Music and sound design: HP
I was having this little conversation on Twitter with Megan Fox (not that one you idiot) about ageism and an aging gaming population. I think I am a good sample as the average age for a gamer has been basically following me for a decade (late gen X seems to be the cursor for average gamer age, which makes sense).
Right now according to the last statistics I saw, the average age is 35 for men and 43 for women. Developers though still aim at a much younger market as they always did because it’s the age bracket –the 20s- where people spend most of their time consuming/buying games. But let’s dig into the data a bit more:
Millennials right now represent the biggest slice of population. My generation, gen X, is the smallest slice of the adult/workforce/consumer part (between 20 to 60) as you can see below:
At 3.1% of the population for both men and women, that’s not much. What’s that bump at 50 though?
That’s 7% of the population. That’s 22M+ people. If you can sell your game to half that number, you’re doing fine.
So right now, the 20-35 represent 21% of the population, the 35-50 18.9%, the 50-60 19.9% and 60-70 a good 14.8%.
So what developers do? They focus on that “big” 21% and forget that 38.8% of the population (35 to 60) has money and likes games. No one is really making games for us. And if I add the 14.8% of the 60-70 bracket, we’re talking about a quite staggering 53.6% of the population right now who doesn’t feel like the game industry is talking to them.
So how to cater to that growing population? Because this is what we have to offer right now:
Those games don’t click with older people. We have played those. We almost have three decades of experience playing those. That’s a long time. Here are points that I think you should consider if you want to aim at that juicy 38 to 53% of the population in the near future:
Older people don’t have time anymore
We have lives, things to do, kids to feed bills to pay etc. Give us small chunks of gameplay, things we can finish in a couple hours. It’s fine. We spent our 20s with hundreds of hours playing games. So don’t try to artificially up the difficulty. Don’t make us grind, don’t give us bosses, we have real ones to deal with. Your game will be fine without bosses, spend that extra time to flesh out a new mechanic or apply a bit more polish instead. We love those. Respect our time by giving us a good time, not frustration and infinite repetition. Adr1ft seems to be a game that goes in the right direction, offering a maybe short experience but one that you don’t forget. Oxenfree is around 5 hours long with excellent, “mature” (meaning on par with other entertainment) dialog. They’re on my wishlist. Kentucky Route Zero does it perfectly too.
Older people don’t have twitch reflexes anymore
Especially you. Just kidding but you know what I mean. Frame-accurate synchronization on 16 buttons gamepads is not making us happy. That’s why we play on computers too. We’re good at using those because of all those TPS reports we have typed. I still love playing Counter Strike but it’s really hard against those young aim bots. I was enjoying Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet –Metroidvania- and then I had a boss that requires perfect, fast moves. Tried for a while. I could do it but I didn’t care enough. See first point.
Older people love “chill” co-op
You know the kind. One player plays and the other helps out, without crazy tension or excitement. It’s not necessarily an older people behavior but I think we like it even more getting older. People do it with all those 60+ hours Tomb Raider-like games but like I said, we have seen those two billion times already. We need new settings, new themes, new heroines and ditch our stereotyped canvas a bit. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime does it well but I suspect developers wanted to cater to hardcore gamers. Co-op but not chill co-op.
Older people have a broader culture than you
That’s the cool thing about aging, you get all those experiences and now you know more! It’s a little bit always the “been there, done that” argument but seriously, we did go and did that: Heroic Fantasy, Sci Fi and WWII war. A lot, probably too much. We need more themes. Invisible Inc brought some fresh spy-like, Batman the animated series-looking game to the masses and did well. Just a bit of difference makes all the differences!
I am certain that some game genres would be super successful to some people if they could up their aesthetic game. I see XCOM 2 as a very interesting game to play but it looks far, far too generic. Those 90s aliens are… Depressing as hell there, I said it.
