Report – Masterclass: How to Design Games Children Want

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2016 10:47am by Kate Hilton

A delve into the design principles behind Preloaded and their work across brands, education and entertainment. Knowing your audience is just the startDSC_6072


  • It is recommended that three design principles are followed to design a game children want to play
  • Low threshold means that a game is easy to learn how to play and draws in the player from the start
  • High ceilings means that a game can be played at different levels
  • Wide Walls encourage different game styles within the same game


Phil Stuart is co-founder and Creative Director at Preloaded Games Studio. With more than 100 million gameplays, a broad client base and many awards, Preloaded are at the cutting edge of game technology.

Phil explained that one of the keys to developing games is to understand your audience. He looked at child development from 3-4 year olds who can follow simple instruction but have limited focus, through to 8 year olds with fine motor skills who are developing abstract thinking. When making the games, they have three clear design principles which consider varying levels of ability: Low Threshold, High Ceilings and Wide Walls.

Low threshold refers to how easy it is to pick up a game and play it. Examples of games with good low threshold include ‘Crafty Cut’ and ‘Toca Hair Salon’. Other games like ‘Beasts of Balance’ are easy to play but they also make failure part of the fun.

It is also important that a good game can be enjoyed on many levels. Minecraft can be used in a very basic or much more complex way and this principle is termed ‘High Ceilings’. The possibility for playing at an enhanced level, perhaps by using the three star system or being able to select difficulty levels is important.

The third design principle is Wide Walls and open world games are a great example of this. Wide Walls encourage different play styles within the same game, giving children creative freedom and offering open ended play. ‘Happy Studio’, a contraption maker, is a good example.

Phil concluded that it isn’t always easy to meet these three principles but advised if you think about your audience and apply the principles where possible, you really will be able to make a game kids want to play.

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Kate Hilton

About the author

Kate Hilton


As a lover of Children's literature, television, apps and games the opportunity of blogging at the Children's Media Conference is one I couldn't miss. I have been a keen local blogger for five years, writing about the comedy and pain of family life and the joys of living in Sheffield.… Read more