -- it's just that the delivery method has changed. I never would have gone out and spent my very own money on King's Quest 1 if I hadn't first played a pirated copy of LSL with my dad, and I never would have known to buy Deja Vu 2 if I hadn't first played the original with a friend. In fact, this is probably why I never played a LucasArts game... I didn't have any friends who turned me onto them. By the time someone did try to get me into Full Throttle (my boyfriend in high school) I was too interested in doing... err... other things with him.

-emily

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Old 01-24-2005, 12:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fov
Kids also typically identify with the age group that's one notch above them. So if something is targetted at a 13 year old, it'll probably be perfect for a 10 year old.

The problem with a lot of today's games is that they are too adult, even unconsciously, for a younger kid. Runaway would be great... except for that stripper part, the drag queens, and the pot references... Or am I underestimating what an 8-13 year old is exposed to in the media already?

-emily
No, I think you're absolutely right, Emily. If someone asked me the same question, the best I could come up with would be the MI games. There's nothing I can think of NOW that would be interesting to a kid. Trep may want to weigh in on this because his nephew plays games, but I think he's playing RPGs, from what I can tell from that funny Fable thread.

I think Runaway would just be . . . puzzling (ouch!) for a 13 year old. Like even if he got the references, and some would be obvious, they wouldn't seem very funny. Who cares?

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Old 01-24-2005, 12:40 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RLacey
Precisely. Look at the TV and films aimed at kids. If yours is the same as the imports we get in the UK, there are lots of OTT cartoons and obviously plotted films. I'm not complaining about this, as this is what appeals to younger children, but it goes some way to explaining why younger games enjoy Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle but not Syberia.
False. Well, true, but the simply plotted animated kids stuff is the movie equipment of shovelware, and that's not the point. You can make cheap snackfood garbage and kids will eat it, yeah. But that's not real. I mean, that's exploiting a demographic, not really crafting a product for it. That's not, in my opinion, why people 8-13 liked Day of the Tentacle. Or at least, it's not the main reason, or the reason they'd want to play it a second time.


Well maybe it is, for really young (or stupid older) kids, like if you were a 7-8 year old who could somehow play DOTT... But a 12-13 year old? No way.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fov
When I was home over Christmas I went shopping with my mom and a friend of hers, who has a 12 year old son.

Anyway, she asked me if I could recommend good non-violent games for him... and the first that came to mind were Tierra's King's Quest remakes. I liked them at that age, shouldn't he?!

But I couldn't think of any commercial games to recommend, and this is exactly why. THERE ARE NONE. As a kid I probably would have loved the Nancy Drew games, but would a boy be caught dead playing one of those?
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RLacey
Of course, it's arguable that you should instead be picking up budget versions of old LucasArts and Sierra games. However, the sad fact of the matter is that technology has advanced, and many younger people are blinkered as to the charms of these older games because they don't instantly look appealing. Which is why it's so important that the genre comes up with some 'killer' titles in the not-too-distant future.
Exactly. But even if they come up with "killer" titles for adults, that doesn't necessarily transfer over. If you look at the hype-o-meter, how many of those games would you even think possible to recommend to a kid? MAYBE A Vampyre Story? (I don't have it open so I don't know). But a game like Dreamfall, whatever else we may think of it, isn't going to cut it, I don't think, nor Lost Paradise, Still Life, TMoS . . .
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:48 PM   #15
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Yeah, most of those games are made for older people. A lot of them are made for older people with no taste. Only young and stupid kids like bland things, and most overly-adult themes go over their head or don't interest them. Most adventure games these days are bland things, with adult themes.

It's true, and weird to think about, that very few things in the hype-o-meter (even Dreamfall) would appeal to me when I was 13ish. Maybe Vampyre Story, yeah.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:56 PM   #16
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To answer Jake's question, I was 10 y/o when I became a Monkey Island junkie. And like Jake, I still like those games. Figures.

It's an interesting topic, though. Somehow Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, etc. were the game equivalents of Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies - something that looked like it was meant for a more mature audience yet found its most devoted fans in the boys entering their teen years. I think the "speaking down to" issue is important and that's something that these games avoided. Why? I dunno, perhaps because they were created by game enthusiasts who wanted to do something they loved and liked to see on the computer screen, rather than studying an assumed market segment and demographics of what might be marketable.

These thoughts just from the top of my head, I'll give it some time and get back if I think of something profound.
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Old 01-24-2005, 12:57 PM   #17
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And why does a Vampyre Story appeal more?

I'm not disagreeing, but I'm trying to work out what it is. The setting? The graphical style? The fact that it doesn't feel the need to deal with 'adult' themes in a sexual/violent way? I suspect that it's a mixture of all of those, along with the comic potential where appropriate. Perhaps we're going the wrong way about making adventure games, then, and shouldn't be feeling the need to commit to the kind of themes prominent in other genres, thus alienating a large target audience?
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Old 01-24-2005, 01:02 PM   #18
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I think, if you're going to be specific to Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle (or Nancy Drew even, maybe) is that they try to tell a genuine adventure story featuring genuine characters who actually fit, and want to be there. I mean, with Guybrush, Bernard, Indy, Luke Skywalker, and Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, they all intentionally put themselves in those situations because they want to explore, do good, find the truth, go on an adventure.

These characters are, in essence, awesome. They make mistakes (Luke Skywalker, Nancy Drew are newbies, or at least underdogs, Guybrush is a bumbler, even Indy occasionally screws up and releases giant balls and spikes that nearly kill him, Captain Jack Sparrow is himself), but are guided by decently pure morals (generally) and a desire to be awesome in all the ways an awesome person should.

They're not full of BK Kids Club characters wearing retarded mirrored sunglasses who spend the entire game acting too cool to be there. You know, more imagination driven than badass driven...

Again, maybe not "The Reason," but I think it's another big part of it. Joonas' mentioning Star Wars and Indy reminded me of it.
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Old 01-24-2005, 01:02 PM   #19
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I just want to point out that there is a lack of good humoristic games in all genres and I think there needs to be humour in the games to catch children of that age.
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Old 01-24-2005, 02:16 PM   #20
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Suggesting that game companies and designers have somehow "lost" the 8-13 year old consumer demographic market is like saying that sales of vodka are suffering because companies aren't targeting more Mormons.


Despite the experiences of the members of this forum, when the concept of adventure gaming evolved, very few 8-13 year olds owned computers. Kids went to the arcade in the late 70's, then had Nintendo in the 80's. Home computers were owned almost exclusively by upper-middle class adults. Thus, that's who adventure games were designed for. It has only been in the last decade that this has changed, with half of all homes now having a PC. (I am speaking only of America; I simply don't know the European statistics.)

Why would companies have been designing games for consumers that didn't even own computers? Why try to sell vodka to people that don't drink?

It is true (as evidenced repeatedly in this forum) that the last 10 years have seen a huge shift in the PC marketplace. I have addressed this before in my oft-castigated editorial about how Nintendo did more than any other single factor to "kill" adventure games. But laying that aside for the moment, I will agree that relatively few companies have attempted to re-think adventure games and design them specifically for today's new younger consumer. Offhand, only HER Interactive, Tivola (Physicus et al) and Infogrames/Humongous (the Freddi Fish series) come to mind.

Of course, that might partly be because adventure games, at least those constructed using the traditional paradigm, simply don't appeal to the great majority of 8-13 year olds. Just maybe.
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