Wednesday 17 August 2011

Apps for children and adults

What  constitutes fun? Here we go with another post that attempts to put some order into the game world but psychologising what makes gaming fun. For those talented developers out there feel free to borrow any noteworthy comments to inspire any hit games of tomorrow.
Here at Gametrender we're always on the look out for inspiration for the games industry. Having a young child is proving to be a constant source of innovation and encouragement. Don't worry this not going to be a schmaltzy article about parenthood etc., however watching my child at play I've found very useful from a game development perspective .
Toddler play particularly is quite useful to observe as they have progressed beyond baby play which is formless and moment orientated just involving colours, sounds and stimuli, but is something closer to adult play with rules and concepts starting to be imbued into the game.
Where childs play has advantages over adult play is that there are far fewer preconceived notions of what makes a game good or bad, dull or entertaining. Adult play is very obsessed with win states. A football match is played with the express purpose of winning. That us not to say that a player won't still enjoy the game, but losing will certainly detract from that enjoyment.
A child will spend hours, a notable achievement with a supposedly limited attention span, playing randomly with no end state, no win or lose state in mind. Careful observation of this play will show that it does have it's own set of rules. It's not random free form play but is definitely rule based plat.
A child with a toy car will ,if he or she has seen a real car before, and we can assume they have if they are playing with a toy one, pretend that what they have is a real car. The car will not fly, it will not be an extra dimensional portal. It will in all essence be a car and have behaviour expected of a car. Adults will drive a real car for miles just for the sheer thrill of driving, a child will play with their toy car with this same purpose, the thrill of play, movement, without artificial constraints. The rules are certainly there but are more organic, natural rules and not imaginary, even arbitrary rules imposed on the toyset ultimately inhibiting play.
As a case example lets consider the real life situation of a child playing with a wooden trainset. It is a wooden train set with a wooden track that slots together. There are right ways to do it, hence the instructions, but there are numerous other ways that the tracks slot together. Theres a bridge too, and assorted wooden trees , animals and a wooden police station, fire station and hospital.
The child or more likely the parent
puts the track together , the various furniture is placed randomly and the child plays. So why is this fun and where do the rules come into it. Firstly all the rules aren't just self imposed, natural laws of course apply, if the train goes too fast it will fall off the track, if it's on top of the bridge it will roll down hill. That's physics!
All the rest is imposed by the nature of the play, it's a train so it goes on a track, it doesn't fly and so on. Like the real world animals and people can be on the track. Accidents will result in a visit to the hospital or firehouse. What games to play: how fast the train is, how big an accident, what about passengers? The point that this illustrates is that with  play like this natural rules will fall into place, other rules can later be imposed but all they are doing is building on the template of the original, purest and best form of the game. I think that Elf Farm try to encapsulate this sense of wonder and carefree child's play in their games and are well worth checking out if this article has struck a chord.wanderland