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How to design for a target audience?

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Hi guys,

My question is, what should I do to ensure that my design caters for my target audience; what should I research and how? I'm assuming that I will have to research the top competitors for my target audience, and understand what players expect from the genre my game belongs to. But I don't know of effective ways for conducting such research; what things should I look for and where can I generally find the information I need? Also, are there others things I need to know when designing to meet my target audience's expectations, rather than designing for myself? Hope to hear your responses soon, God bless :)

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I think it might be a good thing to narrow it down for yourself, look at what you are aiming for with your game. If you want to reach the biggest range of people to play your game, the casual gaming audience might suit your needs (I'm not pointing out facts here, just so you know) or if you want to educate people on a certain topic, for instance you want to learn little children to recognize animals, you will have a totally different audience.

When you got something in mind that you want to achieve with your game, you can settle down to a more specific audience and do some research. In case for example, an educational game I mentioned before it might be of great value to figure out at what age little kids are able to identify animals, will they be able to read? Do I need to use pictures? sounds? What is interesting to them? You can go as far as to make a prototype of your game, let the children you have in mind play the game, don't tell them anything, observe, do they understand what to do? does it seem like they're having fun? are you accomplishing what you are aiming for?

There is a lot to go in depth for and there is most likely a wide variety of information on the web available when you narrow down your audience. Some general tools that might come in handy when researching are surveys or interviews. Go to your local arcade (if they still exist) and observe. Ask people why they played that game, did they like it? why not or so?

I'm sure you can come up with a lot of questions when you identify your aim. Good luck! :)

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Design a game you would like to play yourself.

From a practice, only the games I made that were also appealing to me as a player made me decent money. Those I made for the "target audience" made me no money. As simple as that :)

Althrough, I don't know if it is a general rule or just how it works for me only.

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Acharis makes a very good point. Designing the game for yourself is the best way to make sure you hit a target audience (i.e. you and anyone like you). It also helps to keep you motivated.

Unless you have the backing of a major publisher/big money/research institutions you won't be able to conduct effective research into your target audience. Even with that kind of money behind you it may not even work.

If you really wanted to do some primary research the cheapest way would be surveys posted over things like forums (dependent on the target audience of course). There are also a lot of secondary sources in the form of academic research that would probably provide much more reliable data. The problem with that would be finding research conducted on your target audience which isn't out of date. Having said all that it is highly unlikely that either of these options will provide enough information to base the design of a game off of.

This isn't to say you can't ask prospective players to test out the game for you through development. That would probably be a more successful and practical route to take for the vast majority of developers.

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Things like User Group Analysis is very reliant on the skill and resourcefulness of the engineer conducting it.

This link below has a nice table for categorising user groups. It is for website design, but you just need to change the names of the user groups and the names of the things they are rating. You could also use a numbering system of 1-5 instead of low - high, which would allow you to make calculations to give user groups different 'scores' for what they want etc.

http://www.w3.org/WAI/redesign/users.html

To know what attributes to measure, you'd have to conduct research. I'd say using game forums and making polls on them is probably the easiest and quickest way to start understanding what they look for etc.

A good idea would be to read some books which have tried to approach the subject already.

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