To: The Game Industry
From: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: Help for Kids'Games
Date: Oct 2003

Kids' games don't have the advantage of strategy guides or web sites with tips, walkthroughs or cheats. On a $20 game - it doesn't make sense to load another $10 to the initial cost. Having the options of hard to easy is not the solution because it simply changes the complexity of the puzzles mostly by making them shorter - a 4 by 4 matrix becomes a 3 by 3 matrix or by allowing more time to solve a puzzle.

Only one game company, Her Interactive, producer of the Nancy Drew Mysteries offers strategy guides that they produce themselves. They also have a web site where players can post their questions and pleas for help. This is an excellent technique for improving a game to better fit your audience. Simply by compiling records of help points, the designers can tell what is working or not working for their players.

Edutainment games MUST have a guide for parents. As an attempt to cut costs, many manuals are now on the disk along with the game, where to print it you have to load it into Acrobat Reader first. But it doesn't occur to parents to do more that install the game. Who reads "Read Me" files anyway? So. if your manual is on the game disk, you owe it to your players to say that in the intro screen. The Learning Company was very responsible in giving instruction for parents on how to help kids get the most out of the game. They also were the first to introduce the ADAPT Learning System which adjusts the difficulty of the game, so that the better you get, the harder the game gets.

For some kid games, arcade and platform types, a manual is not appropriate. For these games, hints and tips can be included in the game itself. One of my young reviewers suggested that hints could be incorporated in the adverts for the new game. A situation of give a little, get a little.

Frustration is not fun and often ends with the game being abandoned without being finished. I call that a bum game. In-game help that is keyed to location or key words would get the game moving again. In the Nancy Drew games, telephoning a friend is meant to give help but it is so general as to not be realy useful, but it is a good idea. Games like Jimmy Neutron, Spy Fox, Sponge Bob, and the Thornberries could all benefit from giving their players a little help. And for sure, don't call them "Spoilers".