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Casuals: Enemy of Games or Paranoia?
Posted on Wednesday, August 8 2012 @ 13:31:55 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

Casual gaming. Chances are if you heard this phrase, you either loathe hearing it as they ruin your favorite games or you just don’t care (hopefully the latter). Casual gaming has existed for eons, but it hadn’t become insanely popular until Nintendo made the Wii. Since then, everyone, from critics to fanboys, see casual gaming as a debilitating sickness of the video game industry that must be cured at all costs. They also like to shun casual gamers from the gaming scene, declaring that they know nothing on what good games are and that all they care about is playing Wii Sports or Angry Birds.

Is it any wonder why the general population still sees gamers as immature and games being a waste of time? However, I am not here to blast ignorant gamers (OK, maybe a little bit). What I am doing here is debunking the myths and fears that gamers suddenly obtained with the rise of the popularity in casual gaming.
Myth #1: Casual gaming is popular. Ergo, video game developers will make more casual games instead of hardcore games to make more money.

Let me tell you how bullocks that sounds. Only developers who are greedy for profits will try to cash in on the trend of casual gaming while spending less on development costs. Developers are basically artists. Some of them may think casual gaming is in, thus they should make more of it, but most developers know that people will eventually get bored of the same things and those are the guys that will try to make something different or at least put a new spin on something that generally worked in the past.

Casual games can be fun, but people who are heavily into video games will always try to find something new to play and developers will cater to that. Casual gamers aren’t the only type of gamers out in the market and it’s foolhardy to try to cater to only a specific type of player. Despite what some people may try to tell you, casual and non-casual video games can co-exist. The more options the consumer has, the more likely they will purchase a game or are just as likely to try a new game they never played before.

As everyone can clearly see, casual gaming hasn’t killed off their beloved franchises. Halo gathers just as many players as Farmville and the Halo franchise has several more games being planned for development. Non-casual games are just as profitable as casual games and it is up to the developers to make their games to the best of their abilities in order to cater to the people they want to market to. Speaking of games being killed off…

Myth #2: Casual gaming will kill off non-casual games because of causal gaming’s popularity.
Another misconception that many people seem to cling to is how casual gaming will become the death of all gaming. Where have I heard this before? Oh, I know. Do any of the following sound familiar?
  • 3D gaming is going to ruin 2D gaming forever!
  • Hyper-realistic graphics is killing games!
  • There are too many first-person shooters!
  • Online gaming is killing off single-player games!
  • Motion controls are making all games suck!
Anything that is popular always tends to have similar complaints and they all usually cry that their beloved [insert thing they are defending here] is going to die a horrible death and they won’t have anything good to play. Video games are like the fashion industry. Whatever becomes popular now may not be popular 5 or 10 years from now. Platform games were popular in the 1980s, fighting games was the popular trend in the early 1990s, first-person shooters were the hottest thing for the past 10 years, and the list goes on. However, games that weren’t bucking to the popular trends still existed. Mario still had his platform games for the past 20 years, Pokémon still sticks to its RPG roots, and so on. Developers that know what their fans want will usually stick to it, even if they could decide to just make another World War II FPS game.

No trend in video games ever kills off something everyone else likes. Developers have to stick with what they know. If everyone decided to all make casual games just because it’s guaranteed to make a profit, I can tell you that many of the video game companies would cease to exist. They would all be fighting over a shrinking piece of the demographic pie that everyone is trying to sell to and those who don’t have enough money to stay alive in that type of situation would go bankrupt as the competition would do a better job.

No matter what trends that may occur, if your favorite franchise is doing well, chances are that it is going to stick around for a long time. However, some people will tell you that even their favorite franchises are starting to cater to casual gamers and that is going to destroy gaming. This brings me to my next point.

Myth #3: Casual gaming is seeping into non-casual games; thus, they are ruining games in general.
This myth is becoming more common in internet arguments and is generally just a headache waiting to happen. Whenever you hear someone complain that games in general are becoming too easy, the myth they believe in is usually their reasoning. These are usually the same people that have either been gamers for years or have mastered a particular game or two. When you know what games are going to throw at you based on your past experience as a gamer, you can overcome the obstacles quicker. When you practice in a game a lot, you get better at it and if you play similar games, you will dominate that game as well most of the time.

There is also the factor that developers are wising up to not making their games become hair-pullingly difficult as video games used to be decades ago. No longer are most developers relying on cheap tricks such as having limited lives, respawning enemies that are just there to piss you off, etc. People may try to tell you that games in the '80s and '90s were more challenging and fun back in those days and how games now are catering to people that refuse to dedicate time to their games. That is beyond silly. Games were difficult in the “golden age of gaming” for the wrong reasons (limited lives, forcing you to restart entire levels if you mess up too much, cheap enemy placements, etc.), and if you didn’t like it, you didn’t really have many alternatives so you had to keep playing until you won.

Nowadays, if someone doesn’t like a particular game, there are a whole ton of other game types people can look to. If developers are seeing people can’t or don’t feel like finishing their games, then something went wrong and nothing is worse than seeing your fans unable to finish your game and not seeing the end. Does this mean that games are becoming easier just so people can see the ending? It just means that developers have to make their games with better care and balancing so that players feel challenged with what they have instead of fighting something the developer believed to be “hard” for the sake of being difficult. Players that have been gamers since the beginning are going to be turned off by stuff like constant checkpoints because they grew up on games that did not have those things.

One day, I ran into someone in the Steam forums arguing over the state of Left 4 Dead 2. The person in question stated several times that the game is made for casual just because of how easy the game is. He uses the game’s bile bomb, melee weapons, and the more powerful guns obtained later in the game as his argument points, saying that the survivor characters are too powerful and hardly die.

This statement is flawed because Left 4 Dead 2 has been out for 3 years and that gives players plenty of time to practice the game and know how everything works. Just because people get better in a game does not make it casual. Not losing in a game does not make it an easy game (unless the game makes it impossible to lose). The term “casual gamer” is thrown around without people knowing what it even means. Take a person who has played only Angry Birds play Left 4 Dead 2 for the first time and I can guarantee you that player is going to die several times before learning the basics of the game (stick with the team, heal when needed, etc.).

In short, casual or “easy” games aren’t going to stay forever. Your favorite games aren’t going to get watered down or made into casual appeal. Sit back and enjoy your favorites.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly $20 Vox Pop prize. ~Ed. Nick
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