So here we go....
Critical Approaches Part 1
How Are Audiences Defined for a Game?
One of the most important things we tend to forget about when creating a game, is not to put too much of our own personal preferences in but to learn and accept what the public would want and what our target audience is to be. When we look at defined audiences we take into consideration stereotypes, so for example boys are supposed to enjoy games that revolve around bloodshed and violence, then girls are to enjoy ‘fairy’, brightly coloured games with loads of ponies in it. However this theory is not always true as some girls tend to enjoy games with heavy violence or some violence in it, and some boys don’t mind playing softer games that don’t contain bloodshed or have a huge amount of realistic violence like Kirby or Pokemon.
Stereotypes are, as human, created so we can group certain people together so in a way it seems easier to have an understanding about the world, yet some people can’t be grouped as they show more than one group trait and that can scare people, which this could lead onto why we as game makers reference what’s similar in our productions with other well-known games that have a huge fan-base behind them.
Another way to look at a defined audience would be to look at what we call a proxy audience. This audience is based more on stats and facts than stereotyping which more opinionated and biased. By looking at a proxy, game makers are able to establish what the target audience they’re aiming at, wants from a game and why- making selling points easier to talk about when the game later on.
Obviously when designing a game there’s no point in making one if we don’t know what the audience wants, or could possibly enjoy from our game. There are plenty of research methods available to gain information from the public:
Primary- Primary research is where you collect the data yourself by doing questionnaires, interviews, and experiments or experience/observe things.
Secondary- This goes by looking at what data other people have collected from their primary research, plus there’s more ways to gain secondary research and habitually it’s classed as one of the easiest ways to gain data. Internet, books, magazines and articles, games, forums, charts, TV, tales and memories (of someone else), posters/ advertisements, shops, power points are all types of secondary research.
Tertiary- Tertiary is the final way of researching types; it’s where you get information from a secondary research like bibliographies, TV, sometimes books and internet other times it can be from discussions with people who’ve taken quotations from what the original person has said to them.
Data is considered to be under two categories known as quantitative or qualitative and is what we gain from either taking part in primary, secondary or tertiary research. Quantitative data is considered to be questions that allow people to make stats and facts from the data collected, these questions are not always numerical and can be yes or no- although this can be considered as qualitative data.
Qualitative questions are mainly physiological with them being more sentences, than quick word answers. At times they do come across more opinionated, biased or based on a point-of-view. The questions are subsequently subjective and can turn into a binary as I’ve explained earlier.
Finally another way would be to look at what people have achieved in their games, as some like to complete challenges or side-quests whereas some like myself, don’t really bother going off to do these kind of things and like to stick to the main story as the story itself is what I enjoy the most about gaming.
In the early 80s gaming was frowned upon as many didn’t class it as a job and thought the concept itself was useless. Eventually more and more people started getting addicted to games and thus the industry they grew, spreading more and more across the country and still do today. However what can ruin the industry is the governing bodies and the media which people usually listen to. Over the years we’ve heard gaming can ruin children and turn people into something of a monster where the attack society as well as people becoming lazy because they would rather play games than work. Most of these suggestions have been brought up by the radio, newspapers/articles, TV and I entirely understand people have to make a living by taking a piece of information and adding hyperbole to the situation instantly jumping to conclusions and making something seem more negative than looking at the positives- which is a shame. Of course this can scare people and turn them against things like the gaming industry but I believe that’s where the governing bodies step in as they to people, they seem to have more of an authority because at the end of the day the news isn’t always trustworthy on certain subjects and have been paid to as I said earlier focus on the negative side of things. Although the government’s words are not law but also as opinionated they do run the country and can have a massive effect on any business in any country.
For years now governing bodies have discussed the effects on games and what it can do to people, coming up with more negative attitudes than positives and it has turned some of the public against the industry. However it’s also been said to help people in a number of different ways like learning to relieving pain, for example a new mind game has been brought out for those who’ve suffered severe burns from bombs in the army, and when changing the dressing of their wounds it’s obviously painful. So to reduce stress and pain they allow the patient to play this game where you shoot snowballs at snowmen when the nurses are tending to their wounds, and it been proved it has helped them.
