16 August, 2008
This week, let’s turn our attention to ourselves for a change. Culture is an important part of games, so let’s take a look at what local cultural aspects are important to game design. This is hard, because it is often difficult to identify what makes your culture unique in the eyes of others.
We have looked at culture issues in other cultures, too. I’d recommend taking a look at another culture in terms of gaming before trying to look at your own. You often lack the perspective to see what’s right in front of your face if you don’t take a look.
You can also take a look at this article about cultural issues with game design and cultural issues by Kelly Heckman. Here she explains how geography can make a huge difference in gameplay. A game that focuses on a very small area, such as a Korean game, can make certain design assumptions that aren’t valid for other cultures.
One of the comments on the other cultural design challenge also shows some of the problems you have in taking a game from one market to another. The way a social atmosphere changes the game, such as being able to yell at each other or the social pressures to smoke, are interesting.
One of the big cultural issues in the U.S. that I have identified is that some U.S. consumers aren’t very savvy when it comes to price. People looking at M59 say that the $10.95 price is “almost” the same price as they pay for other games. Even if you buy your time in 6 month chunks (so that it is only $2 more per month), this ignores the price of having to buy the original box and expansions in the store. Kelly’s article above talks about this, too, when she mentions the “The Pen Problem”:
Take this pen I have for sale. This pen is revolutionary. You will write to the best of your ability at all times when using this pen. It is so incredible that the feel of it in your hand will give you serotonin rushes. I have two price plans for you:
- You can have this pen for free. It’s yours. But, it has very little ink. If you decide you like it, you can refill it at any time, with any available color for $1.00 per refill. You can buy multiple refills at once, swap out colors, or simply purchase one at a time when you run out. The pen refills could cost you as little as $1.00 for the entire year! Or as much as you want to spend…I mean, this pen makes you feel good!
- You can have this pen in your pocket with refills in whatever colors are available (more to come out as time goes on) for $3.99 per month. However, if you stop paying the $3.99, I’m going to take the pen away. If you don’t use the pen, it will still cost $3.99. But, it will always be available to you.
The simple fact is that the North American consumer will more frequently pick option #2 because the amount is minimal in an overall budget and he/she will greatly overestimate the time the pen will be used.
Part of the problem here is that the customer has been used to paying for option 2, and option 1 is the scary new one. People feel safer budgeting something with a regular cost, even though they may not buy 4 ink refills per month to make up the cost. There’s also an issue of self-control, where some people will be tempted to buy hundreds of ink refills (look at all the colors!) then regret it later. But, these are two major cultural issues in the North American market.
So, what are the issues in your home market (or whatever market you make games for)? How does that impact game design and development?