How to Create Age Appropriate Game Design Tools, Part 1


Once a gamer reaches a certain point, there are few limits on the types of games that can be designed.  Most people reach a level of experience where trying their hand at tweaking or creating a game whole-cloth is easily done.  Kids, on the other hand are another matter.  While the bulk of age appropriate tools are aimed at a younger audience, there are plenty of tips and tricks here for budding designers looking to hone their abilities or target a specific audience for their existing designs.  So, while you might be inclined to skip this section, there is something here for everyone.

To start with, game design is not a discipline for just a few people.  The ability to make a satisfying game is available to practically all ages.  That said, certain stages of development have to be passed before a designer can take on the challenge of creating some games.  The following sections offer a rough breakdown of the ages and the types of games and tools one is likely to create well without much input.  Much of this corresponds with the games you can find on store shelves as well as research into child development and learning processes used by groups such as California’s First 5 program.

Following a heuristic like this gives you a good measuring stick to keep players and designers interested.  One of the golden rules here is to provide just enough frustration to keep people coming back for more without them feeling there is no forward progress.  As much as the STEAM model showed the scientific elements for experimentation, age-appropriate tools look at the puzzles that are both designing and playing games.  When the challenge level has the right balance, the brain wants to master the task.  That building sense of frustration turns into one of sweet victory and elation when all the pieces seem to fall into place.  Design above or below that level and you lose an audience – not just the one you wanted, everyone.  The description of the game, the rules, the components and the skill challenge have to align or people will feel cheated out of the promised experience.


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