|The Tenth Annual Game Design Think Tank
Project Horseshoe 2015
Designing Games for the Growing 35+ Market
|Participants: A.K.A. "Life-long Play"|
|Aaron Steelman, Bungie||Nick Yee, Quantic Foundry|
|Nikki Graham, DeVry University||Ted Brown, Oreganik|
|Facilitator: Kyle Brink, Viggle|
|download the PDF|
New data show that player motivations have predictably consistent trends by age. The same dataset also indicates a shift in game preferences for both men and women.
Report Goal: This report explores how game designers can use these data findings to build appropriate and successful games for the growing age 35+ demographic.
Age 35 is the low-end limit of a traditional target-marketing demographic (that is, generic marketing brackets for all products, typically applied to games) .
The data show a marked age-related change in player motivations and preferences. Examining this more deeply, we find several specific areas where this emerges: pacing, interruptibility, cooperative play, and context. Armed with this analysis, there are several ways in which innovation can be employed to reduce potential player erosion and increase player recruitment in the 35+ market.
Much of the data used to formulate the content of this report originates from Quantic Foundry’s Gamer Motivation Profile. Over 140,000 gamers provided data on their gameplay motivations as well as their favorite games. While the dataset focuses on core PC/console gamers, the age and gender trends are likely still helpful in providing insight for gaming preferences in general.
The motivation model that Quantic Foundry developed consists of 6 clusters of motivations, covering a broad range of gameplay preferences (such as the appeal of fast-paced action, collaboration, and exploration).
Game Motivations by Age
Changes in motivation varied between men and women. All motivation changes were decreases.
Male Player Motivation Declines:
Female Player Motivation Declines:
Stable Motivations Across Age: Strategy (thinking / planning ahead), Completion (finishing / collection), and Discovery (tinkering / exploration). For women, Community also remained stable.
The data showed no motivations that increase with age (i.e., positive correlations). This finding could be interpreted in multiple ways:
Popular Games by Age
The Quantic Foundry dataset also allowed us to identify the games that are disproportionately popular among different age and gender groups. As a baseline, we first identified the games popular among gamers 35 and under. Among men, competitive games and action games (such as Counter-Strike, DoTA, and Dark Souls) are popular. Among women, life simulation games (such as Harvest Moon and The Sims) and narrative puzzles (Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright) are popular.
We then tabulated the games for gamers older than 35. Among men, the list shifted to mostly 4X strategy games (such as Master of Orion and Civilization) and MMOs (City of Heroes, EverQuest), with the interesting exception of World of Tanks. Among women, the list shifted to a combination of online games (Second Life, EverQuest) and casual games (Candy Crush, Plants vs. Zombies).
And finally for gamers older than 45, we found that the list for men overlaps a lot with the previous list, with the MMO and 4X games carrying over, and the interesting addition of a few action games (Far Cry, and Thief). Among women, again there is a good deal of overlap with the addition of digital versions of traditional games (Scrabble, Sudoku) as well as social online games (like Farmville and Glitch).
Personality Trends by Age (Big 5 Personality Factors)
The Big 5 personality factors is a widely-adopted personality model and assessment tool in personality psychology research. It has been shown to be reliable and cross-culturally valid. The model identifies 5 key personality factors that account for a large amount of interpersonal differences in personality.
Studies have also explored how personality changes with age . Extraversion (social, energetic, assertive) and Openness to Experience (imaginative, artistic, open to change) are largely stable across age. Conscientiousness (organized, disciplined, planning) and Agreeableness (sympathetic, trusting, kind) increase with age. And finally, Neuroticism decreases with age among women and is stable across age among men.
What Does it Mean?
Gamers over 35 prefer games with slower action
Male gamers younger than 35 overwhelmingly prefer twitch action games with titles like Counter-Strike and DoTA topping their list of preferred titles. For female gamers under 35, the top titles are primarily narrative-focused, real-time, and/or puzzle-focused games like Professor Layton, Harvest Moon, and The Sims.
The game preferences of over-35 gamers seem to indicate a reduced interest in fast-paced gaming, trending instead toward turn-based games and social games where individual time pressure is lower. For women over 35, puzzle games like Candy Crush and Plants vs. Zombies top the list along with social games like Second Life. For men the list is dominated by turn-based strategy games such as Master of Orion and Civilization along with MMOs like EverQuest or City of Heroes. Even World of Tanks may be seen as a transitional game for this group, bridging the gap between twitch- and turn-based gaming with its focus split between traditional FPS and team-based positional gameplay.
Gamers over 35 prefer games they can pause or stop on demand
Whether it’s due to the changing time constraints under which they game or merely changing tastes, gamers of both genders over 35 seem to prefer games that are more interruptible (or in which gameplay is segmented in to small, predictably-timed chunks). For male gamers over 35, turn-based and MMO games may offer them the opportunity to step away at a moment’s notice without losing significant in-game progress. Similarly, female gamers over 35 appear to prefer games with no penalty for short play sessions; the puzzlers and social games that top their list offer easy off-ramps for busy gamers.
