Designing games for resource-constrained communities
On the one hand, the research process undertaken by CiTi and 67 Games was intended to understand if, how and why young people in resource constrained communities play digital games. On the other hand, it also presented an opportunity to investigate how young people in these same communities respond to serious games.
While further research interrogating the gaming behaviour of young people in resource constrained communities is required, the findings of this preliminary study offer a number of key takeaways for stakeholders with an interest in games as tools for social impact.
Consider resource limitations in your design | The data shows that young people in Khayelitsha predominantly play digital games on their mobile phones, and that they rely heavily on free wifi to access digital games. While mobile data is used to download games, players are reluctant to do so. With these limitations in mind, developers must consider how young people will access their game, as well as the monetisation strategy that they will employ. Games aimed at data gathering must find creative solutions for storing and uploading information, as players have intermittent access to wifi.
Draw mechanics and user experience elements from familiar games | When attempting to achieve social impact through games, developers should pay attention to the games that young people in Khayelitsha are already playing. By studying the games that are familiar to players in this context (as well as the types of games that players actively avoid), developers can identify the most effective mechanics and interface elements to use in their work.
Test with the target audience | While generalised player research will aid developers in identifying gaming behaviour trends among young people in resource constrained communities (in terms of device and Internet usage, as well as preferred games), it is important that target users be consulted on a game by game basis. User testing will allow developers to create experiences that are accessible and enjoyable to their particular target audience.
NGO and government stakeholders
Use games to drive social impact | The research shows that gaming is common among young people in Khayelitsha. This pastime can be leveraged by stakeholders aiming to communicate with, educate or gather data about this particular target audience. Games offer models for learning and behaviour change that are already familiar to young people.
Make it fun | While serious games are intended to achieve objectives beyond entertainment, this investigation of player behaviour shows that young people respond well to games that are enjoyable and easy to understand. By drawing on the fun elements of games already played by young people in resource constrained communities, greater impact can be achieved.
Comparative analysis | This study serves as a starting point for more rigorous and extensive research focused on the gaming behaviour of young people in South Africa. While survey data supplemented with a peer discussion proved to be effective methods for uncovering player preferences, more in-depth observation of players’ engagement with mobile technology is required. The study also highlights the need for a comparative analysis through which to assess the similarities and differences in gaming behaviour across disparate socio-economic contexts.