Game Development Reference
ACCESSIBLE games create meaningful play at low skill levels. A game's
SKILL BARRIER is the lower limit of skill below which it is unplayable.
Whereas depth is about the maximum skill level at which a game stays
interesting, accessibility is about the minimum at which it becomes play-
able. Almost all games and toys have some lower skill limit below which
meaningful play is impossible.
Consider a first-person shooter (FPS). Until the player knows how
to move, turn, and shoot, FPS games are unplayable. For players totally
new to the genre, this is an intimidating barrier to entry. It takes hours
of practice to learn the abstract relationships between screen movements
and controller inputs. This barrier makes FPS games inaccessible for most
Almost all games have skill barriers if we look low enough. PC strat-
egy games require players to be able to use a mouse and keyboard. Many
board and video games require that players know how to read, which
makes them unplayable for young children. A baby who can't hold onto
objects can't play Jenga .
Accessibility is often undervalued by game designers because we are
so skilled that we don't notice games' skill barriers. But there is a huge
community of potential players out there who would love to play if they
only could. It's worth doing the work to bring more of them into the fold.
A game's SKILL RANGE is the range of skill levels at which a game
presents a meaningful challenge.
A wide skill range means the game can be enjoyed by novices and experts
alike. It is easy to learn and hard to master. Conversely, a narrow skill
range indicates a game that is quickly mastered once it is learned. You
either know how to play it completely, or you don't know how to play it at all.
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