Twenty-five years ago the game development conference I am attending held its first gathering. Back then computer geeks were frowned upon rejected as strange, socially inept weirdoes. Today it seems normal, even desirable, to have these “nerdy” interests. Occasionally I can receive a strange look when I tell people I work at a game development company, but I usually get a response of, “That’s cool!” followed up by a statement of how their son, grandson, nephew, or other young (generally male) relative wants to be in game development someday, and how much said kid loves playing “those games.”
Though game developers are working to reverse the image of nerds being uncool (and convincing mothers not to despair when their child decides not to “grow up” and instead chooses game development) the industry hasn’t yet bucked the stereotypical image of “gamers” being entirely a young male audience. In fact, I get many a disbelieving face when I tell people that Facebook and mobile games are dominated not only by a female audience – but an older one at that: the average Facebook gamer is a 43-year old woman.
This audience may be living in denial, happily playing what we call “casual” games and refusing to believe that they are a “gamer” but the game industry certainly isn’t ignoring them. Not only are many local companies working on games that target this audience (like the Eugene Playdom branch, whose mother company has over twenty-three million people playing their games each month), but there is an entire section of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) devoted to sessions for developers targeting Facebook, online game players, and to mobile devices.
If you’re alive and breathing, and particularly if you are a Facebook user, we here at GDC are mostly likely talking about how to get you to become a gamer (if you aren’t) and how to keep you engaged and playing games (if you are). Facebook and online game companies strive to perfect the flow of their games for acquiring you as a customer, keeping you playing the game, encouraging you to tell your friends about the game, and of course, getting you to spend money in the game.
The best companies track many statistics while you play – your clicks, how long you played in a session, the point you stopped, what things you seemed to like about the game, and if you come back. From your point of view, this may sound a little creepy, even stalker-ish. I won’t try to deny that it looks this way. However, if there is one industry that is truly focused on streamlining their customer’s experience, I think the game development industry wins this contest (post in the comments if you have a challenger industry).
While some game companies do not do this for entirely altruistic reasons, I must admit I am always impressed by the amount of work, time, effort, and sheer thought that goes into every decision and change in the “simplest” Facebook game. Not only does the industry spend time talking about how to better track and serve our customers now, but we also spend time thinking about what our customers will want in the future. New technologies are being developed with the players in mind, and discussions abound about what will be the “next best thing.”
Whether or not you play games (yet) you should feel special because we’ve been talking about you down here at GDC. We want you to join the ranks of “gamers.” One day we’ll “get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”
Post in the comments!
Do you consider yourself a gamer? Why or why not?
Sessions I attended today:
- Using Your Friends: Identifying the Top Interaction Mechanics in Current Social Games & Media
- League of Legends Postmortem – Beta, Launch, and Beyond
- Top 7 Social Metrics for 2011
- Turning Data Into Better Social Games
- Community Management: Efficiencies and Economies of Scale
- Games on Smart TVs: Lessons Learned from the Development of GoogleTV
- Game Markets in the Middle East: Opportunities and Challenges
— Katie van Meter