In contrast, gamers of both genders who are under 35 tend to prefer games with longer and/or indefinite play sessions. Titles like Harvest Moon and The Sims can be played for hours on end with no obvious stopping point and are popular with younger female gamers. Male gamers in this segment show a tolerance for very long, uninterruptible play sessions with their dedication to games like DoTA and Dark Souls.
Gamers over 35 prefer more cooperative play
Across genders, gamers over 35 are more interested in cooperative/collaborative experiences than in dominance. Male gamers in this age group overwhelmingly prefer the cooperative gameplay experiences found in MMOs like EverQuest, where team mechanics often trump individual skill requirements. The surprising popularity of World of Tanks for these men may owe as much to its focus on teamplay over lone-wolf mechanics as it does to its slower pace. Female gamers over 35 also heavily favor cooperative and social titles; Second Life and Glitch rank among their favorite games. Even asynchronous cooperative play seems to satisfy this urge, evidenced by the popularity of Farmville among these women.
By contrast, younger gamers tend to prefer either solo play (evidenced in young female gamers’ dedication to the Professor Layton titles) or competitive experiences where twitch skill is as or more important than teamplay (such as CS:GO which tops the list of preferred titles for men in this segment).
This difference may be partially explained by the documented increase in both conscientiousness and agreeableness that takes place in both men and women after age 35.
Context still matters
While game preferences are starkly divided along gender lines early in life, once gamers age out of the under-35 demographic their tastes seem to converge. It is notable, though, that despite the strong correlations in genre and mechanics across genders at this age, there are still significant differences in their contextual preferences. For instance, both men and women of this age prefer MMOs, but not the same MMOs. Men over 35 overwhelmingly prefer Sci-Fi, fantasy, and military contexts. Women of the same age seem to gravitate toward fantasy, real-world, or acontextual puzzle games.
What do we do?
In order to serve the evolving desires of game players over 35, the following innovation opportunities present themselves:
These innovations will be most effective when considered in the historical context of video game market penetration. Current game players in the 35+ age range are a heterogeneous mix of lifelong players and adult adopters. Later cohorts entering this age range will consist of ever-increasing numbers of lifelong players.
We determined a number of game elements that could serve the tastes of the 35+ population, based on life experiences and in demonstrated play preferences in current games.
In the Quantic Foundry survey, players aged 35+ demonstrated increased interest in the OCEAN characteristics of Affinity and Conscientiousness. This suggests that innovation in the following game elements could be engaging and fun for this group.
The adult experience is not broadly or deeply represented in the current game marketplace. This represents a potential opportunity for innovation that could prove engaging for the 35+ audience. Some ideas in this regard:
Some of these ideas are informed by the work of Eric Erickson. In his Psychosocial Development Theory, there are crises which, if unaddressed, lead to psychic baggage that leads to a less fulfilling life. Two stages in the PDT model seemed relevant to our discussion here.
Generativity vs Stagnation
Ego Integrity vs Despair
Answers to the following questions would assist in guiding game innovation for the 35+ market.
Endnote: Brainstorming Topics of Value
The following topics came up in discussion and are, we believe, relevant to designers working to satisfy the 35+ market in games.
Altruistic tendencies increase over time.
The need for social interaction becomes a health imperative as age increases.
Predictable rewards for persistent games matter more as age increases.
Preferred reward systems for time investment are not necessarily linked to age
Games will always be a good way to fill some time
What is the Mentor’s Journey?
One method is to look at the appearance of Mentors and Parent Figures in heroic journeys. They can serve as symbolic ciphers for larger social constructs, but in cases where they represent older people with metaphorical keys (e.g. wisdom, tools, etc), it makes sense to explore their point of view. Ideally, if made compelling, it would resonate with older gamers.
Games can provide key social interactions not always available in real-life
Online social games may be more important for men
Multi-generational gaming is on the horizon
There is a deep-seated need to be acknowledged
Games can serve as a substitute for needs unmet in the real world… and these needs change over time
 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry
 Time spent in leisure activities in 2014, by gender, age, and educational attainment
 Socially Active Older Adults Have Slower Rates of Health Declines
 Older adults as 21st century game designers
 16 trends that will define the future of video games
 Survey: Nearly every American kid plays video games
 Senior Gaming Trends
 Video Game Benefits: Study Says Beneficial in Aging
 Being Alone vs. Being Lonely: The Psychological Effects Of Social Isolation
 Marketing Age Demographics
 Average Age of a Destiny Player
 Personality Changes with Age
 Additional Publication List
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