Casual gaming. The buzzwords of the last 5-odd years. Some deeming it as a mere fad, others as something that games will now never lose, personally I’m with the second lot, quoting a mate of mine: “Don’t be scared of the word CASUAL”.
Love: Bringing gaming in to the mainstream
Thank you casual craze! No really, I mean it. Society used to look down on me, playing games used to be for geeks and kids but now the tides have turned.
During the nineties and early noughties discussion about games were limited to between gamers, try talking to any normal person would give you the same few actions blank stares, the look of boredom or snoozing. God knows people’s reactions if you worked with games at all, luckily Charlie Brooker got firsthand experience “...whenever I told people what I did, they pulled pained, sympathetic expressions and automatically began treating me like some kind of adult baby, as though I'd suddenly started wheeling myself around the room on an undersized tricycle, gurgling and suckling on a dummy...” Link
Now days I get the feeling this stigma is eroding, well with some people at least, mention games in a conversation doesn’t initiate an odd look from people anymore, instead I get a slightly confused look and at the end of it all they seem to genuinely understand what I’ve said. The complexity of games, their stories and interactivity are now compared to films, when both discussed as art forms. Is this thanks to casual games? Personally I think so, everyone’s tried Wii Sports these days and thus the man-child view of gamers has at least disappearing somewhat. Casual games are building bridges between people, everyone can enjoy a game of Wii Sports at a party, and because of casual games the industry seems to have gained some respect with the public.
My Mother told me years ago “You can’t play games forever”, I wonder what her thoughts would be on it now...
Hate: Bringing gaming in to the mainstream
After the gaming boom in the late 80s and early 90s video games were quite frequently featured on mainstream TV, shows like GamesMaster and Bad Influence were all over telly, and then slowly it all disappeared. Until the Wii the only time games made it on to British television was when the newest controversy was shown on the 6 o’clock news, not really showing them in the best light...
With the release of the Wii, games were everywhere, BBC News, the radio, magazines! Well the casual games were. It started off with a bit of Wii Sports and then everyone wanted a Nintendo Wii or a Nintendo DS for Christmas, and it’s made the companies greedy. This Christmas British television has been plagued by adverts of Ant & Dec
challenging families to games of Mario Kart Wii and Wii Sports Resort.
This trend is getting out of hand in my opinion, sure it’s nice gaining a little bit more respect and exposure towards games in the media and with the public due to casual games but I miss the days where games in the media were confined to 30 minute slot on Channel 4.
These mini-games collections that seem to have shown up in recent years have that “Marmite quality” to them, gamers either love them or they hate them. Me? I love them, not all of them, but quite a few of them. They’re just good fun, and isn’t that what games are about?
Wario-ware has got to be the best of the lot, for some reason they do actually include tiny stories but who needs them? You just have a collection of 10 second mini-games which you skip between and have fun with, nothing to confuse you and you can pick it up whenever you want and play it for as long as you want. Brilliant idea.
I actually think it’s mostly mini-game/party games that helped bridge the gap between “casual” and “hardcore” gamer, these types of games are hard not to get involved in so every ends up having a go, these games even showed older people that game can be enjoyed by everyone, not just children. Like I said earlier it was most likely Wii Sports that everyone got in on, it was definitely not Imagine: Babysitters.
I love mini-games.
Have you ever seen a console with as much Shovelware (crappy quantity over quality games) as the Wii? Exactly. While I fully admit not all casual games are Shovelware, a sizeable amount is.
Shovelware caused the Games Market Crash of 1983. Do we want it again? Nope. Case closed, my hate is justified.
Love: Got my girlfriend in to gaming
Ah, my lovely, beautiful, slightly annoying girlfriend. Ok history lesson, me and my girlfriend grew up on the 1990s wave of Mega Drive, Super Nintendo and Gameboy games, which I think we can all agree were some brilliant times, unfortunately I stuck around with release of 3D consoles while my girlfriend grew (pressured by friends) out of games and in to that usual pink, girly shit.
Fast forward around 15 years, here I am shoving an Xbox 360 controller in to her hands and trying to get her to play Halo 3, not surprisingly she was terrible. So instead and placed a Nintendo DS in her hands and sat her down with some New Super Mario Bros. Her days of playing Super Mario Land flooded back and success! Playing like a natural.
Conclusion: she buys her own DS, gets a load of games deemed casual, and eventually ends up obsessed with my XBOX 360 and playing Grand Theft Auto IV, the way she drives around on it, the look in her eyes...that girl scares me.
