Designing for Non-Gamers

I came across this slide deck from GDC 2011 today via twitter and it contains some interesting messages here for designing for non gamers. Despite being focused on social games I felt many of these messages were pertinent to the serious games industry; as let’s face it, many of our users fall into the non-gamer category.

Designing games for the 43 year old woman

For me the key take aways were;

  • Consider every element you design as a potential barrier to adoption – is that piece of UI really necessary, does it truly add to the experience or will it act as a barrier to accessing the game play and ultimately the learning.
  • What you think is cool might not apply to the audience. This also applies to what you think is cutting edge – if your audience are non gamers they wont be familiar with all the game mechanics you will be. Keep the audience front and centre.
  • These are people who do not seek out games to play, they are challenged in their working lives and often under pressure to perform. They will not (generally speaking) seek out challenging, time consuming training to complete – like it or not – people are busy and they want to get to the point as quickly as possible. If they don’t immediately ‘get’ what the serious game is all about it may turn them off.

There are some great messages about how some game mechanics just don’t work for social games as they are seen as play time – away from the stresses of every day life. These messages can also be applied to serious games: for example the #6 ‘turn off’, Rigid Timing. Image yourself at work; you’re busy, you have a deadline, your phone is ringing – do you have the capacity to stop everything at 3pm log onto a game? It’s unlikely; Serious Games need to fit in with the world of work without becoming a burden.

The top ‘turn on’ that appealed to me was number #10 – what is this doing for me. As a training application this has to kept at the forefront of a designers mind. If a learner is unable to see the direct connection it is likely they will stop playing and go back to something more transparent.


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