Here is another example of John's writing. This article was published in ComputorEdge in 1989. Some of the references are a bit dated but the concepts still apply almost 25 years later.

A Game for All Ages

By John Harpster

It wasn't long after the personal  computer hit the marketplace when computer manufacturers and software publishers alike learned where the real profits were in home computing: computer games. Understanding the likes and dislikes of customers in different age groups has become the difference between success and failure in this new enterprise.

Ages 50 and Over

Customers in this age group have spent the best years of their lives in a world where computers did not exist. Familiar with games such as checkers, these people can understand instructions such as "Put the disk in the slot and turn the computer on." When complex instructions are necessary, such as "Put the disk in the slot, turn the Computer On, type RUN, and then press ENTER," they can become confused.

Concepts to keep in mmd when developing games for this group are captured in the phrases "turn-key" and "demonstration program." A good example of this type of software is the familiar game in which Santa Claus dances across the screen in time to 100,000 slightly off-key bars of "Jingle Bells," while admiring relatives watch.

Ages 30-50

People in this category were growing up when the Computer game made its first debut in the penny arcades. These were intellectually oriented games whose most distinctive feature was a large, distinguished FIRE button located somewhere within easy reach of all participants. The best players were those who could hit the fire button more times per second than anyone else. Some of the best players could easily do 40-50 Mega-Slams.

The unfortunate entpreneur who did not understand the dynamics of the game lost money. Familiar was the scene where the person who commandeered the game walked in and asked the store owner about the thrashed and much-abused machine.

"Where is the computer game I left here last Thursday?" he would ask.

"I have the remnants of it in my pocket," the store owner would reply.

Finally it was understood that it didn't matter in the least what microprocessor or software package was employed—what made or lost money was the case in which the game was enclosed. Its density had to be somewhere between lead and uranium. Gone were the days when the store owner ordered arcade games to be delivered to his place of business. The games had to be ordered first, brought in with cranes, and the building erected around them.

Ages 15-30

This is the age group I most admire. When I get the password to a computer system handed to me on a piece of paper, it takes me an hour or more to log in. These people can log in to any Computer System in the United States in less than 20 minutes, password unknown. Hundreds of people with PhDs in computer security have made lifetime careers out of thwarting people like this from access to important computer systems—all to no avail. The very future of the world hangs on the psychological balance of these individuals. Needless to say, games for this group must be challenging.

Ages 3 and Under

This is not an easy group to satisfy. Very few manufacturers even make an attempt. One game that can fill the void is called Drooling-on the-Peripheral. While this game is always engrossing for the players, it becomes much more exciting when the power to all the components in the System is turned on. For an even better effect, turn off the overhead lights while the game is in progress.

This has been an overview of the Computer game business. The complete ins and outs are known only to the successful computer game companies.

Originally Published

ComputorEdge - San Diego's Computer Magazine

Volume 7, No. 16, August 11, 1989

Beyond Personal Computing column