Expanding The Audience of Gaming

“If you continue to think about your customers as only grunged-out young men, you will go down just like comic books in this country… you will always be marginalized, you will never be taken seriously.” – Seth Schisel, writer for the New York Times.

League of Legends has been boasting the statistic of the world’s most-played videogame for a while now. ( http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57531578-1/league-of-legends-the-worlds-most-played-video-game/ ). I’m surprised that only 10% of its players are female, however—I somehow assume that Halo (or even Call of Duty) has a higher percentage of female players. I’m also surprised because I’ve watched with my own eyes as male players introduce the game to their girlfriends— each one a non-“typical” gamer without much videogame experience. Each one ended up enjoying the game and now plays it at least weekly. My mother looked over my shoulder while I played a game at her house once. She now remembers it as the “Captain Teemo Game.” By creating a mixture of diverse, exciting characters and variable, creatively demanding gameplay, RiotGames doesn’t even need to charge a regular fee to become one of the most successful business ventures in the entertainment industry.

I’m fascinated about several things with this development, not the least of which is that although people take up this game, it doesn’t seem to have the same stories of destructive addiction that shrouded World of Warcraft. WoW was famous for demanding so much of its players that it destroyed their real lives: lost jobs, ruined relationships (including long-standing marriages), and many failed college courses are all part of that game’s legacy. League of Legends seems closer to the mark of gathering dedicated fans while still allowing them to have lives outside the game.

The other exciting development that this game is leading is the expansion of what it means to play videogames regularly. By allowing its players to have healthy, productive lives outside the game, the stereotype of the gamer as the unhealthy, maladjusted, frustrated, unloved pariah begins to fade. This is great news for all gamers, because it offers hope that videogames might not “go down just like comic books in this country.”

League of Legends is a game of lessons, and one of the most important ones for developers is this: Great games invite players—they do not demand them; the best games let you play—they do not make you play.

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