September 30, 2010: What Are Those Funny Symbols?
If you look at one of the games in your collection there's a very good chance that you'll find a series of icons that look similar to the ones shown below. Rather than leave you scratching your head trying to understand these, I thought it might be a good idea to show each icon and explain why it's on, for example, Zombie Dice.
The icons make it easy for parents and gamers to quickly select a game that suits their age/number of players and safety requirements. They also create a common language that buyers at major retail chains can understand, which really saves time in a sales meeting when someone wants to know if the game is safe for children and where to rack the game in their store.
This icon shows how many players the game is designed to support. On Zombie Dice we settled on "2+ Players" after testing indicated that the game could easily handle 10, 12, or even 15 players. Theoretically an infinite number of players could play in one game of Zombie Dice, but doing that is likely to greatly lengthen the game . . .
Playing time. We determine this during playtesting and outside blindtesting, sometimes based on hundreds of game sessions. In my experience, playing time is the most subjective; skilled players will burn through a game of Munchkin Quest much faster than new players ever will. The playing time listed on any game is an estimate; results may vary, void in R'lyeh, blah and blah and blah.
The recommended age for the game, assuming average players. Bright children will often enjoy games rated for older players. This icon is useful for parents and helps guide our safety testing needs for the game.
We call this the "no babies" icon around the office, because we don't want a baby to play the game. No? I'm being told that this is not the reason. Instead, this is another safety-related icon that helps parents understand that maybe it's a bad idea to give the toddler a copy of Cthulhu Dice. Those glass stones are not candy.
This is a special icon that shows the game meets the EU's safety testing requirements. Wikipedia can tell you more, but the short form is: "This game is safe for European markets." This icon may only be placed on games that have passed EU safety requirements, but since the test comes after printing then it's printed on the game before the game has passed testing. Huh? Where this gets into dangerous waters is when you start to think about what happens if a game doesn't pass the test; that's right, it's time to spend more money fixing the problem. For more on safety testing, see this DI entry from last year. It's not fun, but it's important that our games are safe for children.
If you have any questions about the icons, please visit our forums. I'll do my best to help you understand all of the funny symbols on our games.
-- Phil Reed
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