The Average Gamer – are they doing enough?

I was in a games shop at the weekend and overheard a conversation between a couple who were buying a game for their niece. The conversation went like this:

“Oo, Narnia. Do you think she’ll like this?”
“Don’t know. What do you do?”
The woman read through the back of the box and proudly proclaimed “You have to play it and kill the White Witch and you win.”
“Hmm… sounds like something she could do. What’s the age rating?”

Yay, they knew about age ratings! :) Then again the rest of the conversation went like this:

Both look at each other.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine”

And they bought it anyway but hey, you can only educate so far. Maybe their niece was a particularly intelligent 6-year-old.

As for the gameplay… technically, yes, she’s right. But are you playing against the White Witch in a chess game, or fighting through her minions with a sword, or facing her in a singing competition to the death or what? There’s a huuuuuge difference that non-gamers simply don’t get (although I do appreciate that most kids and quite a few adult gamers will play anything). It’s like going “Yeah, she likes books, she reads Harry Potter” and buying someone a collection of literary criticisms on fantasy novels. Yes, it’s a book and it has Potter in it, but it ain’t a book she’s likely to enjoy.

Ask About Games logoI realise that most games websites target hardcore gamers, quite rightly requiring a certain amount of assumed knowledge, but that means that there’s very little information out there readable by the newbie or non-hardcore gamer. I’m trying to address that somewhat with this website, mostly by ignoring industry politics and speculation, but the fact remains that it’s a very inaccessible industry. is a very good start but I think more needs to be done. For a start, their Useful Sites are still “Coming Soon”, which may just be a reflection of my point that they seem to be about the only site around accessible to non-gamers.

There are ads for Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones and GTA: Liberty City all over tube stations but I haven’t seen a single story or ad for in mainstream media. I saw plenty of ads in MCV leading up to their launch though – why would readers of MCV need to ask about games? I didn’t see them mentioned at all in the games shops I was in this weekend and googling shows that vitually all the coverage they’ve had is on games websites. They should be advertising wherever games are sold and newspapers and magazines that normal people read – The Daily Mail, maybe. Or the Guardian’s weekly magazine. (Have they done this? I don’t read print very often but I haven’t noticed it). Even better would be a wide-reaching campaign like that turns up on most alcohol ads – slap the URL on the bottom of every game ad so it’s impossible to miss.

Finally… it’s called but there’s nowhere to ask about games! Huh? Contacts and Links gives you links to places like ELSPA, PEGI and the aforementioned “Useful Links” is empty, but in a section marked Contacts wouldn’t you put some, oh, I don’t know… contact info? (I do appreciate they’ve only been up for a week but is an email address so hard?) I won’t have time over the Christmas period but from January I shall be answering any games-related questions in our new and shiny forum.

Edit 2nd May 2007: There’s still nowhere to Ask About Games! And the Useful Sites page is still “Coming Soon”. I have emailed ELSPA and will update if I hear anything.