Why should casual games bother us?

It was one Christmas morning that I opened up a present from Santa and it was a Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario Bros. 3. The first gaming argument I can remember having was over who was better, Mario or Sonic. The kid I was arguing with would make a point and I’d destroy him and then he got annoyed with his last shot “Well Mario doesn’t spin, Sonic does!” without even a second thought I replied with “Yes he does, when he has the star in Super Mario Bros. 3 when you jump he spins”. Whilst I was clearly correct on the matter it would be a long road for my eight year old self and that was just one of many ‘discussions’ I’ve had over the years. I could make a list of what people say about Nintendo: It’s for kids, the graphics are rubbish, they just use Mario/Zelda/Pokémon, you get the point. Though there’s one term I despise and that is casual.

Casual gaming in itself is hard to describe though it refers to games with simple game play, games in short bursts or those played by people who have no real interest in gaming outside of this. The rival to the casual gamer is that of the ‘hardcore gamer’ who spends a lot of times on games and can cope with the more in-depth games such as Skyrim. The sad thing is that this has become a huge thing with this generations consoles and I ask a simple question….why?

Gaming is an entertainment medium, it’s purpose of existing is to entertain the masses and make its publisher some money. The problem is that the niche market of games don’t sell: For every Just Dance there’s a Little Kings Story, for every Rock Band there’s an A Shadow’s Tale, for every fitness game there’s a game published by Rising Star Games. That’s the reason casual games exist is because they sell but here’s a question, does it matter?

What would be a ‘hardcore’ TV show? I suppose Lost would be considered as one. In the UK Lost was shown on Sky1 which also showed the TV show ‘Dream Team’. For those who don’t know about Dream Team it was a soap that followed the trials and tribulations of a fictional football club called Harchester United. Two very different shows shown on the same TV station but did fans of Lost complain because there was a Dream Team or other trash on the same channel? Of course not.

What about a hardcore Movie? I think the perfect person to epitomise the balance is Jim Carrey who starred in three of my favourite movies of all time: The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Man on the Moon. These were after he had done Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber yet when he returned to do these sort of movies in Bruce Almighty and Fun with Dick and Jane there weren’t any complaints. “He used to cater to the hardcore market but now he’s targeting the casual market” I heard no one say. So why is it the same with games?

It shouldn’t matter that casual games exist, embrace the new casual gamers and allow them to realise there’s a lot more to gaming than Farmville. Remember when we started with Tetris and Pokémon yet we quickly were sucked into Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Quake? Exactly. As I said before gaming is an entertainment medium, it’s not a little secret geeky club. Lets enjoy it.

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Posted on 02/07/2012, in Features. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think your thesis though succinctly put misses the real problem, Lee. There is a subdivision of gamers that draw elitist borders between themselves whilst being unaware of a larger community that treats them prejudicially. Gamers as a whole are only just coming out of the shadows of contempt. Gaming is seen as a ‘casual’ pursuit. Something to be sneered at as time misspent, inconsequential or even in some cases to be vilified as geekdom.

    Gaming has every right to stand up and applaud it’s triumphs. Award those who have created some of the most consequential ‘entertainment’ and ultimately draw parallels with some of the highest regarded art. Until there is recognition of this there will always be those who consider it as a by product of human existence.

  2. For every soccer mom who buys a Wii for Just Dance or Party Babies, Nintendo makes more money to reinvest in real games like a new Zelda or Metroid. Whether or not they actually reinvest the money in real games rather than stuff like NintendoLand is another story entirely.

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