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jenni

What to look out for when developing games for toddlers?

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Moving you to Game Design.

I would suggest that you would need to keep both the controls and game-play concepts fairly simple, and make sure everything is easy to understand. There should be immediate and obvious feedback in response to any action your player takes.

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Basically you have to make the game practically play itself. It should probably be educational too.

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I'm told my 4 year old nephew has gotten pretty good at the games on Moshi Monsters. I've never seen what they're all about though.

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It entirely depends on what the goal for your game is. Are you trying to teach, entertain, create some quality time between parent and child? A combination?

For me, I made a game whose pure goal was entertainment. I didn't want to teach any lesson and I didn't want the parent to have to be sitting there helping the child with the game. So with that goal in particular there are a variety of things you have to take into consideration.

1) How easy is it to start the game. Ideally, once the game is launch, it should go into the gameplay automatically if possible (for XBLIGs unfortunately that's not possible due to the Evil Checklist rule, a "press start" screen is needed to detect the controlling controller). But depending on what system/sales portal you're releasing on you should make sure that the game is easy to launch and get started with gameplay. Ideally, just about any button that is pressed or a short timeout should launch into the gameplay requiring little to no interaction from the toddler.

2) EVERYTHING should be entertaining. The music, the sound effects, every accidental button press should do something. It doesn't have to be something loud, but there should be lots of ways to create accidental cause and effect relationships.

3) The game should play itself. If the child wants to sit with controller/keyboard/phone/etc. in hand and do absolutely nothing, the game should still entertain them with movement and sounds.

4) The game should never end or if they do end, they should restart on their own. A game for toddlers is more about letting them playing and exploring. Ideally the game should just go on forever until the child wanders away or the parent turns it off. It shouldn't have to be something the child (or the parent) has to constantly restart.

5) Exiting the game should be hard to do. No parent wants to have to constantly restart/relaunch games. So make exiting the game possible, but not something the toddler is likely to do on their own accidentally.

6) Streamline as much as possible. Toddlers don't need option menus, etc. Get rid of all the places in a game they could accidentally wander into and need parental assistance to start playing again.

7) Toddlers can't read and don't do complicated button systems. Ideally your game shouldn't require any complicated maneuvering. Don't add in controls that require precision and don't require that the need to read anything in the game.

8) You can't forget the parents. While all this is great, you still have to get the parents to buy the game so somehow you have to convince them that your game for toddlers isn't a pile a crap and is somehow going to be awesome for their little precious. Make it polished, make it pretty, add something in there that attracts the adults.

There's some more things I did for Kissy Poo, but I think those were the highlights. I have a postmortem floating around on my blog somewhere that says the things that didn't go well with making a kids game. Maybe I can hunt that link up later, but I hope those tips help!

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