Thursday, January 10, 2008

O Casual Gamer

My newest article for Gamasutra went up yesterday, if you haven't read it you can find it here.

as games have become more mainstream, our understanding of who is buying thegames has become increasingly niche.

The point may have been overstated a bit, but I think the topic is very interesting. Essentially the idea behind the article is trying to take a deeper look at who casual gamers are and what motivates them to play.

I think one of the most difficult things to do is to look at the world through someone else's eyes. Whenever we consider anything we tend to relate it to our own view of the world. Unless you are really 'that' situation you can't really understand how it feels to be there. Trying to understand takes real effort and time to consider as many factors as possible.

As far as the casual gamer goes, they are feared and disparaged quite frequently. While that behavior is worthy of its own article, the question for the businessman is not how make gamers treat casual gamers better, but how to make more money off of casual gamers. Based on many of the casual games released on the consoles, I think we have a long ways to go in understanding what motivates casual gamers.

Some things that seem to have a positive impact
- Positive themes
- Female protagonists
- An easily and oft-obtained feeling of success
- Extreme accessibility

There are many values that are likely being fed by those things such as a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of progress and a sense of individual freedom. I'm not so sure the list of values for core gamers would be very different, but it appears that the road to the values is different.

Some things that seem to have a negative impact
- Coming under attack
- Not succeeding
- Complexity (in how you interface with the game or how it is played)
- Space themes
- Long range goals without any short range goals

Some things that don't seem to have any impact
- Darker themes (death, murder, frightening images)
- Frantic play
- Work themes
- Invulnerability/inability to lose

I'm sure the lists could be greatly expanded and debated. If you made your own, what would you put on them? What is leading casual gamers to play, and what personally held values are being positively stroked when a casual game is played?


Anonymous said...

I consider myself more of a casual gamer than a hardcore one, and I think you hit the nail on the head as to what motivates a casual gamer to play. Casual gamers are classified as "casual" because they have other things they need to accomplish that are more important to them than playing a game--work, taking care of the kids/house/spouse, classes and homework, etc. I play games to take a break from life for a while. Though I'll take time to relax by playing a game or two, I don't want to feel like I'm wasting my time. Therefore, being able to "accomplish" something in a relatively short period of time and with relative ease is very important to me and to most casual gamers.

Russell Carroll said...

Thanks for the comment :).

I've been thinking about this more over the weekend and was talking with my wife about a post on GameSetWatch from a professor who suggested that often games are too black and white in their winning conditions.

I think games are that way because that is what we're looking for. Life is full of situations where we don't see our results as having much effect for positive or negative. I think many of us play games as entertainment to feel that sense of accomplishment, and Casual games are uber good at providing a sense of accomplishment on a continual basis. I, for one, really enjoy that aspect of casual games :).