What needs do games fill for young children?

TaciturnTaciturn Posts: 42Member
I've been trying to design for a young audience of somewhere between 6 and 10. I know that's kind of a huge margin for children. It's just a ballpark estimate.

So I've checked out a few trendy games for what I presume is my target audience, and some of their (the children's) activities continue to bewilder me.
- Wanderers who choose to be alone and accomplish little in terms of succeeding in the game
- People who choose to constantly be in the physical presence (in the game) of others, but hardly talk or do anything for that matter
- People who suppose power or wisdom over strangers; claiming to be teachers, managers, experts, etc. (Perhaps this is only meant in a roleplay sense, or perhaps not. It certainly seems serious from my perspective. I don't know for certain)... I should note that these are not official roles in the games.
- People pretending to have romantic relationships despite having essentially no clue of what that means

I've tried to speculate on what sorts of psychological needs these activities are filling... but you folks can probably make better sense of it than I can. Starting to regret the fact that I've never so much as touched a psychology textbook haha. My working theory is that many of them are interacting with the games as they would with toys, in that they are not so much concerned with the objective of the game as they are with fulfilling some sort of psychological need... like using a rake as a backscratcher or a winter coat as a pillow.


  • Brother_NerdBrother_Nerd Posts: 50Member
    edited March 28
    There are a number of possible variables here, that lead to drastically different answers:

    1: What is the point of your game? Is it purely entertainment, or is it intended to have an educational swing to it? Note that educational does not mean boring, but that a work of art need not actually teach you anything to be appreciated, either.

    2: Stop thinking of them merely as children, and more as inexperienced adults. They're still learning what literally everything is, and as much of sponges for information as they are, they still need a frame of refenerence for things; a frame of reference that you likely take for granted anymore as you learned it long ago.

    3: What games have you looked into? It's pretty common for a game [or show] to be "intended for kids" yet be such utter trash as to be arguably more harm than good, or at the very least an enormous waste of time. So long as it's enthralling, the child doesn't need to be getting anything out of it. On the flip side, if it's a game that is simply too "mature," it might be too complex, making too many assumptions about the experience of the player base, and a 6-10 year old might not have said knowledge to draw from.

    I'm sure that I'm missing plenty of other points, but this is somewhere solid to start.

    Edit: Spelling
    Post edited by Brother_Nerd on
  • PyrianPyrian Posts: 295Member
    Taciturn, you, um, haven't spent much time around children, have you?
    1) Yeah, kids like to explore for the sake of exploring, and aren't nearly as dismissive as adults are about experiences they haven't had yet.
    2) Yeah, kids don't need an excuse to want to be around other people. Adults are mostly very much the same, they just make excuses.
    3&4) Yeah, kids loooove to imitate adult behaviors, regardless of whether they understand what's going on.
    Big, important one not in your post: Kids love to make stuff, regardless of the quality of the end product. (That's a big reason why Minecraft is one of the most played video games, period.)

    Keep in mind that if you're designing a multiplayer game for kids, communication will need to be strictly limited, whether by design or by heavy moderation; unless you're expecting to be able to afford a full staff of pedophile hunters, you'll probably have to go with the former.
  • desolation0desolation0 Posts: 176Member
    If you were playing back then, try thinking of some of the games you were playing, why you enjoyed them, and what you got out of them. I know I was playing at least a few games I would still consider fairly complex now by the time I was seven or eight. Then the other half were slightly more simplistic stuff to just jump into. Don't over-modify based on a few anecdotes or your own experience. Design takes data, and one plot on a graph is just not enough. At what point are you putting this in front of some young testers to see what they think, how much complexity they care to handle, and what they actually do with your toy box?
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