The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
Did it start with Nintendo's Wii, or was the iPhone the culprit? Maybe it started with Zynga's infamous Farmville? Casual Gaming. The bane of many self-professed "hardcore" gamers, it is not always easy to understand who casual gamers are or why they are viewed with such contempt. Nonetheless, I'm going to offer up my take.
It's Older Than You Think
The first problem is understanding that casual gaming actually isn't all that new. In fact, it's been around since the video game industry first started, it's just that we didn't have a name for it then. So while you look at games like Wii Sports or anything on Kinect and may imagine that it is some new form of evil, it's not.
Casual gaming has been mostly defined by it's simplicity. It is born from the needs of a generation that moves faster, communicates faster and demands gratification faster. What begin as a novelty has now become the default medium of entertainment for many due to it's ease of use and accessibility.
If you stop and think about it, Tetris was and is casual gaming. Playing solitaire on your computer is casual gaming. Dr. Mario or Mahjohng? Ditto. Wario, Blackjack? Yep. We've always had some form of casual gaming. But the internet, mobile phones and the rise of digital downloads all helped to create the perfect climate for casual gaming to grow and flourish to what it is today.
It Was Inevitable
What many may not see is that casual gaming's explosive growth was mostly inevitable. It was the natural byproduct of a generation that grew up loving games. Though many of us still probably fight valiantly to put in a few cherished hours a week, for some that isn't an option anymore. Turning 30 something, working, maybe being married, and having kids and a mortgage have a profound impact on your ability to sit down and do a game of any decent length justice. I find that even if I have the time, I often lack the energy or the desire to commit to anything beyond one hour.
I have several consoles in my home and a custome built PC that I love. But ironically, most of my gaming consists of 10 to 15 minute "quickies" when I'm sitting around the house or in the bathroom. I never wanted to be a "casual" gamer. It just sort of happened to me somewhere along the road of life.
If I say that I'm a casual gamer, then most would probably assume that I'm some wuss who would rather play Carnival Games or Kinect Sports over Battlefield 3. Wrong. At heart, I am still a "hardcore" gamer. But if you were to look at where I've spent the most money within the past year or more (mostly due to price), you would be convinced that I'm a casual gamer.
I think that the new mid-life crisis for many of us gamers who are thirty or more is trying not to lose face or "street cred" when it comes to games. We don't want to be viewed as irrelevant, but it is hard to accept and admit that our tastes have evolved as a result of... living. Casual gaming has become a metaphor for the growing pains of a generation that perhaps never truly imagined getting older. But we are, and many of us do not want to be judged for that or how we've had to adapt.
As a final thought, I just think that it would do well for many to realize that casual gamers are not evil. They aren't dragging down the industry. Video games can flourish in a world that consists of the hardcore and the casual. Given time, the generation that grew up with PS3's and Xbox 360's as their first consoles will probably experience the same attitudes from their children and grandchildren. It's the circle of life my friends!