If you ask anyone who has been around forums for a period of time what sort of themes you are most likely to find on a gaming forum they are likely to answer: Dark themes. Many people find dark themes unappealing as they are hard to read, especially with longer posts. It has however become a trend in the gaming world to use dark themes, probably because posts are usually shorter and involve a lot more screenshots and other images. Dark themes can also create an atmosphere similar to that of most games; a feel of excitement and anticipation for what is going to happen. It may also be that many gamers, who spend the whole night gaming, prefer to look at a darker screen at 4 AM than a bright white screen.
The needs and wants of gamers is clear, they want dark themes. This can come at a price for the forum owner though. If they are aiming to attract a large gaming community they are going to put off all gamers who don’t like dark themes. One alternative is having a secondary theme which is lighter so that all members have a choice. The problem here would be showing potential members when they visit the site that there is an alternative theme available; first impressions mean a lot. Many people would probably solve this issue by having a message available to visitors stating: Alternative theme available. This isn’t really very appealing and looks rather corny; what if there was another approach?
JQuery is a modern browser programming language which could be used as a stylesheet switcher where the user could swap between a dark and light version of the theme with just one click on the index. This is something which would appeal to gamers, who aren’t interested in spending loads of time clicking around in user control panels and trying to find the correct settings. This would obviously require quite a bit of coding, but it would add a unique aspect to the forum while focusing solely on user friendliness. Another advantage would be that both themes had the same layout, meaning no confusion if a user wanted to change between them.
Another option would always be to have a theme which compromises. A dark background and key elements would satisfy most gamers while having a lighter content area which still isn’t white would help to still attract those who do not like dark themes. This is always an option for those administrators who aren’t able to invest in their forum or have the knowledge to code a JQuery plugin themselves. It is an option which will work, even if it won’t attract as wide an audience.
Whatever it comes down to, dark themes have become a symbol of gaming forums. The mystery and excitement that surrounds most games seems be brought to life better in a dark atmosphere. For a designer it would probably be a real challenge to create a light theme for a first-person shooter game or a medieval MMORPG. Gaming and light colours just don’t seem to go together. It will be interesting to see if anyone manages to create a light gaming theme in the future that appeals to all audiences.