Confession: I’m a gamer. I like to test the waters of virtual warfare and tactics. What can I say, video games are rad. Recently, the release of Battlefield 4 was an exciting one. There were new missions, assault teams and conquests.

I was stoked. Unfortunately, I found that the game’s design left something to be desired for us working types.

Long story short, advancing in the game takes an excessive amount of time. Unless you’re burning your eyes with hours of screen time, it’s pretty impossible to advance. Us working stiffs who can spare 15 minutes here and 10 minutes there for a match don’t stand much of a chance.

Confession #2: I am not very good. But, neither are most other folks playing the game. Every match 70-80% my teammates are kindred souls with low scores. It’s not about the scores. We’re really just playing to have fun.

See, the game breaks down into levels. While you’re on a given level you unlock equipment and upgrades which make the game more fun and interesting (e.g. equipment with longer range or better accuracy). Gaining these upgrades can be very time intensive endeavors, but they allow you to get to the next level. Unfortunately, when you take that step up, you can’t use your upgrades on new equipment. You’re essentially back to where you initially were.

While this two-step forward one-big-step back philosophy makes the game more challenging, it doesn't create an incentive to play more or try different play styles - since it takes so long to get the same upgrades on new equipment. It is here where I believe the Battlefield 4 designers missed the mark.

The first key to designing a great anything – website, logo or video game – is identifying your target audience.

Now, we are not the game publisher or developers. They have more data than we have access to, but the average gamer age and average game purchaser is in their 30’s.

While I am sure they want the 20-somethings to keep buying and playing, they’re design disregards a large group of players and purchasers who want to play but don’t have the same availability. Instead, if they made it so you could choose your upgrades at each level while keeping the ones you have unlocked, it would spur replayability across demographics. And honestly, the game would remain balanced. Us joy-riders would have better equipment, we’d still be bad, the pros would still have same their better equipment, and they would still carry the match. But, I think it would be more fun.

All that said, maybe I’m just not in their target audience :)

How do you design for you target audience?

Read this primer to get an idea of the process and get started: Complete Beginner's Guide to Design Research

Make sure you put yourselves in the shoes of the people you are designing for. Try asking yourself on your next project:

  • Who am I trying to reach?
  • Is who I am trying to reach the best goal?
  • What are the needs / goals of those people?
  • How will this project meet those needs?

And when possible:

  • May I talk to a subset of those people to make sure I have the right starting point?
  • During the process, may I reach small groups of those people to get feedback on the project?

Have an upcoming project and need help designing it for your target audience? Give us a call.

Note: Battlefield 4 is a great game and a technical wonder, but it can be intense. It requires teamwork and thought, but is not meant for little folks. Video games are just like movies - some are worth seeing, some are best avoided, but all are rated for age. The ESRB Rating for games, like the MPAA Rating for movies, is important to note on every game before letting children play.