At Tickity Boom we want to make games for a demographic that looks like the majority of our team – mature female mobile gamers.
Of course there are plenty of women who play all types of games – I am one myself! – but our aim was to target the large audience who despite playing games on a daily basis do not identify as “gamers” – in fact, usually say “I’m not a gamer…” (Martine Spaans from publisher FGL gave a brilliant talk about this demographic here).
It’s probably the gamer stereotype – poor hygiene and social skills – and the idea that persists for many people that games are a “waste of time” that makes our audience claim to not be into games although they clearly are. So our challenge is to create a game that overcomes embarrassment about being a “gamer”, and doesn’t feel like a waste of time.
One of the ways we’ve tackled this in our game 'The Antiques Affair' – a game about collecting and trading antiques - is to use lots of real world content – the antiques and the antique-hunting locations are all based on real world items and places. This is nothing new of course – Racing games and sports games like FIFA use real cars, players and clubs, whilst shooters like 'Call of Duty' use real world weapons and military hardware.
Players’ enjoy engaging with real world elements for several reasons:
The're Safe - Risky behavior is not a good evolutionary strategy, so it's not surprising people don’t like taking risks! Playing games isn’t physically risky but there is a risk of losing money and time on a game we don’t enjoy. When we don’t recognize a situation it feels risky, so real world content can help us feel safer about taking the plunge into a game.
Easy to Relate - Players rapidly recognize real world content – rather than having to get their heads round made up elements. This fosters a feeling of “relatedness”, a feeling that player and game share a common bond – a core element in capturing a player’s imagination.
Credible - If we know and trust the content, we’re liable to transfer that trust to the game.
Mastery - A core pillar of any game design is to give players a sense of mastery – that they are in some way experts in the game. It flatters the intellect and gives a feeling of control. Recognizing content from the real world can help players feel they are masters of the game world.
In 'The Antiques Affair', as well as getting all the above benefits, we use our real world content in a particular way we call “fact candy”. We offer the player snippets of real facts as they are going on an expedition or examining their antiques, so they may learn something new. Similar to watching a TV show about antiques, there’s something that feels good about learning these little factual nuggets; even if I never need to know the difference between a Qing and Ming dynasty ceramic marking in my real life, I feel like I’ve increased by general knowledge just that tiny bit more!
This factual component, we hypothesize, will help 'The Antiques Affair' feel less like a “waste of time” and more like an intellectually respectable pastime for our audience. A great example of this is a ceramic teapot that the player encounters early in the game which has been inspired by English designer of the Art-Deco era, Clarice Cliff. Even if your interest in antiques only extends to the occasional viewing of 'The Antiques Roadshow', there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Cliff - her very collectible work has sold for thousands at auction.
The teapot in our game is not an original Cliff, but inspired by her and made by another real-world pottery. When a player examines the pot, they discover this by finding several clue locations on the pot, including the hallmark. In user testing, several players have said words to the effect - “I thought that looked like a Clarice Cliff!” This object then gives the player a sense of relatedness and mastery – because they recognized that it looked like a Cliff; it makes the game feel credible because they know its based on real world; and they’ve learned a new fact – that the hallmark of this piece reveals it’s not an original Cliff.
The real antiques in the game have gone down very well in user testing, so we’re looking forward to bringing our pretty unique experience to iOS and Android in 2016.
Head here to download 'The Antiques Affair' from the Windows Store.
Tickity Boom recieved funding through our Greenshoots programme with Microsoft. To apply for our new round of Greenshoots funding head here.
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