Aug 28

Novice Vs Beginner

Having written up the post on ‘games for kids’ previously, one of the important factors is player competency. You could say it’s the foundation to retention. Here then is a quick definition of the two:

A Beginner

A new player to the game. May or may not have video game competency at any degree. A level aimed at a beginner should aid and inform as much as provide content, if not more so. We were all beginners once, and it is rare that we should return to a beginner level once we have attained a good level of competence barring any serious head trauma.

A Novice

A player that has low to below-average competency at the game and may not get any/much better. ‘May not’ being an important part of this definition.


When I watch my friends play Mario Kart, we’re all about getting power ups, taking great lines, being the best.

When I watch the young play Mario kart, they’ll play the track as it comes, picking up power-ups that are in front of them and enjoying the race. They’ll also play that Mushroom Cup ad-infinitum because the dual axis of difficulty are just right for them; They’re easy tracks to drive and the AI doesn’t punish them too much.


This doesn’t just go for kids of course, but they are an easy demographic to pair this view with. Great levels that are easy, in a game with a compelling nature will bring novices back again and again. The compelling nature of being successful over something and having a good time doing it is, I think we can all agree, fundamental to all successful games.


I often wish there was a Kersplat! mode for Plants Vs Zombies. Young kids love the explosive plants and would be quite content to play a level where the sun dollars were just used for cheap and fast refreshed cherry bombs. For PvZ, the retention for the novice wanes after the first hour. After that first 7 lawns it gets harder and their fun is gone. Sure you could argue it’s not for them, but in a game so resplendent with mini-games it seems like a missed opportunity with so many offspring playing on another’s iPad.

In short, the lower the competence the more the product is appreciated for it’s toy elements rather than the game elements.



Image by Jennifer C