Every now and then a topic of debate about the world of video games appears on social networks, and we don’t talk about the difficulty. In this case, we are talking about visual aids, in the form of yellow paint, to guide the player in which direction. Following the publication of a user complaining about this practice in the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth demo, Twitter has hosted a heated debate about the ultimate objective of this addition, with professional voices defending the logic of its use and the generational replacement from industry.
Yellow paint in video games
What is “the yellow paint thing”? If you’re wondering, you probably haven’t followed the discussion on Elon Musk’s current social network and that’s fine, it means you don’t have time for this type of debate. Although video games often rely on hyperrealism, we are talking about an entertainment medium that should not take anything for granted, and place a handful of stones on the map without a plausible indicative that it says “you can climb here” is shooting itself in the foot.
Many have argued that, indeed, neither the demographics, attention spans nor abilities of the player should be assumed. There are very perceptive ones that logically assume the path to take based on visual additions that focus the action on a path, something typical in many games and that requires attention; and others who are looking for a quick experience and without taking them by the hand, they will not encounter problems in their progress. Both types can occur in a game like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and therefore the visual aids son necessary.
Generational replacement in the industry
In 2011 the average age of the players settled on 37 years according to ArsTechnica, being the segment from 18 to 49 years the more decisive with 53% of the total respondents. Just one year later, in 2012 the average age dropped to 30 years and the enormous demographic change suffered by the industry made the population segments of “under 18” and “18 to 35 years old” compete with a similar percentage of the market.
In this case, Elena Flores, Editorial Director and Head of Production at the production company Raiser Games, sheds light on the generational displacement that, whether we like it or not, occurs in an industry like this. Flores points to a phenomenon that may be foreign to many of us: Roblox. In total, the game accumulated three thousand millions of players in 2023; and there was not a single month of the year that the game fell below 20 million daily users, the best month being April, with 31.5 million daily according to ActivePlayer.
Although they are important numbers, what is relevant here is age and that the group of over 13 years old supposes the 55% of users of the platform, while 22% corresponds to the 17 to 24 year old segment. We are talking about a predominance of young players who seek simple and direct experiences, and who will displace older players over the years while expanding their sights further, towards new markets and new genres.
“They don’t want to read, they dedicate less than TWO seconds of attention to the advertisement and what they consume the most is content from scroll infinity and flat encephalogram like TikTok”, Flores mentions on his personal Twitter account referring to Generation Z and Generation Alpha. “Everything is indicated with giant arrows con short texts in sticker mode and with icons that make the “graphic design is my passion” meme pale, because if not, they don’t know how to play.
Many of us have assumed that games must have thoughtful, long tutorials that give us a lot of information in order to leave nothing to chance, but not everyone likes that style. Elena Flores picks up a phrase that takes us to Cabbage Systems, a design studio focused on emerging platforms, who mentioned in 2023 that “professional game designers who enter Roblox do not have any advantage” since the popularity of memes los games without rules or fast consumption take precedence on the platform.
And, at the end of the day, that brings us to today’s mainstream video game. That Final Fantasy VII Rebirth or Resident Evil 4 Remake, which was the protagonist of the previous debate last 2023, introduce such obvious visual aids is due both to the fact that nothing should be assumed in this industry, the player heterogeneity and their age. “If the industry wants (and will want) to attract the demographic segment that is increasingly important in size, it will need yellow paint to tell these people what they have to do or where they have to go,” adds Flores.
Of course, the designers have the ball here and this generational replacement is not new. The inclusion of these visual guides dates back decades, when video games became a mass industry. That Mirror’s Edge adopted in its DNA the world design structure with the red visual aids that guided us around the map, was the example 16 years ago that this replacement is not new.
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