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Why are there no AAA games targeted towards the young adult audience?

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With a few exceptions (Life is Strange, Oxenfree), it seems like there simply isn't any attempts for games to pierce the young adult market. I find this not only odd, but problematic; I'll outline a few reasons why.

 

First: as seen with books and (to a degree) movies, the young adult market is lucrative if the media in question is done right; This is evident in the level of notability that many books (and again) movies have. Maze Runner, Hunger Games, Maximum Ride.... The list goes on. The question is why hasn't there been a game that has targeted the YA market? The market is lucrative, almost as much as the pure adult market, and being hit-or-miss with quality has never deterred creators and their crews in the past. It just seems ludicrous to me that the YA market hasn't yet become a major target for the game industry.

 

Second: (thought this is less important) Maturing as a medium requires the industry to approach controversial topics in a sensible manner. This is something the Industry has a bad track record of (though said track record is, admittedly, overblown) and while it is getting better, there is a way to speed up the process without causing further aggravation to the critics. Games are often considered toys for adults, and this stigma is severely limiting for the industry's creative processes.

 

Third: Most T-rated games that originate in the US are basically M-rated games with less gore, violence, and sex. This is probably the least important of my concerns, though.

 

As I mentioned, this untapped market could potentially be a commercially lucrative and creatively liberating experience for the industry as a whole, yet it seems that the lack of a disposable income effectively limits the degree to which games can target that market, despite it's benefits.

 

So therein comes the question: Why hasn't there been a game that is aimed towards young adults? Is it for the reasons that I have outlined, or are there other reasons that the industry hasn't targeted that market yet?

 

If my list wasn't comprehensive, I'd like further replies that outline other reasons as to why there are no YA games.

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I was under the impression that most games target that audience. Sure they may be mature games but they still target that audience. What do you define as young adult 16-18? I agree with Orymus about The Witcher, that clearly is a game aimed at adult. I can think of a fair few games also clearly aimed at adults but I just open Steam and look at the games on the main page and see games that target the given audience in equal proportion.

 

I am curious what sort of themes/games you consider to be targeting this audience.

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I too think you need to explain more what you need to see in a game to consider it to target young adults, because I definitely thought a majority of games already had their main target demographic in the age span 14-21.

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Rated T for Teens does not necessairly mean the game is targeting older adults.

But young adults are targeted, and tends to be the most popular crowd to appeal to. It's just that most games are exactly what you say, carbon copies of violence

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I too think you need to explain more what you need to see in a game to consider it to target young adults, because I definitely thought a majority of games already had their main target demographic in the age span 14-21.


I suppose this depends on which country you are in and what rating system you use.  I just checked game.co.uk top 20 chart for Xbone and it has the following Pegi ratings.  

 

9 games with an 18 rating,

5 with a 16 rating,

3 with a 12 rating and 
2 with a 7 rating
1 with a 3 rating

 

The PS3 and PC charts are very similar.  The Wii U top 20 chart has no 16 or 18 rated games.


EDIT:
So I misread what the OP is getting at.  And was assuming by young adults he meant teens but, now after re-reading it would seem that no he actually meant  he isn't talking about games being restricted by age but by content that would interest the young adult age group.
On this I think he is way off the mark as nearly all games across all formats are aimed strongly at the young adult market.  If you take a game like GTA, yes its violent and full of strong language but it is very tongue in cheek and squarely aimed at people in there early 20s. Skyrim, Fallout, Assassins Creed and Farcry are definetly aimed at the twenty hunger games, maze runner age group.
 

Edited by Buster2000

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it seems like there simply isn't any attempts for games to pierce the young adult market.


Seeking clarification. The "young adult market" is essentially people 18-34, is it not? Is that not the exact age range of the hardcore market? Or are you just talking about the rating on a game's package? And if the latter, then what country's rating system are you referring to?

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I was under the impression that about half the AAA out there were for young adults (if not more!)...

As an adult, I struggle to find products tailored to my need, and oftentimes find myself faced with artificially regressed products with characters that clearly depict younger protagonists than I wish it would. I was very happy to see The Witcher III succeed because I felt it was the first protagonist over 30 to actually make sense in a long time!

I think we have a radically different definition of what a young adult game actually is, and here might lie the issue, rather than the "why"?

 

Jap, I agree 100%...

 

So many stuff in the gaming scene is tailored to allow 12 years to also play the games (I can live with reduced gore, but ghost drivers in most wargames vehicles are pretty weird)... so much stuff is designed to actually attract the young adults market (as Orymus laid out, I also find it rather disturbing if EVERY hero is between 15 and 20 years old... which most probably happens to be the exact target group of most games.

 

Then there are the games with the steroid pumped Dudebros, or the faceless generic soldier. Just as with the the brainless generic stories of these games, if this appeals to someone, then it is to adolescent boys. They still think more is better (need moar steroids!), and they haven't read/seen enough generic stories to crave something different yet.

 

Then there are the stories and characters which are so retarded it makes me switch off the game immidiatly and never come back. I am no fan of blizzard games, they are just grinded down to spheres instead of having edges and imperfections that make something charming... they are way to mainstream for my liking.

I gave Star Craft II a try, and I quickly came to hate Blizzards way to appeal to Korean Full-Automatic-Mouse-Clickers with their stupid skill activations... but what really, REALLY made me kick the game into the recycle bin was the story of the single player campaign. I haven't seen/read such a crap in a long while (my helpless tries in finding an anime series that doesn't suck in the pile of crap online when I finished one I liked set aside)... this story was so clearly just ticking boxes, and every box was clearly tailored to adolescents.

 

Wild west saloon and revolver belts - Check.

Armoured badasses on steroids - Check.

Eyepatched badasses - Check.

Italo western "you cannot trust anyone" sh*t - Check

One Ship against the full might of an empire - Check

 

 

I am a mid thirties guy that still likes having some adolescent silliness from time to time. But I also like something more mature from time to time, and I am not talking about the kinky stuff here. I find it disturbingly hard to find any AAA game that actually NOT targets the young adult / teenage age group. Or at least targets them above everything else.

 

 

 

It's even worse in the Manga/Anime world, but lets not get into that... if there wouldn't be the odd pearl buried among the crap I would most probably stop bothering.

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According to Wikipedia, young adult is between 14-20 years old.

 

I was under the impression most games target that audience already.

Also according to Wikipedia, YA literature often treats topics such as depression, drug & alcohol abuse, identity, sexuality, familial struggles and bullying.

 

Perhaps you meant to ask why aren't there more games covering these topics. Which is a very different type of question. If that's the case, beware the target market is mostly the same as current games, so they would be against a lot of strong, established competition.

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I think in a lot of ways this discussion is missing the OP's target, which was the genre of "young adult" literature, TV and films.

 

Young Adult literature typically features protagonists in their teens to early twenties (but doesn't have to), and usually contain elements of science fiction and/or fantasy (but doesn't have to). However, almost uniformly they explore complex political/sociological themes within the context of an isolated cultural setting (often almost entirely composed of adolescents). Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Divergent series, are all high-profile examples from recent years, but it also covers literary classics like Treasure Island, the Lord of the Flies, and The Giver, to name just a few.

 

In general, I'd agree with the OP that I've seen few games that fall into this genre. While many games are aimed at teens, and more than a few contain teenage protagonists and take place in settings with elements of science fiction or fantasy... I don't see many exploring sociopolitical themes or interpersonal relationships that the genre centers round, nor placing the same type of cultural restrictions on their protagonists.

The first two Farcry games had adult ex military protagonists but, Farcry 3 and 4 had young tweenies thrust into horrible civil war situations whilst also struggling with family or romance issues  Basically they are coming of age dramas.. 

The fable series usually have a kid as the main protagonist in a fantasy oppressed society.  Similar to Farcry 3 and 4 but in a fantasy setting.  Ok as the games progress you grow up and stuff but you pretty much start as a child.

The recent Tomb Raider reboot has Lara as some kind of early 20s university student taking on a banana republic dictator.  

Some of the Assassins Creed games the protagonist comes over as a teenage / early 20s stuck in an adult world whilst some of them he seems much older.  These to me fall into the classic historian adventure.

 

If any of these were done as a film I'd expect they'd be some kind of teeny adventure romp with a 12 certificate (I know there has been Tomb Raider films but I'm talking specifically about the Square reboot).

 

Whilst some of the protagonists in the GTA series are adult career criminals a few of them have featured young street punks struggling to make ends meet.

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most of this tends to cover my question quite well. 

 

For clarification purposes (I apologize for not doing this earlier), I did mean the 14-21 market when I referred to the YA age group.

 

"Perhaps you meant to ask why aren't there more games covering these topics. Which is a very different type of question. If that's the case, beware the target market is mostly the same as current games, so they would be against a lot of strong, established competition."

