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Games Like Me

10/05/2009 Family Family Gamer Article
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Games Like Me

Previous articles from our editor Paul Govan are here.

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There's a question that doesn't get asked enough in videogame circles. The assumption is that most gamers are the same and largely like the same set of super-games. Not many give voice to the question of those on the margins of the gaming world, 'why don't they make video games for me?'

To newcomers, older gamers and others who didn't share the mandatory childhood training in gaming controls it is simply the case that most video games are simply not designed for them.

Setting aside the popular hard core franchises for a moment - the Halos, Street Fighters and Kill Zones of this world - we are largely left with a range of games packaged for children and those that remember the series from when they were young. Cartoon characters and saccharine colours abound and make it clear these games are for kids.

Informed individuals who have managed to slow down, step back, and consider the wider picture make for interesting, sometimes shocking reading.

While organisations like PEGI and the ESRB do a pretty good job at keeping the wrong games out of the hands of the wrong people, there is very little information designed to get the right games into the hands of the right people. Well, at least if you are not a really young gamer, or longstanding hardcore fan. Everyday people don't buy products that look like the games we see on our shelves.

Twenty something young women aren't looking for the new game with massive swords. Parents just aren't interested in the plight of a cartoon dog. Teens could often care less if some video game icon was introducing their favourite past time. Older gamers are simply unaware of the majority of references that adorn most casual titles.

There are of course exceptions to the rule. Grown up looking games that properly connect with their audience. But even here, the games that look interesting turn out to be (often very good) hard core video games that need a very particular audience. Take Okami's calligraphy inspired art on the Wii, enough to attract a wide range of mid life men and women, until that is they fire it up - whereupon the game mutates back into the intimidating experience suggested by the boxes on the shelf either side of it.

If only games that tackled substantial themes, or that played differently were presented in an entirely different way. If they looked more like novels sat on a table in Waterstones or Borders, with well photographed high art design covers, typography rich wording and quality printed materials to lead the potential player in, maybe then some of the hidden gems would find their way into this untapped audience.

Platinum or Classic ranges of games are a case in point. Their bland, shrunken covers make these older titles even less appealing. How about a range of games designed for different gamers that, like books, have second editions that gain new and novel jackets. Think of the classic novels, now so often made freshly enticing by being part of a similarly styled range of reads from older authors.

This problem was one of the reasons we created www.familygamer.co.uk. We wanted somewhere that would do its best to get the right games into the right people's hands. Our Rough Guides always finish with age related recommendations, the place where the rubber hits the road on this is the Age Game Recommendations. Here, we keep a growing list of games that we think are a good fit to a range of different types of players Infants, Juniors, Student. Worker, Parent, Senior.

Our hope is that we connect people with games that (if presented differently) they would most likely gravitate to themselves.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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