Monday, November 3, 2008

Kids Deserve Better

I played Wall-E this weekend for the following reasons:
  • I briefly, briefly worked (2 months) on the pre-production prototyping basic environmental interactions
  • I heard from around the way that there were many, ahem, odd decisions made during the development of this game
  • I still had hope the game would turn out ok because I somewhat enjoy playing movie licensed kids games
  • If it did turn out bad, playing a “bad” game is good design exercise…and I haven’t played a really bad game in a while

When I think of the type of consumer that will most likely purchase this game, I think of my aunt and my nephew. My aunt is pretty much one of the best aunts on the planet as she is pretty much an acting mother to my nephews as well to me back in the day. She gives the kids as much love as possible and makes them smile and spoils them in a good way. My aunt will take my nephews to see the latest kids’ movie during the movie’s first week release. And she loves buying the kids the most popular toy characters out there namely anything with the Pixar brand name on it: Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E.

And if my nephews were a bit older and had the latest and greatest video game consoles, I know for a fact she would buy them the latest and greatest video games based on the kids’ movie they just watched. She would buy the video game because she would think it’s cute because she thought the movie was cute. She’d buy the video game based on the movie of the same name because she wants to bring a smile to the kids’ faces. She would buy this game because she thinks the game would evoke the same type of smiley, wonder, charm, fun and warm fuzzy feeling the movie just gave them. She would buy them the game out of love.

So is it too much to ask for the game developers making these types of licensed kids’ games to reciprocate the love and inject the same type of tender loving care into the quality of the product they release?

I’m not going to go into detail about what’s wrong with this game. There’s simply too much to say in that regard. The point is: Is there anyone thinking of the kids and the mothers (or aunts) when these types of games are being developed? Sadly, the answer is usually no.


Nat Loh said...

As a licensed kid game designer (madagascar 1 & 2), the kids are definitely in mind. They are our target audience and we do all our user tests and playthroughs with kids. I haven't played Wall-E before but I remember playing the Incredibles and that spherical robot boss was so hard I wanted to cry. I just beat Gears of War 2 and there wasn't anything in that game that was as hard as the Incredibles boss.

Jason "Shirts" de Heras said...


Yes, those bosses were unnecessarily hard. There just wasn't enough structured kids user tests and if there were they were probably too late in the project. Very unfortunate. Without a playtesting philosophy with the intent to make the product more satisfying for the target demographic in place at the beginning of the project, these kinds of balance issues are going to continue to occur.