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You know, something that circled in my mind for the last two years or so, and which culminated in my view in the last weeks, was this feeling that I as 40 year old man kinda am no longer the main target audience of game developers. Now when I talked about this with friends, one of my friends send me this cartoon, which kinda highlights the issue:
And he send it to me with the comment, why he stopped playing Online Games. It made me think and discuss with people.
Now if we look at games, online and otherwise, I can't help but notice that games, as a medium of entertainment and it's storytelling, it's visual design and it's marketing all seem to be heavily focussed on one perceived target audience, the kinda nerdy white, male teenager, and it's older Peter-Pan syndrome plagued "I don't want to grow up" 20-something version. You know, those guys who with 29 still dress like with 17, black t-shirt with fandom picture on it included. The kind of puberty boys, who yet haven't experienced a sort of steady life and for whom "girls" (strangely in their vocabulary it's always girls, never women) still are a matter for insecurity snickering. I mean, I don't want to sound too rude and it sure is a bit over-stereotyping here, but if you go to any average games convention... well go figure.
And look at the games itself. There are that issue Sigmund Freud would have his pleasure, with all these "look I have the bigger penis" uber shoulderpads, super sized weapons (Cloud Strife and his super thin arms wearing that SUPER heavy sword) and a sort of overbearing manliness in characters, who naturally are always surrounded by "babes". It all breathes this insecure, oversexualized boasting so typical to young men of a certain age. And what is natural and necessary for them in that phase of life, seems to dominate games now in a way which... well just doesn't really reflect the REAL gamers scene anymore.
One huge part yet not really integrated are female gamers. They either get their personal niche games (Sims, Nancy Drew Adventures) or essentially are ignored. Or they can adapt and be pseudo-men. Just for the MMO: many MMOs have fat male body options, but all female body options are variations of slim. Lesson: female chars are imperative to be beauties while men are allowed to be ugly.
And then the older gamer. WIth age, I realized, two things change. One, you generally have less time. But still, in the case of MMOs, rewarded is grind. Grinding raids, grinding instances, all caters people with LOTS of time. But the generally overlooked issue is: with age change values. While for a male teenage boy it may be fun and ok to spent lots and lots of time with action and killing stuff, as you get older you also value "soft skill things". Take SWG. The entire corpus of non combat activities was SO popular, but mostly with female and older gamers. While the kids went out pew pew the older gamers focussed on more social activities. Sure, there are always exceptions, but that doesn't mean there are no general lines in natural change as you age. And this was entirely dropped. The ENTIRE popular scope of activities OTHER than kill stuff as known from SWG or UO are gone.
Ultima Online is a great example. Everyone remembering the MANY different things you could do in UO and comparing it to the very limited scope of MMOs today will understand what I talk about. It is as if 90% of all UO activities were cut, and only the combat quest stuff remained. And while I have no problem to give "kids" their action pew pew and their over exxagerated macho toys, I have this feeling as if game developer way too much program their games as if that was the ONLY target audience and they entirely forgot to see other target groups which play a greater role today. As older gamer, who has begun to have different values and values softer skill stuff than KILL KILL KILL, I feel kinda marginalized.
People don't ask questions to get answers - they ask questions to show how smart they are. - Dogbert