Making Scores Meaningful

One common design mistake I notice in game design -- in particular console games -- is with the mismatch between scores and a child's developmental level. A child might be counting to 100, yet they're using games that records points in the 1000s. When it comes to "high scores" or coins or points, more is not always better. The key is to make the accumulation process meaningful to the audience you're desinging for.

A Case Study in Doing it Right: Animal Genius (Scholastic)

Screen image take 11/19/08 from the Windows version. This technique combines the score with a slider bar. So children can SEE how much more they have to play before they earn the racoon. While you're looking at this screen, notice the background graphics. Artistic, yes, but they don't take away from the "work" or functionality of the icons. Up in the left corner is the constant "back" button. The only photograph is of the thing you're going after. The subtle but effective rollover highlighting is clearly tells the child which option they've selected. One problem with this menu is that the choice is read out loud AFTER the child clicks it. It should be BEFORE to add another layer of "accidental success" to the menu. Also, the world "Matchomatic" does not help much in telling you what the activity actually does.