The Homogeneous ‘Gamer’ Myth...
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Games development is encumbered
by an enemy within. This 5th column is intent on us making the same
experience over and over and over again. They are interested more in
what they know and not what is possible.
Hands up if you think
I’m talking about publishers?
Sorry to disappoint, but that’s
not the mark. The people I am actually talking about are those of us who
actually make games, those of us on the shop floor, beavering away on
our latest endeavour. Day in, day out, we hide behind a term which we
rarely stop to define because we all know what it means: Gamer.
a solid term, a term that implies a great many things - a person that
likes games, understands games, thinks they’re great and wants to spend
as much time as possible playing them, someone just like me.
‘just like me’, not you, not him over there, but me. That’s where it
starts to break down in reality. ‘Gamer’ is used as a term to describe a
specific type of person who belongs to an homogenous group that we can
all understand, communicate with easily and, ultimately, sell a tailored
experience to. The hardcore, if you will.
However, we don’t have
to cast our eyes far to realise that there must be an error in this
logic; we only have to look around our own offices. Not everyone you
work with likes the same games, they don’t even play in the same ways.
So how can there be an homogenous ‘gamer’ we can all target, one that we
have defined as indicative of a great social group, one that is just
like me, when I’m not just like everyone else I work with?
DGD1 model is to be accepted (and I do wholeheartedly accept it,
because I find it correlates well with the full spectrum of my
observations on people who play games, not just video games) then there
are 4 different gamer types, each of which is broken down into both the
hardcore and casual subsets. Most people that make video games,
certainly in the console realm, are either Type 1 gamers or Type 2
Chris Bateman describes them as follows on his website:
1 Conqueror play style is associated with challenge and the emotional
payoff of Fiero - triumph over adversity. This correlates with what
Nicole Lazarro has called "Hard fun". We associate Type 1 play with
players who aim to utterly defeat games they play - they finish games
- Type 2 Manager play style is associated with
mastery and systems. Victory for people preferring this play style seems
to be the sign that they have acquired the necessary skills, not a goal
in and of itself. They may not finish many games that they start
obvious to me that I am a Type 2 gamer, I have no compulsion to finish a
game, I simply have to feel I have cracked the system, and there are
many of us in the industry. I don’t need a game to last for 30 hours, I
can defeat it in 2 and walk away satisfied, which is a lucky trait if
you don’t have much spare time.
However, Type 1s are even easier
to spot by their obsessive approach to one particular game. Ironically,
despite being so well represented within our community there is a
demographic slice of them that we barely cater for – those with kids.
These unfortunate Type 1s are left to play one game in meagre portions,
pecking away at the whole in stolen minutes here and there. Some
actually give up on playing any games other than the one they’re making,
finding the profile of their lives fits poorly with the epic offerings
of the AAA titles they like. Less sometimes really is more, ask them
what they want and they ask for shorter games, not longer ones.
a maturing industry, with ever increasing resources and research on
which to make our decisions. Given that the homogenous gamer is clearly a
myth that we have created, it’s about time we abandon him, because he’s
weighing us down. With this spectre gone we will be able to stop
discriminating against those with different abilities and ways they want
to play and start to consider the full family of gamers that we can,
and should, appeal to.