How are Games and Content created for a Specific Audience?
Already I’ve discussed quite a bit for this topic as we’ve looked at defining an audience for game and how to research can help show what an audience wants in a game. For example if we look at the Legend of Zelda series, comparing Twilight Princess’s Link to Wind Waker’s Link we will see the Wind Waker version is designed to be cel-shaded giving a more cartoon approach as well as coloured in bright ‘bolder’ colours that contain very little shading and appeal to a younger audience. Whereas Twilight Princess was aimed at an older more adult target audience to draw them back into the Zelda franchise, for its more realistic themes, darker styles and emotional story than contain quite a bit of violence compared to other titles like: Four Swords, Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass.
It’s reasons like these that we create games or make new sequels of games, to suit a certain audience so we can either draw in another crowd or our older crowd and various franchises have tried/succeeded in doing this which not only gives them a good reputation but much more money and followers. However it can also ruin a game and character’s reputation. My example for this is the Spyro series including Skylanders. Before Skylanders was even a thought the Spyro series, was one of the most loved franchise that appealed to children and teenage audience for it grew up with many people. The first six Spyro games were more based on children for once again the colours, the designs of characters, environments and story situation but also because of the protagonist’s attitude- especially in Spyro the Dragon: A Hero’s Tail. Spyro was a young a dragon which a very cocky attitude but daring, brave and good-willed nature to the rest of the dragon realm. Compare this though to the last three Spyro the Dragon games (thought to be prequels), where Spyro’s attitude is more grown up and adult like as well the game itself with darker themes, concepts, storylines, designs ect. A lot of people thought the last game was a good ending for such franchise until they brought out Spyro with Skylanders, this appalled many people who Spyro fans and put them off the whole concept of Spyro. The game itself doesn’t lead off from the last Spyro games and the character designs are once again based on a young target audience which has made (in my opinion) Spyro and Cynder look very deformed.
Can Feedback Be Used to Create a Product?
Depends as feedback is where the customer reports back to the creators of any business/product giving their opinions on what they thought was good, bad and can be improved. The reason why I’ve suggested it depends is because if the feedback is mostly negative then there would be no point in selling a sequel/prequel because the product would’ve already gained a bad reception from people which then banks wouldn’t give out loans to create a another one as there would be no point. One way to possibly get out of that hole would be to make a HD version and give out demos of the game which giving something free to the public, can allow them to play the game and alter their decisions about the game because the creators were influenced by their feedback.
The positive idea behind this would be feedback can allow companies to make prequels, sequels and HD versions, because so many people internationally have enjoyed the products so much they demand to know more about the story/characters or just simply wish for another similar game to come out-hence why games like Final Fantasy, Assassin’s Creed and Pokemon for example, are huge hits throughout the world.
Audiences Response to Games
Different people and therefore audiences will respond to games differently depending on their situation, upbringing, beliefs etc. The Hypodermic Needle Theory is where people tend to absorb information from various places like the news, television, radio and governing bodies which I explained about earlier. The Uses and Gratification Theory is again where people absorb information, but it’s pre-existing and usually comes from gossip-like media for from word of other people that don’t tend to have a huge influence over people.
As discussed before people tend to believe games are bad for the society, because of the violence, drug references, sex, ethical/religious issues, people wanting to do nothing more than play on them and become messed up where they are dangerous to society. This is mainly what the media has conjured up but again I have said I do partially believe in some of this but I’m not against games.
In my opinion I believe that games can be blame to some problems, for example I know quite a few people that would rather sit and play games instead of doing work and either staying at home relying on parents or becoming poor and homeless depending on benefits. In one way this is purely people’s choice of lifestyle and they can be to blame but on the other hand it come mean something deeply physiological has hurt them and therefore they can’t bear to deal with the real-world, as games take you away from reality making you feel invincible like you can do anything in that world, or the person could just be lazy.
