Games for Children

I just played through Megaman 8 (no, I’m not going to write a reflection of it – I’ll get to why in a minute) and something occured to me. When I was a kid and played frustrating videogames, I’d get angry and shout at the screen. My dad, presumably thinking I might become violent, threatened to take the games (and did so on some occasions), saying that it “isn’t the games’ fault”. I now know he was wrong, some games are unfair and frustrating due to bad design, and not because they’re supposed to be “challenging”.

We usually chalk this off as remnants of a low-tech or coin-op arcade age, either the technology provided was so limited that games couldn’t contain much content and needed to force the player to try again in order to achieve some respectable playtime, or you just wanted the player to replay several times because each time meant another quarter. But those things should’ve disappeared more than 15 years ago. What I am suggesting is that good design is traded for cool features and name recognition when making games for kids – much in the same way as you’re more likely to find giant robots or dinosaurs in children’s TV shows than a coherent story or rewarding dialogue.

Megaman 8 is the perfect example of this. It uses lots of bright colors and childish characters, it contains haphazardly thrown-together pieces of different gameplay – impressive when you first look at it, in reality someone just forgot to kill his darlings. Of course, there are more recent examples (Sonic the Hedgehog for 360/PS3), and whether most children actually care about good gameplay is up to debate. Seeing how they aim to be something different than “adult” games, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to judge them by the same standards. In fact, I’m not sure it is a good idea to review and score them at all.

And finally, I am aware that there are lots of family-friendly games that have excellent design. Exceptions exist in movies as well, Pixar has done quite a lot of them.

No Comment

No comments yet

Leave a reply

Posted on Sep 09/07 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »