How to make award-winning childrenâ??s games

How to make award-winning childrenâ??s games
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

February 18th 2011 at 3:00PM

BAFTA award-winning studio Plug-in offer some helpful advice on pitching and production

It’s one thing to make games specially for children, it’s another to make them to award-winning standard.

Founded in 2003, Plug-in Media know a thing or two about making successful children’s games. The Brighton-based firm has won the Children’s BAFTA for use of interactivity for two consecutive years, and worked with clients like the BBC and Turner Broadcasting.

With the help of Plug-in’s production director Juliet Tzabar and creative director Dominic Minns, here are some top tips for improving your children’s projects.

PITCH PERFECT

When pitching for a digital children’s project it’s important to approach each age group differently as well as understand the influence of other media on them.

“The children’s market is an incredibly broad demographic. Kids often get lumped together or labelled in sub groups such as pre-school, tweens and teens,” says Tzabar.

“However, there can be huge differences in developmental age, and gender differences can also be accentuated. For example, when you think about developing something for pre-schoolers you’re going to encounter huge cognitive differences between a two-year-old and a four-year-old. It really pays to be aware of this.

“At the same time, it’s important to consider that kids are incredibly social about their computer usage and, particularly for the younger age group, you’ve got to be aware that you’ll also need to be servicing a secondary audience of parents and carers, older and younger siblings who might be sat at the computer next to them.

“Finally, be aware that they’re exposed to an incredibly broad media landscape even from a young age, so to succeed your project needs to make as much impact on them as the books they read, the TV shows they watch and the other games they are playing on an increasingly diverse variety of digital devices.”

FIVE PRACTICAL THINGS THAT DEVELOPERS SHOULD DO TO IMPROVE THEIR CHILDREN’S GAMES

Plug-in’s sound advice for success:

1. Focus on the narrative: Both for the user and for the production team. Create a clear narrative wrapper for your product and make sure that everyone on the team understands that story and the impact on their part of the production.

2. Test with kids: We like to think of ourselves as kids but do we really understand things from a child’s perspective? Grab your own kids, your friends’ kids or your nieces’ and nephews’ and put them in front of the computer screen and get them to test what you’re making and respond to it. It’s so easy to become carried away with what you think is good only to find your own target audience can’t engage with it.

3. Don’t overcomplicated ideas: It’s sometimes tempting to keep adding extra variations or possibility within a game as you go, but it pays to strip back and stay true to the original core concept.

4. Make it funny: kids love to laugh as much as we do.

5. Never talk down to your audience: This is the most important thing - if you don’t find what you’re making funny or engaging, chances are the kids won’t either. Children have a way of seeing the honesty in things, or not. You have to totally believe in what you’re doing or no one else will.