The origins of this niche date back a few decades ago when these types of games where introduced in heavily illustrated books. People of all ages would test their skills at searching for specific items or people in a crowded landscape full of all kinds of crazy characters who were in the midst of some sort of chaotic episode. Since then, this pastime has turned to children as its main audience with merchandisers filling the shelves of bookstores with “find it” books featuring just about any popular character from children’s favorite movies or TV shows. However, now we are in the era of online gaming where virtually anything is possible, and adults (especially middle aged women) are back in the hunt for Hidden Object Games that feature content interest them particularly.
Today’s Hidden Object Games target these casual players who like to spend their free time with their computers relaxing with something a little girly with music that soothes. The content usually includes quiet or mysterious places that you search for antiques or other relics. These places could be libraries, attics, ancient ruins, gardens, forests, or worlds of make believe. You then have a list of things to find, and once you find them, you click on them to take them off the list. The characters often need to find certain items to escape a maze or search out clues to solve a mystery or crime of some sort.
Difference Games are mentioned above as being the same or at least very similar to Hidden Object Games. The goal here is to look at two very detailed pictures side by side and search each to see what makes them distinct from one another. They can be paintings, illustrations, or what appears to be simple greeting cards. The player is usually being timed as they scour the screen for a certain number of differences. Some have the player follow a storyline as they go from screen to screen to keep it interesting as though they were actually accomplishing something by finding the variants.
The above argument that this niche is made up of mostly middle aged women can be backed up by the majority of the content of these games. While there are exceptions to these kinds of themes, most emphasize romance, country homes, shopping malls, fantasy, and adventurous, heroic women. If another demographic had been targeted here, the exceptions of violence, suspense, and slapstick humor would be more prevalent by far.