Designing Games for Kids

Since you said you don’t believe in factoring age as part of judging the quality of a game. I’d like to ask how’d you design a game for kids? What properties do you think could make good game elements while primarily appealing to 5-12 age demographic?

lol what. Wait, I think I meant age like how old the game is, not how old the audience is.

Okay, the strongest properties in making games for young children is probably keeping the core mechanics simple and high affordance. Affordance seems to be my theme word of the week here. Don’t require a lot of reading unless the reading isn’t really that important.

NES games are great for this, the NES only has 2 buttons. Some NES games have weird hidden information though, but those don’t tend to be the most popular ones.

As they get older, like I think 8 or 10, they can probably afford to play something complicated, because they’re a kid, they have plenty of time to figure out how the whole system works. I learned how to read from playing Pokemon, because it was a big deal back then and I wanted to get into the game so much. The game lays out the type weakness chart in the instruction manual.

If you want to make a good game that appeals to someone that age, it’s a process of sort of building 2 games. Sure, any kid can play a pokemon game, but there’s a lot about Pokemon that goes beyond just beating the gym leaders. There’s the EV system, IV system, STAB, and other subtle factors. Any idiot can play smash bros melee, I did as a little kid too, but there’s a lot more there if you dig into it. The game needs to be layered where people can function on an effective level. Sakurai talks about this in his statements on smash 4 as a game, and he’s remarkably on point there.
“Furthermore, if I went with what is fair according to advanced players, the beginners wouldn’t be able to keep up. For example, Kirby’s Stone attack probably won’t hit a player above intermediate skill level, but if I made it more powerful, it would destroy beginners. At the end of the day, I’m aiming for intermediately-skilled players to be able to properly enjoy the game.”

At least, he’s on point in identifying that there are different skill levels, and based on the way you design moves, things will be more or less successful or effective based on your skill level. The thing he’s not on point about is failing to recognize that seriously, project M made kirby’s down B more effective and it still doesn’t destroy beginner players, and smash attacks come out fairly frequently in Melee because they’re safer and you can move faster to position them.

Traditional fighting games, probably not for kids, because the basic tools in them are low affordance, it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on. On the other hand, kids have a lot of time to figure them out, and they have a tendency to get fixated on things, so it could work out in the right environment.

RTS, also probably not for kids, but MOBAs work fine, because it’s only movement and like 4 abilities at any one time.

Keep the options at any one time limited. Make them clear in primary function, add more subtle secondary functions.

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