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A Reply to Jim: Casual Gaming

This was (and still is) a comment I posted in reply to one of the Jimquisition videos, but it turned out to be big enough that I thought I might as well make it worth the time it presumably took to type and throw it up here, with a slight re-edit. You can, and should if you haven't seen it, watch the video here.


In contrast to homicidalmutantmonkey, I do have an uber-computer (or at least a gaming laptop) and a lot of games. Yet I wouldn\'t say I\'m a hardcore gamer. I\'m definitely into games, but I do it by waiting until big-budget titles show up on Steam or Gamestation\'s preowned shelves for hardly anything, snap them up and enjoy them. I don\'t always enjoy them for hours at a stretch, though. There are only two games I\'ve played end-to-end: Portal (which is short and wonderful) and Transformers War for Cybertron (I was really bored with nothing else to do, and it\'s a fantastic game anyway). It\'s safe to say that about half of my games, maybe more, are incomplete or even unstarted. I'll get around to them at some point; there's no rush.

So, I don\'t spend �40 on each game I own, nor do I play them obsessively. By definition, pretty much, I\'m casual. The game I play the most is itself a semi-casual game, the wonderfully addictive Audiosurf (second and third at the moment are Soul Calibur 2, which I\'m awful at but very interested in, and Supreme Commander 2, which is definitely not casual).

That established, I\'ll say that while I appreciated the argument you made, Jim, I think it did have some flaws. The examples you chose, for example. Are you - a professional game reviewer no less - really going to claim, even in rant mode, that the Final Fantasy series or Dragon Age are experiences equivalent to FarmVille? Dragon Age (if Mass Effect is any indication) is deep, cinematic, shifting itself to fit your playstyle and moral choices. It and the other Bioware RPGs broke boundaries in gaming with the inclusion of sex scenes, particularly the homosexual ones, and its clever, high-budget conversation system. As for Final Fantasy, well, people still talk about the plots and characters of FF7 and FF8 (in particular) to this day. I\'ve never played any of the games but I could name you several characters from FF7-FF10.

The difference between these games (and many others) and the simple Facebook games is vast. Sure, at an extremely basic level it\'s just a form of non-constructive entertainment (here \'non-constructive\' meaning that any gains or skills acquired by engaging in the activity in question are only any use when performing said activity, i.e. playing FPSs makes you better at FPSs but not much else). However, you can lump everything from movies to novels to sitting and talking with your friends into this category, and like these other things, you can learn from \'real\' games. Some of them have sweeping storylines, poignant points to make or thought-provoking themes. Others have immersive visuals that sweep you away into a made-up world that you can not just imagine, but see with your own eyes, interact with, be a major part of. I don\'t think FarmVille can really compare to the visceral triumph of outmanoeuvring and defeating twenty enemy soldiers in Crysis, captaining your own ship on vital galactic missions in Mass Effect, commanding giant legions of robotic war machines in Supreme Commander, losing yourself in a haunting afterlife in Limbo, driving at high speed through a war-torn machine-planet in Transformers: WfC... you get the point.

FarmVille itself is a bit of a skewed example, too. Casual gaming doesn\'t just include microtransaction-powered Zynga games. It includes things like Wii Sports and Brain Training, full-priced games for consoles you have to spend money to buy, just like a \'hardcore\' gamer pays to buy FPSs and RPGs. On the other end of the scale, anyone can pick up and play Battleforge, Exteel or Dragonica for absolutely nothing, and many more games besides. (I adore Battleforge, actually.) And everyone plays and loves PopCap games.

While - as I mentioned - I liked your points, Jim, I think you\'ve vastly exaggerated the gulf between hardcore and casual gaming. The only real difference is that casual gamers play different games, and usually spend less time dedicated to them (Facebook is procrastination most of the time, whereas you can\'t play Crysis at work or on a smartphone while waiting for the bus). There\'s also the fact that most casual gamers wouldn\'t know what on earth to do if you gave them a \'proper\' game, because let\'s face it, games are complicated. I\'ve never owned a console and as a result I can barely move and aim simultaneously if I try to play a shooter using a joypad.

I think, myself, that this is the main source of any derision or cries of stupidity. That, and a sense of slight disgust that most of the gaming community would probably admit to feeling, aimed at the large amounts of \'casual\' shovelware produced primarily for Nintendo\'s systems. These games milk the touchscreen and motion sensing for all they\'re worth to provide basic, accessible gameplay, selling to people who don\'t care about or notice things like bloom and moral choice systems. It\'s evidently a formula that works, and it\'s a valid one I suppose. But, even as someone who doesn\'t own a Wii, I\'m personally disappointed to see that this appears to be Nintendo\'s focus rather than on using and perfecting their motion controls for more complex gameplay, allowing developers to spend far less time and money on graphics and concentrate on other aspects of their software. Seriously, why has it taken this long for Zelda: Skyward Sword to exist?

That, in my opinion, is the root of the problem. And for what it\'s worth, while your main counterargument - spending less money on games - is a worthy pursuit by all means, I think anyone who pays for something like Wii Sports Resort is at the very least wasting their money...
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About Son of Makutaone of us since 4:02 PM on 04.07.2010

Salutations! Name's Adam. I live in Oxford, I'm about to stop being a student, and I've just started writing for www.gigagamers.com (join us!). I play all sorts of games, with FPSs being perhaps my favourite genre. (Perhaps.) I have a pretty awesome gaming laptop and an Xbox 360, and I'm kind of eyeing up the PS Vita, although I recently bought a bass, so I probably ought not to splash out another load of money...
Steam ID:nickj01


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