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Why do people care about your game?

By on September 4, 2014
FlickrCC by Floeschie

Some thoughts on the intersection between design and marketing from Zoya Street. For more, see the previous post in this series, What Kind of a Relationship is This?

Marketing and game design are not entirely separate from each other. They never were, but they’re even more entwined when your game is free and you’re selling virtual goods. This can make things tricky for indie developers. Maybe you don’t want to be a marketer. Maybe you just want to do what you love.

Even if you’re doing what you love, there are still days when you can’t get anything done. There are days when you can’t bring yourself to even look at your project. Those days could end up teaching you a lot about how to market the product of your labour to others.

It’s helpful to know who should care about your game. It’s even more useful to know why they should care. It’s difficult often to pinpoint this, because we think of play as frivolous: I sometimes feel like there’s this worry in some developers’ minds that the things they make are just distractions from things that *really* matter. But when pressed, we defend games by saying that they *do* matter. They give people something that they need. It takes time to unpack what that thing is. We tend to rely on ideas like “fun” that contain lots of different, often contradictory sentiments.

When you have your marketing hat on, you should ask that question that haunts you on your darkest days: why do the things I do matter?

Even if your audience is tiny, someone somewhere will come across your work and find something in it that they needed. It is very helpful to get some idea of what that thing is. This is one of those cases where listening to your fans is very important. Why do they care so much about your game? What are they getting out of it?

When you’re working on your answer to this question, make some simple resources that will help you to put that answer to work later on:


Write down the kind of things that you want people to say about your game, or things that you’ve heard your fans say about it. What are the motivations of your most ardent followers? What runs through their head as they decide to play a little while longer? It might be “I can’t stop until I’ve solved this problem”, or “I’m just starting to get good at this” or maybe it’s “I want to see what’s around the next corner”.

Key words

Identify five key words that sum up what people get out of the thing that you’re making. I’m tempted to say that you should ban generic words like “fun” or “interesting”, but banning words isn’t a good way of filling a blank page. If you want to write down “fun”, then you can follow up by asking “why is it fun?” Or even better, “why is it fun for the kind of person who cares about my game?”

Everything that you write about your game — app store descriptions, blog posts, competition submissions, etc. — should reflect these five key words. Don’t be shy about using those words over and over again. At the same time, be ready to adapt when your audience starts using keywords that you hadn’t even thought of.

Example: Brave Frontier

The app store description for Brave Frontier quickly and succinctly pinpoints the qualities that the publisher expects the player to appreciate:

Venture forth into Grand Gaia, the world of the gods, and unleash your Summoner powers to save it by defeating the fallen god Maxwell in this immersive and addictive RPG! Summon over 200 legendary heroes and ancient beasts, and assemble them into powerful squads, mastering the elemental strengths of Fire, Water, Earth, Thunder, Light, and Dark!






About Zoya Street

I’m responsible for all written content on the site. As a freelance journalist and historian, I write widely on how game design and development have changed in the past, how they will change in the future, and how that relates to society and culture as a whole. I’m working on a crowdfunded book about the Dreamcast, in which I treat three of the game-worlds it hosted as historical places. I also write at and The Borderhouse.