Lessons learned from studying Nintendo DS appropriation

A Nintendo DS attached to a luggage encountered in Marseille the other day.

Some excerpts I found interesting from a user study about the Nintendo DS appropriation by kids written by J. Alison Bryant, Anna Akerman, Jordana Drell:

"handheld gaming systems, and particularly the Nintendo DS, are coveted entertainment devices. As older children in the household “graduate” to newer versions, the younger members of the household inherit their old systems. This opens up the opportunity to create games for the younger audiences, particularly preschoolers. (...) Preschoolers cannot read, which means that all instructions need to be in voiceover and include visual representations. (...) Text instructions take up minimal memory, so they are preferable from a technological perspective. Figuring out ways to maximize the sound and graphics files we have while retaining the clear visual and verbal cues that we know are critical for our youngest players is a constant give and take. (...) Preschoolers may use the DS stylus or may use their fingers, or both! (Although they are not very accurate with either. (...) Although preschoolers do not have trouble holding the small stylus, they do have difficulty making small movements that require fine motor skills. This means that the “hotspots” for interaction within the game must be forgiving for them (i.e., larger). (...) While rhythm games seem ideal for the DS, and are very successful with older demographics, preschoolers find it difficult and frustrating to tap in a rhythm or on a beat. (...) The microphone is a big hit with preschoolers! They love to yell or blow into it and see the game respond. (...) Combining directional pad mechanics with stylus movements is a problem for young children. (...) Two-step processes (i.e., drag the item over here and then tap on it) are not as successful with preschoolers. (...) Preschoolers love immediate (and positive) responses to their actions (...) Replayablity is key with both parents and preschoolers. (...) Being able to re-use graphics or sound for new variations on a game is a good way to make the game feel “new” to the child."

Why do I blog this? Certainly useful material to be shown in my course about user research in interaction design. The findings echoes a lot with similar ethnographical exploration I conducted for a video game studio in the past. This sort of insights also have implications beyond gaming, there's a lot to draw from the paper about the research paper: methodology, implications for design as well as ideas for mobile computing services.