Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Who are casual gamers?

Great article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/videogames/342095_casualgames.html.

The first part of the article talks about how Seattle is where much of the casual games industry is found, which is interesting, but doesn't lead to any additional insight. The second half of the article is out-standing, with some insights into what casual gamers are looking for out of a casual game, which is quite interesting and should lead to a lot of additional thought.
I play games to relax. I don't crave the adrenaline rush of fighting my way across the universe. Getting chased or shot at makes me nervous and I just don't find it very fun. With casual games I can just relax at the end of a long day

What a great quote. It encapsulates what a lot of the casual games industry already knows about casual gamers in a very easy to understand way. Many casual gamers play because the like to relax and they find games that put them in danger as not relaxing.

This is one of the reasons that shooters from Space Invaders to Halo don't do well with casual gamers. Many casual gamers simply don't enjoy the emotions created from the games that historically has been the key to growth in the console market. (and it's probably why some core gamers seem to struggle to comprehend casual gamers)

Another quote, this one directly related to Hidden Object games:
It still makes you think a little. You follow a theme or an idea to its conclusion. It makes you wonder. It's like reading a mystery novel. A third of the way in, you want to read the last chapter, but you can't until you work your way through it. You never know when it's going to end

Another great encapsulation. Players looking for 'wonder' and wanting to take a theme to its conclusion. Notice there was not mention of finding objects, but there was mention of having to think. What the player is noticing is the story and the progression and the way they feel in response. Hidden Object games are quite interesting as they may be some of the best pure story-telling opportunities in gaming today. (this is especially true if your story is a mystery)

I see often remarks belittling casual gamers as they play multiple Hidden Object, Match 3 or other common casual game types. Many people seem to think that it is bad for the industry and negative for the people to be playing games that are so similar. They may be right.

However as an alternative, perhaps we should consider casual games are the first successful episodic games. (Sam & Max coming in close behind)

Perhaps casual gamers are simply looking at the different games as different episodes where the key framework, the game mechanic, stays unchanged. Each different game may feel more like another episode of the same TV series than a different series. The close similarity between the games may be helping this belief along.

In any event I find the many arguments towards either gamers in the casual space being somehow mentally behind or casual game companies forcing cloned games on gamers to lack much of an intellectual punch (though they create some wonderful emotional arguments). Clearly as a group, casual gamers are driven by a different set of gaming desires than the typical console gamer, and that isn't a bad thing. Learning what is driving the choices, I think, is a fascinating bit of understanding that has yet to be fully grasped.


Anonymous said...

good post, full of information.


Kiara said...

I like casual games a lot. Due to stress I am experiencing in work and too much pressure I am getting, I definitely need a casual games. Basically these Download Games relaxes me and are often played during past time.