This was going to be a single post, but it has grown to be something much larger. I’ve decided that it would be better presented as multiple posts. The first post will explore the meaning of accessibility and it’s relation to a player’s first impression of a game. I’ll begin by elaborating on what I mean by ‘accessibility’.
Commercially, no matter what is discussed, accessibility is paramount. Do consumers have access to your product? Can they use it? Does it reach the largest market possible? The term ‘accessibility’ is overloaded, so in these posts I’m referring to the level of accessibility offered by a product to a consumer (player). However, this interpretation still contains many nuances. These nuances – and their relationship to the success of a game – will be the topics of these posts.
There has been much talk about the success of casual games over the past couple of years. We’ve seen the rise of Farmville, Angry Birds, and a host of other successful games. The initial success of the Wii also demonstrates the strength of the new entertainment age – games have reached a mass market. But why have we seen such an impressive rise? Simply put, these games are accessible. As I mentioned, there are many facets of accessibility. I want to begin my discussion of accessibility and first impressions.
First impressions are important. From social situations to consumer electronics, the first contact between a player and a game will be used as a basis for evaluating all future experiences. Do they like it? Do they play it? The first impression will bias their overall opinion of the game, and what they expect when a game is first loaded.
In the context of first impressions, accessibility refers to the ease of which a player is able reach their expected experience. There is a complex dance of cognitive and physiological affects – a mix of expectation, desires, and bias – that combine to form an expectation. A game that facilitates a player in reaching their expected experience is accessible – it facilitates access to the expected experience.
Anything that inhibits the access of a player’s desired experience will produce a negative effect; it’s not what the player expected. Devices such as long cut scenes, slow load screens, or excessive menu navigation may be contradictory to what the player expected, and thus make the game significantly less accessible to the player.
The importance of a player’s first impression and expectation cannot be overstated. A player expecting a racing game when they load Dragon Age is going to be disappointed; their experience will not match their expectation despite Dragon Age being a great game. The game would fail to provide the player with a way to access the experience they expected based on their first impression.
While the above example is clearly contrived it does illustrate the importance of an accessible first impression, a matching between what the player wants/expects and what the game provides. Matching what the player wants to what is provided by the game will increase the overall accessibility of the game, making the experience more enjoyable.
That’s it for now. In the next post I will dive into the importance and meaning of accessible gameplay.