“I’m just sick of companies pandering to the casual gamer.”, he said. It doesn’t matter who exactly said it as it could have been any one of a thousand players that I’ve spoken to or found while trawling forums for tidbits of information on an upcoming release. In part I agree with those sentiments as so many games are getting “dumbed down”, for want of a better term, these days. Favourite series are having sequels that have lost so much of their depth that I no longer even like them never mind adore them as much as I used to. Games I’ve been waiting years for seem to consistently disappoint me and others, leading to yet another claim that it’s all down to the casual gamers ruining the market.
I know who they’re referring to, of course. Those who play the Wii, those who have fun with Kinect or wave planes home on Playstation Move. Those are the casual gamers this time around and it’s their fault that our games aren’t as good as they used to be. Others will be referring to those who spend their lives connected to Facebook and inundating everyone they’ve ever come into fleeting contact with at any point of time with requests to check out their vegetables. Still others even count those who use handheld consoles as the casual menace to true gaming, with their reliance on bite-sized gaming that can be picked up and put down at a moments notice. Then there are the party gamers, drunk after a night out and playing endless minigames in their living rooms full of plastic instruments that make them feel like rock gods as they simulate playing songs that most of them sadly believe were written just for the game they’re playing. Bloody casual gamers eh? It’s no wonder that our games are getting shorter and a lot more shallow with game companies splitting their attention between that lot and us real gamers.
Well, that’s what those who call themselves hardcore would like us to think anyway. See, I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve seen each of the arguments against casual gamers over and over. This time we’re railing against those who use these different peripherals for motion control. Last time some of you who are involved in this debate were the ones being complained about, because you were into these music games that threatened the industry. Then there was the idea of having streaming movies over consoles. What real gamer would pick that over better network stability? Another sign of the casual gamer ruining our experience, and one we couldn’t ignore as much as when DVD movies could be played on consoles (an experience we ignored as it was a side effect of having larger disc capacity for our games) in the last generation. Before that those we had the entire Playstation generation taking away from gaming with those casual Tekken and Wipeout players entering the scene. And before that it was the ones who wanted 3D graphics, which many companies were implementing at the cost of precise gameplay. Control pads instead of mouse control – bloody casual gamers again, dipping their toe into our hobby, ruining it then buggering off again.
Except they didn’t bugger off, did they? Many of you reading this may fit into any of the classes of casual gamer (and those I listed are only a few of the many – FPS players for example were once thought of as casuals) that I listed. Many of you may have been what was fought against before and have stuck around to be the ones fighting. Some of the evolutions that gaming has been through in my time have stuck around while others have disappeared, yet each one has originally been blamed on the casual gamer by those who simply didn’t understand it at the time. Sometimes those naysayers were proved right and the change was abandoned, sometimes they left their changing hobby as it had changed too much since they enjoyed it, and sometimes they were swept along with the changes and learned to enjoy them, sometimes to the point that they can no longer imagine the hobby without them. As for the casual gamers, many of them stayed with the hobby after being introduced to it in a way that hadn’t been available to them before, and many of those became the hardcore railing against the later changes that would introduce even more new players. Personally I don’t count anyone as a real gamer unless they know to shout “Shoryuken” after towards, down, down-towards+punch and then hit the guy standing next to them in a smoke filled room, but that’s my prejudice.
But what about the depth that we’re losing from our games as companies try to please the casual gamer and get a quick buck out of them? Well, quite frankly that’s a load of horseshite. Oh sure, sometimes developers make things more accessible and sometimes they go too far with that and strip depth or challenge from their product, but it’s hardly the fault of the casual gamers. They aren’t the ones inundating fan forums with multiple requests for flying tigers to be introduced into hyper realistic crime simulators or chainsaws to be put into fantasy games. Nor are they the ones who complain, and if there’s anything the hardcore gamers can do it’s complain. We complain about everything we can and then we usually blame it on casual gamers. And the developers take our complaints and change their output accordingly, snipping unpopular and incidental features which were the previous games signature and giving more time to things like hitting someone with a big stick (a staple of gaming which is the modern equivalent of jumping on an animal to get coins or rings). It’s down to us far more than the casual gamers who probably have not even heard of the game. As for the developers themselves who are trying to get a slice of the casual market, good on them. Bring in some new people to love your franchise and the sales will go up allowing you allocate larger budgets to the next iterations and give us more of what we love so much. Just remember though, there are still a lot of fans out there who would very much love you to keep the depth and challenge as well as making things more accessible.
I started this piece with a quote and now I’ll give you the full story behind it. “I’m just sick of companies pandering to the casual gamer.”, I said as I looked down at the magazine and its description of an upcoming game. “Who the hell is such a wimp that they need to save their progress in a game?” I was young and my words were probably a lot stronger than that when I said them, but I remember my disgust clearly. Saving games was for wimps (again, a stronger and more feline oriented word was used) who couldn’t play through them in one sitting, children who needed their hands held all along the way. Bloody casual gamers.