Going With The Flow

Going With The Flow
Casual Gamers Are Better Than You

Jim Sterling | 29 Mar 2011 13:07
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The expansion of videogames as an entertainment medium has always been inevitable. Some like to pour blame or credit upon Nintendo and the huge strides it's made with the Wii and DS systems; others look to Facebook or mobile gaming as the outlet through which new demographics have streamed into our field of view. Of course, the prevalence of gaming as a popular mainstream hobby extends further back than that, with each new generation of gaming platforms reaching out to a successively wider audience. There was no great revolution, more a steady evolution until we reached where we are today - with games being enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

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The game industry doesn't think in such measured terms, however, and so the "rise" of what's called the "casual" gamer has been seen as a sudden, radical, jarring alteration to the world of interactive entertainment. Whether you think casual gaming is as old as the industry itself or a brand new concept, the undeniable fact of the matter is that it's here and games like Just Dance, Wii Fit, and Wii Sports Resort typically storm the charts as developers scrabble to conquer a market of gamers who don't necessarily like "games" as we've come to know them.

Some of us have embraced the shifting focus while others have witnessed it through squinting eyes, full of fear, doubt, and jealous anger. A significant contingent of so-called "hardcore" gamers look down on the casual players - the soccer moms and the grannies - belittling their stupidity, their lack of taste, or their willingness to support shovelware. Unfortunately, as much as one may snootily sneer at these mainstream fools, one has to remember a rather stark and unpleasant fact - in more than one way, they're better than you. They might lack your history, your knowledge and your "respect" for the industry, but they deserve a place in this market as much as anybody else, and they are beneficial to the health of the market in several ways.

First of all, casual gamers are far more open to new ideas than you. Just look at how much resistance Kinect was met with by the typical Xbox 360 gamer. I'm not exempting myself from this, either. I mercilessly tore Kinect apart before launch and I still have no interest in it. I respect it as a concept, but as a gaming device it is not for me because I only see it working for shallow titles. The "casual" gamer does not think this way. They see it as a fresh way to mess about and have a laugh. They're not worrying about the game's limitations when it comes to movement control, and they don't care that the games lack any reasonable amount of depth. Like with the Wii (which many "hardcore" gamers mercilessly mocked before its launch), the mainstream consumer simply saw something that looked interesting, and invested in it.