For ethical and religious issues in gaming it’s one huge subject that can be extremely hard to overcome as many games can be offensive to people, for the characters or situations they’re in for what’s in the game itself. For example in Grand Theft Auto you can play as the coloured guy and he’s the only one that can get drugs or the first mission with him is to steal a car. This is because of stereotypes and although creators don’t mean offend anyone people do tend to take it to heart- however this doesn’t mean it can’t be corrected. The best way is not to take it to heart but it can really hurt sometimes, but the best way would be to make a change to that situation. For example a white guy could do the same kind of thing as the coloured? Or for example in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess the one coloured woman is Telma and she runs a bar in Castle-town being slightly revealing at the top half of her body. So fair enough the only coloured person isn’t sitting in a huge protagonist role, wears slightly revealing clothes and had a slight ‘crumby’ job. However throughout the rest of the game you find she’s saved your best friend, looked after then village children, saved a Zora and helped you find people who were willing to look for the rest of Midna’s Shadow Pieces, and they were part of a group called the Resistance- which Telma organised. In this way it shows Telma’s amazing attributes to the story and how much of a hero she is when she had to suffer against the creatures of Twilight- creators can help these situations by doing this kind of thing.
Finally about drugs, violence and sex all games have to go through a rating system where people like PEGI and ESRB go through the game, note down what’s in the game and take into consideration what age people should be mentally-able to take in the content of the game and not be effected. They then display an age rating of how old a person should be to play that game and also include why the game was rating that way- just like film, book or even music CD- it’s all there. With young children playing rated 18 games and become disturbed is not the creators/distributers fault. It’s purely and simply the parents fault for either letting their child play on that game or buying it for them at such a young age. I believe if parents were to look at the contents in the game and ask around like they would do before giving it to a 7-year old, the world would be much more easier and people be slandering the gaming industry.
In some places games have helped people, like the medical example but other ways as well. In Guitar Hero I’m usually the vocalist and I have no singing talent, but before I played it I sang when no one was around and after playing this game I grew confidence to sing anywhere and everywhere in my house. Another prime example would be after I had a terrible fall from my horse and sold them, then had a couple of worse examples afterwards I became really scared to climb on a horse and ride which seems really stupid as I was confident being on the ground with them. The problem was as soon as I got up there and asked to walk on, I couldn’t stop the shaking, nor get the image of when the last horse bolted off with me and squeezed really hard with my legs (which makes the horse go) and freeze up when we went to the trot. Again I took a few months off riding then eventually decided enough was enough and I wanted to gain that freedom feeling of riding again. Before I went for another lesson I decided to play Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and make Link ride the horse than go into Link’s eye-view perspective so you could see and imagine what the atmosphere around you would be like at a walk, trot, canter and gallop. To be honest this really immensely and I found instantly I wasn’t as scared as when I got back on months previous, even now that I have my own horse again I still do this on Twilight Princess when you make Epona jump so I can see what it could be like when myself and Cleo (the horse) start going over poles.
Another way to oppose certain negative elements in the game industry is to look at a game’s fan-base and how popular it is to other people. A lot of audiences enjoy games because it’s their life, their passion or something to meet and interact with new people. At conventions like MCM, J-con and E3 we can see loads of people dress up as the characters, or people of Deviantart, Tumblr, Facebook like to post pictures of fan-art, or write about the characters on Fanfiction.net, Wordpress and Blogger or collect franchise because they enjoyed that game so much they want to do more until the next prequel/sequel/HD version comes out. The gaming industry has connected so many people globally and it’s amazing that people don’t realise this. I can honestly since starting a gaming college and being able to attend cons in cosplay I’ve met so many people and became good friends with them that I’m glad I had the chance to play these games- same goes for Deviantart and Fanfiction.Net
Again an audience shouldn’t instantly dislike or shun an industry, object- anything unless they’ve had a personal experience or at least hear two sides to an argument instead of listening to others and taking the media as ‘gospel’. In conclusion I remain in the middle as I do believe in some bad things that games have caused but I do see and agree with some of the arguments that oppose to that and games can help people.
