Coming off a User-Centered Design course last quarter, I have to echo michaeldsharp, moosader. There is no product that can appeal to every user group, and products designed explicitly to try that usually turn out awfully. At best, they tend to be unfocused or include too much unless the auteur keeps a firm grasp on things (and who is that person designing for?).
I understand the reaction against creating something based on the gender of the player. In games, and a lot of other places, that sort of thing has been done terribly. That does not mean that “male,” “female,” trans*,” “else” are not valid user groups, though. They’re just very general, and it’s certainly necessary to combine other criteria with them. Yes, such as age, which can lead to very different designs.
A common step in design is to create a persona based around these characteristics and a whole user research phase dedicated to learning what these people need. This aids the designer by fostering empathy with the user group and keeping any cruft that would not benefit that user from being put in the design.
Now, designing something you enjoy yourself is different than creating for someone else, but it’s still pigeonholing your game (which is a good thing). You’re designing for a user group with a population of 1, which is way too small, except for when you’re creating solely for personal enjoyment. It’s too small because, when we create things for ourselves, we don’t think about the needs of others (“Yeah, I’ll remember that;” “I can do that;” “I know that”). This can be frustrating to people who aren’t you. If you wanted to analyze yourself and come up with some persona, you may be able to increase that number by making it even the slightest bit more general. A more fundamental approach would be to choose a vague audience and get more specific from there, though. Not the other way around.
Basically, the caterwauling from a lot of gamers about studios “appealing to a wider audience” by including concepts like cover-based shooting is a very real and quite fundamental concern in User-Centered Design. As with a lot of things, many gamers just use the concept as a bludgeon (poorly) because they heard it 100th hand and don’t actually understand it. Don’t mind those people. (Unless you’re designing for them. ;3)
The best I can do is to generalize it to people who enjoy classic games from the 80s and 90s, for DOS, PC, SNES, Genesis, etc. - Because I primarily only work in the realm of 2D right now.
I’m not going to try to make any single game oriented towards every demographic, but at the same time I’m not going to target any demographic, aside from perhaps previous play styles.
Narrative isn’t my strong point, either, and I don’t have personal experience with transitioning genders so I wouldn’t make a game about the story of transitioning (generally my games will be pretty storyless). Maybe I can pair up with a trans friend in the future if we want to do something like this, but at the very least, though, when I have a character creator I will include more gender options than just “male” and “female”, and the character creator won’t just have white as a skin-tone (*cough*animalcrossing*cough*)
My intention is to work on gameplay that I think will be fun (probably due to my previous game playing experience and what I like in a wide variety of games), and work on it iteratively to improve. For example, from watching various people play Del&Kat, it’s obvious that I do need some easier levels in there. Not that it would make it kid-oriented (some adults had trouble, too), but it might be a good idea to have several levels of challenge.
People also don’t like the fast waves, so I will change that. And I think I will update the GUI in the level editor because some regions just aren’t big enough for thumb-tapping.
Del&Kat is cute and rather non-violent, but that doesn’t mean I made it for children, or for women. Del&Kat is/will-be fast-paced and challenging, but that doesn’t mean I made it for the hardcore audience (or, necessarily, men?). I wanted to make it overly adorable, but I know that cuteness doesn’t necessarily dissuade an entire demographic from playing a cute game (Pokemon, Kirby, etc.)
I can somewhat define a type of gamer, the platforms they have, the genres they like, but at this point I’m not comfortable considering targeting or advertising to traditional demographics that other types of businesses might consider (e.g., Office Max wanted to target women so they sell a lot of office supplies with pretty patterns.)