A Closer Look at The Casual Gamer
Gamers, look at the Nintendo Wii. I mean, REALLY look at it. It’s the first console in a long time to feature simplistic controls, have a plethora of puzzle and mini-game titles readily available for it (both at retail and via digital distribution), and and it has a very streamlined and easy-to-understand display and menu system. Boiled down, it’s a console that livens up a room and puts a lot of focus on the audience. All of these aspects appeal to a sub-genre of gaming culture that usually doesn’t make its way into mainstream gaming; casual gamers.
Casual gamers are anyone; children, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, athletes or geeky cousins, and even grandmothers. Basically it’s anyone who doesn’t game consistently, but are enthralled by the idea of playing a few, simple games which can bring enjoyment and pass the time. This idea also extends to families who wish to bond over a a fun experience, or the big businessman who eats his hamburger while playing a card game on his Blackberry. Anywhere and anyplace, a cell phone or a palm pilot - even a newspaper’s puzzle section is all one needs in order to find some time to play on buses or trains, during a walk, and even at work at the “appropriate” times. Recently, the big name, first party developers (Nintendo, Microsoft, and the ever-expensive Sony) have attempted to draw these gamers into their markets, in an attempt to evolve these casual gamers one step further through appealing games from third-parties like PopCap Games or Gameloft - flash and mobile developers, respectively - and are now porting their simple action/puzzle casual games to consoles. Nintendo has gone one step further, with first-party titles like the Wii’s first game, “Wii Sports,” to smaller and simpler games with a surreal feel, such as “WarioWare: Smooth Moves.” Flash classics like “Diner Dash” are still strong for the casual audience, of which 74% is women and significantly older than other traditional gaming groups.
The most well-known casual game is Microsoft Windows’s “Solitaire,” which was placed within every personal computer with Windows, since version 3.0 was released. It has helped to pass many office worker’s time alongside the slightly more challenging “Minesweeper,” and since its release the game has needed very few improvements, but still continues to waste the time of millions. Since the recognition of the casual gamer has become widespread, a great deal of negative reactions from multitudes of more traditional gamers have begun to bubble up due to their opinion that “their” market is being overrun by casual gamers. This growing hatred stems from the opinion of long-time gamers that feel the industry is being flooded with casual games and players, who don’t understand or care about the history or the really well-known games of the industry.
While I understand this viewpoint, let me make something perfectly clear to all those naysayers; casual or no, the industry is still growing thanks to their input. With an even larger fanbase, the medium of gaming will only improve, and allow for more “gamer-friendly” material to be released. If gamers still have a problem with this, some of them should take a look at their own gaming history. Not only did the arcade games of the lat 70s and Nintendo consoles of the eighties connect with both children and adults who had never seen interactive entertainment they could control before, but my grandmother is the family expert at “Tetris” and “Dr. Mario.” Casual games and gamers only serve to help the industry, not to slow it down. Give ‘em a chance. Hell, “Diner Dash” and “Gold Miner” are pretty damn addicting.