Chosen Game Product
Personally I’m going to stick with the Zelda games as I believe this is one of my most favourite franchises and it was the last thing I’ve played recently, other than Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. Most Zelda games start of the same where it’s simply your Link, he’s a normal boy who works in different situations throughout Hyrule (in Twilight Princess he’s a goat herder, in Ocarina he’s forest child and in Spirit Tracks he’s a train driver), until one day madness descends in his area or he has to deliver something to Zelda and something bad happens and it’s up to him to defeat the evil doers (e.g Ganondorf in Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Ocarina of Time, Ghirahim in Skyward Sword, Vaati/Dark Link in Minish Cap and Four Swords) and rescue Princess Zelda using his part of the Triforce which is courage and Hyrule is saved meaning the endings aren always linear compared to other games like Pandora’s Tower and Oddworld series, as they focus more on how you’ve played the game and interact with others which depend on what ending you get. Usually throughout the Zelda games you visit 5 temples and collect lots of weaponry that look the same to the previous games. The only things that differs from each game is the art style of cel-shaded, cartoon to more realistic approaches, methods of transport for Link (train, boats, horses, birds ect), environments (but with the same names e.g Faron Woods, Hyrule Field), characters and sometimes names otherwise everything is pretty much the same.
This also means the genre of game hasn’t changed as it’s always been an action-adventure type game. When looking at semiotics they do tend to focus on the main signs we would pick up or apply to in any situation. For example you know when a boss battle or an ambush is about to appear as you’ll see the room is darker, depressing or coated in blood, bones or a different piece of music will overcome the original soundtrack. In Twilight Princess when a Bokoblin goes to attack you, instantly the music changes to a morbid and rushed sound so it gets you on your toes. In the Zelda games there are a few other signs you learn along the way and it leaves you remembering the tunes and applying it to your life, when you’ve opened a chest in a Zelda game an uncanny theme tune will appear when the item in that chest is something useful compared to when you find Rupee for example.
Colour can also be a sign with the game and links closely with representation. Enemies are usually coloured in rich, dark, melancholic tones like black, dark hues of red, purple blue, grey ect and then the protagonists are designed with bright optimistic colours and relate to their role within the game. For example the colours on Link in Twilight Princess aren’t dark bold colours they’re quite relaxed. Verdant could be symbolised with for yes or go because these words are usually in this colour giving us the clue yes he’s a hero, but he could be one of the main hero’s as he has the get up and ‘go’. Green could also be associated with meadows, fields and life meaning Link gives people life or gives people a better chance at living which he does. For the meadows idea you could think he lives somewhere in the countryside, possibly a farm boy or someone shoved into conflict perhaps?
Finally the last subject is the representation of characters and how they’re portrayed. Already I’ve given a reference to Telma in Twilight Princess, in Wind Waker another protagonist is Tetra who’s also coloured or tanned. She basically runs a pirate ship and the crew seeming devious and cheeky to Link which I don’t think many people would get too upset about, finally near the end when she’s been captured by evil forces we find it’s actually Princess Zelda and Tetra turns into a white girl again which could give different responses off. Some may say why change the colour because we find out she’s the princess but my argument to that would be Zelda’s been a white-girl with blond hair throughout the whole Zelda story and it wouldn’t be the same if it was changed. Therefore the creators of Nintendo have shown Tetra to be a good protagonist in the game and no matter what the skin colour or name Tetra was still Princess Zelda throughout the whole ordeal. To be honest I don’t believe there are many stereotyping or negative responses in the Zelda games on the characters (whether that’s personal opinions unless I do more research other than my friends), because Nintendo have kept the game clean in that way and even though there’s a couple of dodgy bits with a couple of characters they’ve put a positive reinforcement towards them and public’s thinking.