Friday, July 07, 2006

Brain Age: Everybody is Hardcore

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Blogger Daniel 'sirleto' Renkel said...

i will comment on your post next week, but for now - i'd like to quote a developer of "casual games" in the "casual_games" mailing list:

"This article suggests that a lot of what people think is true about the casual games market is very wrong. There are serious implications for anyone developing or marketing casual games. Here's the article: "

an nice excerpt right from the beginning:

"Perhaps the biggest surprise of the survey, [...} is that 37 per cent of participants stated that they play nine or more game sessions per week."


09 July, 2006 11:27  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

I just wanted to add this as a post scriptum but you were faster. What a coincidence.

Btw, in "Humane Interface" (Sorry for quoting this guy so often, I will read new design books soon, Yu-Chung) Jef Raskin also notices that seperating users in experienced and unexperienced isn't a good procedure either. Programs like Macromedia Flash use this bad philosophy by having a beginner-mode and advanced-mode. Also, in all programs you have mouse based menues which can be accessed by keyboard shortcuts as well. This sound resonable at first, however it means that you have to learn using the interface TWICE. First, you learn where the menu items are. Then, to use the program faster, you have to learn the keybord shortcuts. At this point, you are AGAIN a beginner and work slower instead of working faster. So most users will stick to Mouse-based menus and never learn the faster keyboard shortcuts. A better interface would use just ONE mode which is easy to learn and fast if you use it frequently. An interface that is easy to understand for a beginner doesn't have to be a burden if you use it more frequently.
I found this Advanced/Beginner fallacy similar to the Hardcore/Casual philosophy.

10 July, 2006 23:49  
Blogger Yu-Chung Chen said...

about the hotkey thing: Rhinocerous (, a NURBS modeling program) uses an unusual approach I like:

There's a command line window between your standard menus/tools bar and your viewport (and possibly user-configurable).

This command line window shows every command and also parameter input of the user. So if you click on the extrude icon, the command line says "extrude" while also asking for the height parameter. You can input this parameter by moving your mouse - while the value generated is fed back to the command line - and then clicking, or you can input the number directly and precisely with the keyboard.

What I like about it is this: the command line window not only acts as an input device, but also as a feedback channel. And since your actions are tracked in there, learning the commands' names almost happens naturally. Of course it also helps that the commands have distinct and understandable names for the most party.

Here comes the part about the hotkeys: after a while of using, you are very likely to know the commands by name, and the fact that every keyboard input goes into that command line window means you can type in the desired command at anytime.

There's no need to assign single keypresses as commands and relearn them. And the mapping problem of single keys is avoided: does 'R' mean revolve or round? Does 'F' mean fillet or fill?

The smart command line, on the other hand, will provide proposals with each keystroke: typing "R" shows "Revolve", if that's what you want, just press enter. If not, just continue typing. At "Ro" you will get "Round". And you don't have to rely on that: Chances are you'd just key-in the whole (short) command blindly and know you'll get the right one.

The drawback is, of course, the fact that your mouse hand would switch back and forth a lot. Maybe this would work great with the CombiMouse ( Or with verbal inputs? Then again, this wouldn't require the command line window.

16 July, 2006 22:09  
Blogger Steven An said...

Just discovered your blog - interesting stuff!

Some comments: I think most marketers would agree with you, actually. Because, from what I gather in the gaming press, the "casual" market is basically full of people like your girlfriend. They're not willing to spend 30 hours to immerse themselves into the role of a hero in a giant epic fantasy. They want games that are player-friendly, or as you so well put it, games that "care about the player." So I think most industry people would characterize the "casual" market much like you characterize your girlfriend here.

And believe me, they would LOVE to turn casual players like your girlfriend into "hardcore" players. Probably using the same tactics you mention here, such as mainstream appeal, short play times, and easy to learn controls.

So one way to look at it is: your girlfriend was once casual, but Brain Age was the gateway game that turned her hardcore. And for an industry in need of more consumers, such gateway games are very important.

20 July, 2007 23:34  
Blogger darkflame said...

To start with, I agree absoluetely the distinction between Hardcore/Softcore is stupid.
Its also funny how games are retroactively labeled for one group. (eg, Tetris; A game that can get very hardcore indeed).

Personaly, while I consider myself a gamer, theres many casual games I enjoy more then the hardcore games I am "supposed to".

For instance, I find most RPGs bore me to death. It just puts the player in a big loop of "Fight, level, Fight", with no inteligence or *player improvement* happening at all. The *charecter improvement* is just a cycle that is unavoidable and inevitable.

Brain Age, on the other hand, is more like Tetris, or even Mario.
The things your charecter can do stay the same, but *you* get better at doing them.
To me this is much more statisfying and far too few games are about this these days.

One good example, Id recomend is "Zack and Wiki". A game that I think really pushs why you cant devide games into casual or hardcore.
Its a game thats accisble, yet makes you think really hard.

One point I do argue with is this;

"Having to pretend to be someone else is too much for most people, they rather reject the whole game as childish. Rightly so!"

The "Childish" distinction is just as bad as the casual one.
Games labeled as childish are normaly more enjoyable then many so called "adult games".

Secondly, theres plenty of adults who pretend to be other people; Actors.
Not all actors do it for money, many amtaurs and semi-proffesionals do plays for their own enjoyment, and to entertain others.
Likewise, theres also plenty of people enjoying (non-computer) Role Playing Games.
(and yes, you can dismiss that group as "nerds", but its a hell of a lot more socialy involving then just about any other form of gameplay)

To dismiss the whole idea of pretending to be someone else as childish I think is a miss-step.
I dont think its a barrier to getting people into games, I think the problems lye elsewhere. (mainly in that too many games are insula to their own internal logic that has to be learnt).

A charecter-metaphor for the game mechcanics lets you have a story in a game, and, imho, a good story can improve just about anything.

I think if more people were awhere of them, games like Zack and Wiki, or Another Code could be very popular amongst non-gamers.
A lot of potential buyers for those sort of games arnt really awhere they exist though.

09 May, 2008 13:15  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

Thanks for your comment. I would like to answer to some of your remarks.

I'm not really suggesting a new distinction of "Childish" and "Non-Childish" games. I just think that using an embedded narrative, which forces the players to pretend they were somebody else puts them in a position they would normally consider childish.

It is true that acting may be a very noble and worthwhile activity. However, we should also realize that most people, especially those who don't play games, would rather watch other people act instead of doing it themselves. Acting always bears the danger of ridiculing yourself and thus it is perceived as something for people with great confidence or who take themselves less seriously - especially children. This creates a high threshold for entering those kinds of games if you are an adult.

The two groups you've mentioned (Actors and Role Players) are minority groups. Additionally, Role Players have a strong affinity towards games in general. They can't be taken as an example.

However, I'm open to new ideas and I would like to hear more about what you think is the entry barrier for games.

I've recently played the two games you've mentioned, Zack & Wiki and Another Code. I liked them very much and I will possibly write something about them soon. Another Code is by Cing, who later did Hotel Dusk, which I already wrote a lot about (here, here, and here).

09 May, 2008 13:43  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

And thanks for your comment too, Steven. One thing:

"So one way to look at it is: your girlfriend was once casual, but Brain Age was the gateway game that turned her hardcore."

No, that's exactly not what happened. She did like Brain Age and she tried some other things but she never liked the more stereotypical games. Like I said, it is more complicated then that, labeling people is too simple.

09 May, 2008 13:47  
Blogger Evil Dan said...

Wonderfull!! I will perhaps try to convince my wife to play games by being going to Salsa lessons - it's brilliant!

09 May, 2008 19:36  

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