I picture a XCOM 2 game in a Shameless/Weeds/Breaking Bad setting and I’m sure it would interest far more people than a generic alien taking over the world theme does. I think game developers abuse a bit too much escapism. We are older, we don’t need that. Actually we are more interested if it has some kind of connection with the real world. Give me a game where I need to be careful controlling a mecha in a city. Where is my game about crashing drones into monuments? Where is my Empire game where I build a hip-hop empire and screw artists? Give me an Assassin’s Creed type of game in 80s Lebanon with a simple yet lovely love story. Don’t try so hard to outplay linear entertainment! Just make me have a good time by giving me something fresh yet familiar. Explore things most mediums haven’t. You have all the latitude.
You know what they say: if you build it, they will come.
Older people like all kinds of aesthetics: which is why I have an issue with cuteness: I am going to be 37 this year and I’m sick of cuteness. It bothers me. It’s a cop-out. I know perfectly why it works –everyone goes “aww” and forgets what it could be- but yeah, decades of cute made me stabby. The Witness is a perfect example of a “cute” game that is appealing to me aesthetically. It feels grown up. Thimbleweed Park looks cute but the theme and dark humor are totally shifting the comic book feeling. I want more of that.
Older people pay and don’t ask questions
I will buy your game if I want to. Put a decent price, that’s it! Older people won’t write on forums about how two twenties are too much for a game that took seven years in the making. We have shit to do and we know that things cost money. Developers have totally forgotten how PopCap used to make a killing selling puzzle games at $20 a pop to older people. That’s how they grew from 3 people to 400 and did well for the past 16 years like no other studio: by selling games to older people who won’t threatened to kill you if you don’t give them a refund. Older people are cool as fuck. Plus, we have all the money.
Now give me games! (it’s changing, I know. Firewatch is the next one this year)
I watched an episode last month you know, one of those that you vaguely remember about and it makes you giggle because nostalgia’s showing up in your brain.
It’s so slow. That show is so slow. It reminded me that that was the great thing about it, those episodes felt like full movies.
In the 90s we were chilling, man. 2000 was coming, the future was probably going to be exciting. It is and it’s also weird because we lost the ability to chill for real. Take your time, enjoy it.
Helvetica’s proposal about the IGF. I love it. I love the fact that this way we don’t dissect games through weird lenses. Like visual art and design: everything is design and art in games from input, code to audio to graphics. Those categories always felt way too blurry and stuck in an old way of looking at games as “content sandwiches”.
Games are a whole meal, they’re not sandwiches. They are something different. Choosing to separate games based on their length is more inclusive than anything other criteria. We need that and we should try those IGF category changes right away.
That picture. On the left, that left-handed president with a personal story close to mine. On the right, that dude I’ve been listening to a lot last year, who represents so much Compton, 20 minutes away from my place.
I don’t see change in this picture. Far too many black people dying for no reason in this country to be allowed to be positive and feel good with just a picture of fraternity inside the Temple of Power.
I just enjoy the moment because this never happened before. That’s already big.
Me when I find some fascinating charts:
It’s a great one showing a few things:
– Social Media exploded. We all know when this happened and how we can’t stop.
– Audio (music and podcasts) is still huge. We forget about it because music is so everywhere for free.
– Games are last and barely grew in terms of consumption. Game production on the other hand, exploded.
I am still asking here and there what people play and it’s clear that 25-35 people don’t play games that much, social media is the main game. And if they play, they don’t want to mention it. Saying that you’re using [insert favorite social network] a lot is fine though. It’s interesting.
Slow gaming growth with supply exploding (500 new games a day on iOS, over a billion games available on Steam) means we’re going to hit some harder truth soon.
So when I see a vast excitement about VR, that is demanding a $2K investment upfront to properly enjoy it, cutting you off from the real world and even digital social interactions… Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, social media is making money thanks to games:
Interestingly it’s mostly in Asia. It’s confusing to see all those trends kind of cancelling each other out. The West is not into games like that so I wonder where revenue for WhatsApp and others will be coming from.
One last one that I find interesting:
The sharing experience doesn’t need to improve, it’s easy to share music. It’s just that people don’t want to do it. Why? I think because music is deeply personal. I might listen to the same song for an hour. I might listen to that very, very silly song by a very big artist. I might listen to something you can’t listen to for more than ten seconds. I might be listening to that artist because I don’t know her/him while everybody knows the lyrics to those songs. Music is personal. You share music with people in real life, live. In a notification center? It adds nothing to anyone.