 
Yeah, that probably would have been a better title for the topic due to clarification purposes; My personal theory as to why games tend not to cover those topics has to do heavily with the social perspective towards games and that games have less respect proportionate to books.
 
This theory also seems to apply towards why there aren't many games that cover political or sociological themes.
 
Also, In the time since I posted this I have actually created a concept game that does kind of play out like a YA novel story-wise. Once the GDD is finished I would like a critique. 

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cover political or sociological themes.

 

That's a bit hard to cover in a AAA as it induces risk, and AAA is afraid of risks and it can hurt its demographics, but if you can look away from AAA, there's always games such as Papers, Please.

Within the AAA realm, there are a few solid games that have studied sociological themes, but they are not the norm (yet). 

The problem here is that the most diverse audience (mobile) is also the one that has the most fickle attention span, and to truly exploit more complex themes, you'd need to go the extra mile to get that degree of immersion. I feel that the majority of console and pc gamers are younger than the mobile market and that the reason that brings them to play is still 'quick dirty fun' most of the time. I'm not saying there's no room for what you're suggesting, all I'm saying is that it can't dominate the market given the current 'demand'.

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I'm not saying there's no room for what you're suggesting, all I'm saying is that it can't dominate the market given the current 'demand'.

And yet it thoroughly dominates literature, tv, and film.

 

I wonder why people think that games are somehow entirely distinct from those things?

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This theory also seems to apply towards why there aren't many games that cover political or sociological themes.

The first Assassin's Creed games were strongly loaded with political and sociological themes.
I still remember fondly the long discussions about politics, religion, morality and ethics between Altair and Al Mualim (even though I met a lot of people who disliked those moments... "boring" they said).

The second game is about a teenager seeking revenge for the unjust sentence to death of half of his family (quite common in that era), involving real world events like Lorenzo Di Medici's attempt of murder, the Pazzi conspiracy, the speculation of poisoning of the Doge of Venice Giovanni Mocenigo, the Borgia's family drama, and well... someone summarized it for me. It also covers topics like thievery, extreme poverty, and prostitution.

Some people may have played AC II as just a dude that kills people with cutscenes inbetween; but it's actually strongly charged with a lot of content if you pay attention to the story.

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There are plenty of AAA games with socio-political themes.  The Bioshock series, for example.  Deus Ex series, Fallout series.  Red Dead Redemption.  You could probably count the Metal Gear series as well, though its certainly not a shining example.  

 

Now that said, none of those are YA, as the above all tend to have older male protagonists, or custom protagonists, and tend to not have any YA style relationships.  And one big thing with games, is AAA tends to skew towards a white male blank slate, as opposed to YA which tends to be a bit more even gender wise.

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o boys play games and girls read books because of how they're written and marketed, or is the writing and marketing reflecting actual preferences?


It has always been my experience that marketing doesn't reflect preferences, it tries to influence preferences as everyone wants to sell someone something...

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YA books tend to be targeted to adolescent and preadolescent women, because that's who reads them.

I don't think that's entirely accurate. YA fiction is only majority-female by a small margin - data's a bit scanty, but looks like about 65% of YA authors are female. And female protagonists are even less common, despite the outsize popularity of a handful of series in the last 5 years.

 

Science fiction as a whole is very heavily slanted in the other direction - most authors are male, and even female authors write majority-male protagonists, presumably to fit in.

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My personal experience with trying to read YA fantasy and science fiction is that they are frustratingly dumbed-down (specifically in terms of plot) compared to regular adult science fiction and fantasy.  I'm fine with the teen characters, I love romance, but damn am I sick of simplistic repetitive plots about people running for their lives or cowering from political oppression.  But game stories are just as bad, I'd be happy to never again see another high fantasy with elves, dwarves, demons, and a side of political backstabbery and assasination.

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YA books tend to be targeted to adolescent and preadolescent women, because that's who reads them.

I don't think that's entirely accurate. YA fiction is only majority-female by a small margin - data's a bit scanty, but looks like about 65% of YA authors are female. And female protagonists are even less common, despite the outsize popularity of a handful of series in the last 5 years.

 

Science fiction as a whole is very heavily slanted in the other direction - most authors are male, and even female authors write majority-male protagonists, presumably to fit in.

 

Female readers tend to be more hostile to female protagonists than male readers are to male protagonists.  Women tend to judge other women more harshly than men, and the main character of a book is practically set up to be judged.

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