Tag Archives: kids

Creating playable content for children

What could be easier than creating playable content for kids? The truth is that the task isn’t as straightforward as people may believe. While games are naturally the realm of the young, younger children tend to understand rules, goals and fun rather differently. True, children learn quite quickly about the basic concepts of life, however they understand them in a different way. Visiting the doctor, for example, is not a routine chore, but an adventure of its own. And things we may think as being exciting, such as going to the movies, can be seen as a tedious and way too long experience for toddlers.

So what is the key for a satisfying experience for young kids?

I believe there are few:

1. Gameplay has to be satisfying in short sessions, however there should be enough depth for further exploration. Levels, modes are good, but even better if each level or mode is playable as a shorter session or a longer one.

2. The gameplay has to revolve around something you can identify with – if not a character – even a concept can do. Creating a world of faeries is great, but remember there needs to be a specific faerie, such as the protagonist, that should be playable, so the experience is not detached.

3. There can a surprise element that can be explored and tested multiple times. For example, an egg which users knock on to see different objects hiding inside.

4. Interaction should happen in a limited number of ways. For example, touch and drag an apple to a basket, then touch and drag a sheep to the yard.

5. Consistency is key when a learning experience is sought after. There are lots of games where kids can touch many things and see what they do, but nothing is learned unless there is some overall theme and ruleset that’s causing things to act as they do.

Designing app menus for kids

Not everyone can read – and some level of illiteracy is especially common within our game’s focus group – 3 year olds. This means we need to make the menus as easy to navigate as possible with minimum frustration. Our main idea is to keep menu systems simple and have least amount of pre-game nonsense. No main menu, for example. Our players will jump right into the level select screen which is quite intuitive as it shows the levels in a visual way.

Children do tend to like the occasional mysterious icon, though – and we will be using these with care, for exploration of non-essential features and ‘power options’.

To sum up the basics, here’s a list:

1. Use as little text as possible.

2. Use icons and pictograms, but make them interesting and meaningful.

3. Avoid unnecessary menus, even if they are considered standard in the industry.

4. Jump quickly into the action.

5. Animation and button visual responsiveness can add fun and purpose when used carefully.

6. Some concepts, such as arrows or “i” buttons, don’t make much sense. Children do seem to pick up touch gestures easily (my 3 y.o. daughter really likes to pinch-zoom in and out to see how big letters can get in texts she wouldn’t be bothered reading…).

7. This has to do with in-app-purchases – make these list menus least abstract if you actually want kids to understand what they are buying (or trying to convince their parents to buy). Money is an abstract concept and while dominant in grown-ups lives I believe we could spare our kids another couple of years before they have to decide whether they would ask their mom to buy them 400 bonu-credits as in-game currency. Purchases such as tools, badges or furry animals are more kids-friendly and promote more satisfaction and less addiction-based buying.