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Why computer games aren't just for children

First Impressions: Game origins and functions
Target Audience: Game developments and genres

Target Audience: Game developments and genres

Picture this: a group of kids, seated around a TV, enjoying a Nintendo game together. Charming picture, even if the kids are fighting over who gets to play next, and hardly uncommon. In the past twenty years, the video game industry has grown to the point that it rivals and perhaps even surpasses the movie industry in terms of profit and marketability, yet video games are still widely regarded as children’s games. While this may be due to the wild popularity of games like Pokemon, most games are not targeted at just children any more. Game companies have realized that their primary market has grown to include adults as well as children, and make games accordingly. Consequently, there are now plenty of games on the market for all ages and preferences that could not be classified merely as kid stuff.

Take PC games, for example: in the early eighties, a couple known as Ken and Roberta Williams began developing some games on their kitchen counter that later spawned a company called Sierra (now part of Vivendi Universal) and, more importantly, the adventure game genre. Adventure games typically involve a series of puzzles that the player must solve in order to advance the plot, often utilizing items that can be picked up and stored in an inventory. The challenge of solving these puzzles often demand that adventure games have a strong plot that is engrossing enough to keep the player at the computer for hours on end instead of walking away in frustration, and therefore it is not surprising that adventure games eventually encompassed all genres, including sci-fi, adventure, fantasy, horror, and comedy.

To say that adventure games are only for children would be like saying that Disney movies are strictly kids’ fare: although many adventure series, including Sierra’s King’s Quest and LucasArts’s Monkey Island games, are family-oriented and can be enjoyed by all ages, it does not necessarily mean that adults cannot enjoy them as well. In fact, some adventure games include themes that would appeal mainly to adults, or are even rated M for Mature (meaning persons under the age of 18 cannot legally buy the game in the US) for language and content, such as the Leisure Suit Larry series and Gabriel Knight Mysteries. LSL, which debuted in 1987, deals with the hilarious misadventures of a lounge lizard looking for love in all the wrong places, and the sexual situations that appeared in the games were alarming enough that the state of California even came up with a Leisure Suit Larry Bill, which would have restricted the use of adult content in video games (it didn’t pass, perhaps because LSL was too fun to ban). The more recent GK series follows the supernatural cases of private investigator/horror novelist Gabriel Knight, aided by his assistant Grace Nakamura, and is rated M mainly for language and violence. As the three games in the series deal with voodoo, werewolves, and vampires in that order, it was rather inevitable that the game would be rated M for content the same way most horror movies are rated R, as the story would have lost much impact without the villains’ ability to inspire fear.


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