Hate: Got the rest of my family in to gaming
While the thought of my family opening up to gaming and making peace with my hobby/obsession seems like a brilliant idea, the thought of them joining in with it doesn’t so much...
Recently my Grandparents brought themselves a Nintendo Wii after playing it at my Uncle’s house. Now I’ve got Wii Sports and Wii Play to put up with every time I go round there, “Do you want to play on bowling on that sports game?” I’ll never get over my 70 year old Grandmother asking that.
I even found myself pointing out the major differences between the Wii, PS3 and XBOX 360 and their games with none other than my Granddad. He still doesn’t understand any of it so I summed it in to one sentence for him: The Wii is best for people like you. Thinking in my head: Old people.
Yeah I know, this isn’t really something to hate but got forbid the day when they start buying crappy shovelware games, based upon the look of the cover, and end up fund the companies releasing game upon game of the same crap thus causing another Games industry crash and throwing us all in to oblivion!.... like many other Wii owners are doing now. For shame!
I kid, I kid.
Love: Helping the next generation of gamers
All the young members of my family own a Nintendo DS, and their friends do, and my friend’s younger family members do, well you get the idea...
The reason? Home consoles boggle kids minds, the controllers, the gameplay, it’s all a bit over powering for kids. The DS with its fewer buttons and touch screen are much more accessible for children. Eventually kids move on up to XBOX 360s, PS3s and Wii because they see them as gaming machines for older people. It’s like the circle of life....kinda.
Anyway, this is great way for kids to grow up with games and stick with them, it’s easier to learn and move your way up in the gaming world from simpler consoles, that’s what I did with my good old Mega Drive and onwards...
Hate: Gateway drug?
My ultimate fear is that the casual games will attract bigger crowds to gaming compared to the generation the NES/SNES generation. I’m not sure where we all started off in gaming but from what I can tell, most older gamers start off as “hardcore gamers” and stick to it, gaming from the off as a bit of an obsession, and it’s this generation of gamers that seem to have respect for their fellow gamers alike.
But with all these youngsters starting off on the casual stuff, easing them on to gaming and progressing up to home consoles as such, we might end up getting more idiots sticking with gaming which would have hovered away from games in the NES/SNES generation. I think it’s some of this younger generation of gamers that screams down microphones during online matches of Modern Warfare 2. Sigh...
Love: More money towards the evolution of games!
More people buying more games? Win, win! These games happened to be deemed casual and lots of people are buying them? Hmm....oh well.
As we all know the Games Industry is now growing larger than the Film Industry, games now have budgets growing towards the dizzy heights of some Hollywood films. $70,000,000 to develop something as ground breaking as Shenmue? We really need of this kind of thing. We need more of this kind of risk in the Games Industry, and now with companies raking in the cash from the casual video game craze that people are in to now, maybe we’ll get this kind of “evolution” of games.
Years ago the “evolution” was more swaying towards the progression of life like graphics, while we are not at that stage yet we are at a place where graphics are not deemed as much of a priority as they used to be, instead immersion is the higher priority. Games with moral choices, cities that thrive with life, stories that would never be possible in film, all in all making you feel like you are living another life in another world.
And as they say “money makes the world go round”, more money means more ideas, more development, and more “evolution” in the industry. Don’t forget who funded part of it. Casual gamers.
Hate: The evolution of weird controllers
Linked to the “Love” above, while we do have the brilliant idea of immersion in games, another part of this “evolution” seems to be aimed the crowd that funded it, so called “casuals”, and comes in the forms of new controllers. Yes we’ve already had the Wiimote and while it sought to evolve the way we play games, it seems to have instead attracted these casual players because of its simple controls and not really changed the way we play games at all...
And so enter Microsoft’s Project Natal and Sony’s “Gem” wand, do you see yourself playing another Halo game with an imaginary rifle, made of air, in your hands? Yeah, me neither. I won’t deny that these new controllers could be useful and pretty much good fun but they’ll never get rid of the classic controller design and shape, and the fact you hold it in your hands. Or will they just push these no ways of gaming and be rid of the classic controllers? I’ve got myself worried now.
What’s worst is the new peripherals companies are push out to the silly casuals who fall in to these constant traps, “Here Sir, you can pretend you’re riding a real skateboard. Here give it a try, hmm? It’s supposed to do that.”