Something has happened to me lately, and I am not sure why. I have started to play many of these browser based/low-system requirement/"kids" games more and more lately, to the degree that I played games like Ryzom or Vanguard. I started to wonder if I were having the same kind of fun as I did with the more "serious/adult" titles as I did with the "kiddie" games like Mabinogi, Wizard 101 or Faunasphere.
I am fascinated with how people perceive their gaming. Hell, I am fascinated with how people perceive anything being that life is filled with conflicting examples of something that is "serious" (Star Wars) compared to something that is "for children" (Where the Wild Things Are.) But gaming is such an integral part of my life, as well as the communities surrounding gaming. Actually, I am more into the community aspect of these games than the games themselves a good deal of the time.
So, I just wanted to list some different games and consider why they might be considered a "kids game" or not. I am sure that in the comments I will get conflicting opinions (Star Wars is NOT kids gaming!) about what I write:
1) Star Wars Galaxies: Considered an "adult" game. Why? The graphics, at one time, were considered pretty state-of-the-art. Also, Star Wars is considered "adult" science fiction (I think?) while a movie like, say The Labyrinth, is considered "for kids." In my opinion, the setting of Star Wars is more of a fairy tale than almost anything out there. If you want "adult" science fiction, at least go with Star Trek. That universe is more based in the "science" part than Star Wars. Star Wars is really pretty silly, when you look at the races and main characters. The game had some allure to more "adult" players possibly because of the complexity of some of the systems, and the choices the game provided (and still provides. )
2) Wizard 101: Within one year, Kingsisle gained 5 million players to this game! I can see why, it's a fun game with a surprising depth to it. The story is fun and the action is intense even though it is turn-based. When I visited Kingsisle a while ago, I was so happy to see such talented adults working on such gloriously "childish" things. I watched (and you can see in that video) as animators brought cartoony mounts to life while on the walls hung Fan-Art done by 7 year olds. I know more adults that play this game, although I admit to not exactly corresponding with children on a regular basis. Still, the developers are very aware of their player-base, and it's nice to see everyone having such a good time with the product no matter the ages of the players. What makes it so sticky with adults? I am not sure. The graphics would normally scream "kids game" wouldn't they?
3) World of Warcraft: I am going to wager that this game is played mostly by players over 18. I don't play it, mainly because it is a game with some of the least "to do" out there. In fact, WoW is about as basic as gaming comes, and even the raiding is not more complicated than a good boss fight on a console game. The graphics are actually more childish and cartoony than many F2P games, and the customization is very limited. Why does this game spark such raging passion in it's adult community, then? If it's not that complex, not that deep and not that hard, then why? My guess is that, for most, it is just really really fun. It IS a fun game. Hell, it's a BLAST. The raiding is easy to get into, and the game runs on anything. In a word, it just works. This has attracted many gamers that never would have played before, and with those large numbers you get many more types/different ages of players. Also, the game is popular and has built on it's own popularity. If you have ever downloaded new music to listen to, it more than likely happened because your friend said it was good.
4) Mabinogi: Almost everyone I show this game to thinks it is a kids game, even after seeing how deep the game is. This game has more depth and more things "to do" than pretty much any game out there. I think the graphics turn off many from this game, yet many of them will gladly go right back to WoW which has the graphics of a Cartoon Network show. It's so strange that graphics, or certain styles, can turn off some players because they are just a smidge different than what they normally like.
5) Faunasphere: When asked, the developers told me that the game was played by mostly females between 25-50 years of age. Yet, look at the graphics. It is a flash based cartoony game that allows you to control little animals that destroy pollution with beams of light. The more I play this game, the more I am surprised not only with how much they have achieved with Flash, but by how much the game asks you to do. The other day I was asked to go do (what I thought was) a routine mission, and found myself within a rainy instance fighting a giant monster! It was thrilling! The players of this game probably wouldn't consider this a "kids game" or an "adult" game, and I can see why. This is one of those unique games that floats between genres, play-styles and age ranges.
This blog was fired off by someones comment on one of my blogs. (I can't remember which one.) They said they were in their 40's, and talked about games with "annoying kids." That's strange, being that there is no way to tell someone's age in game, and that there are plenty of jerks from all age ranges. Still, attaching "kids game" to a title can be pretty harmful or can say the wrong thing about the game.
After all, I got news for all of us over 20-something: we are adults. Complaining about kids in an MMO is like complaining about kids at Disney World. Gaming, while not restricted to "young people" only, is something that children do. If your hobby (as mine is) is gaming, then you need to consider it the same kind of hobby as collecting beanie babies, playing dolls or having dirt clod fights. There is nothing "adult" about gaming, minus material that is not suitable for children.
This is not a bad thing, though. During my visit to Kingsisle, I got to see how glorious it really can be when adults have a little fun and be creative. Also, it is always nice to see adults not worrying so much about what genre their game might fit in. As adults, there is nothing funner than letting go of our adult worries and vices for an evening of playing house or playing adventurer. I would love to see all games weighed on the same level playing field, despite being considered for different age ranges.
Now, before anyone comments, I might be seeing these divisions more because I am deeply involved with many communities. I am sure that my vision might be a little clouded by what I read everyday. And I am not interested in these divisions simply because of some need to break them down. In fact, I am fine with calling certain games "kids games" and considering some games "adult games." I am interested in these divisions because many times the math doesn't add up, there is no one measure (besides adult content) that consistently shows if a game is "for kids" or not. Some of the most popular games in the world, casual games, are played by adults yet are nothing more the on-screen equivalent of a colorful, interactive mobile.
Taking "Where the Wild Things Are" as an example again, isn't it considered one of the most successful "childrens books" ever because of adults that still enjoy it and buy it for their children?