Me too. I have so many games on Steam, playing them alone. Online gaming? Nah. Latency drives me nuts and the all voice chat thing no thanks.
I remember watching my cousin play that French RPG on my mom’s brand new IBMs. Taking notes on paper. I was amazed. I couldn’t understand shit but it was exciting, he was telling me what was going on. I remember learning the word “to bribe” (soudoyer en français) as you could do that with NPCs. I was like 7.
Then the 16bit era was entirely a bunch of dudes sitting on a bed/couch passing the controller experience. I didn’t have any console at home so I sucked at most games and watched my friends play. Cheering them up “man you were so close next time you’ll have it” following the story unfold together… During the boring parts I would grab a game magazine and talk about that next game page 43 with my dude while he was doing that boss again and again.
I hate bosses in games. Fuck ‘em.
Consoles were awesome at that time. Switch on, boom. These days it’s horrifying. I remember last year trying to play some MarvelVSCapcom on a PS3 with a friend… Controller issues, updates to discard, reboot. After 20 mn of shenanigans I was over playing.
Watching people play ultimately led me to making games because seeing all those smiles and passion during all those years made me want to do that: make people happy through interactive stuff.
Fantastic article describing something much better than I could. How the web sucks because it’s too heavy.
I mean, it’s ridiculous at this point. Why? He explains the situation this way.
So for web programmers and web designers, it’s just cool to work on the next thing because complexity. I think it’s a bit bullshit.
What he calls complexity is just a Look At How Big My Dick Is contest. It’s not to make the web better, it’s to make brogrammers –I mean we had to come up with a term for them- happy because of how smart they are. That’s unhealthy. What it does is that it allows people to solve problems with one skill. Thanks to hardware getting better Brute Force works, basically. But it doesn’t really solve anything that would allow a better experience for all of us. That’s why despite computers vastly superior to what they were ten years ago, websites still load and break browsers. It’s fucking bullshit.
It’s Feature over Fix and it’s an endemic problem from the Web to Windows to everything.
Solving issues of rendering a website in countless formats and rendering engines while making it fast AND profitable is challenging and a complex problem with many more angles and more responsibilities than simply go “let’s code some cool, hard shit”. The funny thing is, in the end it’s actually easier to say “fuck yall use only this, it’s nifty we worked hard to be able to have parallax effects” than go toward more simplicity that works every time for everyone.
Engineers love to do hard and useless shit all the time like run Windows 95 on a 3DS. What the actual fuck.
Which brings me to the second point of why the web has become an obscure creation process: they don’t want you to learn. Designers and programmers don’t want you to make websites easily, that’s their jobs. The more those jobs have become a norm –they didn’t exist 15 years ago- the more complex making a nice website has evolved into. You have to modify a .html a .css and a .js now to do anything, with no consistency whatsoever, libs dependency it’s a nightmare than only people getting paid to do so, do.
I hope it reverses back to what it was. All tech-literate people today know that any text article should load instantly even with shitty connections and a couple pictures.
Engineers and designers reverting back to minimalism –not the fake one we see online these days, actual minimalism- would change things more than buying a bigger data plan or a new phone.
So this year I just responded “Merry Christmas to you” you know, let it be. I am a compadre now.
When it’s the end of the year and people are getting excited for NYE and you just want to chill:
2014 was so bad it made 2015 look almost fantastic. But it wasn’t that great. My home country is burning and here well, it’s a clusterfuck of bad news and hope I guess between Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice a black Jedi and feminism awareness rising up all around. It feels like people see things more and more in shades instead of 0/1 and that’s really, really good. I mean, it’s under a ton of horseshit like congress or Republicans but it’s here.
I wish you all good stuff to come, super interesting things to do, personal growth, financial stability, a dash of love here and there, an Ikea chair, a foot massage, the entire thing. And stop playing dumb, it’s time-consuming.
Let’s do this.