The Casual Myth

There is nothing casual about the way my spouse plays Scrabble. She stands above the steaming corpses of her opponents and nods graciously at their efforts, futile as they may be. She checks her stats and her turns every day, she works on strategies and learns new ways of winning. She doesn’t cheat, and takes the ethics of the game seriously. The very thought of a “hardcore” fifteen year old gamer looking down on her and calling her skills “casual” is offensive.

I’ve seen “hardcore” players. Their skills seem to entail jumping a lot, strafing side to side and memorizing maps so they can get a slight advantage over the other on hundred online gamers that play exactly like them. I would like to see them raise children, run a household, have a full time job and maintain their leaderboard status.

When my wife started playing Mass Effect she had a bit of trouble transitioning to the vastly different control scheme on the Xbox 360, but so did I. The difference between mouse aiming and using the control stick is enormous and takes a lot of getting used to. In short order she was solving puzzles and knocking off robots with no issues. The story is compelling and helped her over the parts that were not natural to the way she plays games. This transition is not difficult, and the key was the quality. Quality drives people past uncomfortability and unfamiliarity.

When I have two hours to spare, I will play Half Life or Bioshock, when I have twenty minutes to spare I will play Peggle or Plants VS. Zombies. What kind of gamer does that make me? I enjoy Elite Beat Agents as much as I enjoy Dead Space. I enjoy games without classification. My entertainment money is spent on games first before movies, before recreational books and sometimes clothing to my own detriment.

I declare the gaming culture war over. Publishers, you should no longer market game genres specifically to me to my spouse or to my children. Chances are you will be wrong and miss your targets. Sell me a good game that is fun, interesting and challenging. If I like it I will probably purchase it. If I really like it, I will recommend it. If I love it, you will hear about it in a blog or on Facebook. Stop artificially creating gaming demographics and start creating gaming evangelists. They will sing your praises and pass their passions on to their children.


6 responses to “The Casual Myth

  1. I find the gaming culture war irrelevant to my life. I think it might be counterproductive to even identify a “gaming culture” because it necessarily means that someone is going to want to define what is gaming culture and what is not.

    The Wii showed that people who do not consider themselves gamers still like games. Are they part of gaming culture, or are they simply part of the human race, a race which enjoys recreational activity of various types?

    I think both. I think human culture is gaming culture; I think that in the past the culture of many games has been one of exclusivity. From high school you see athletes claiming the authority over gaming culture by virtue of their physical prowess. “Geeks” (for lack of a better term) spawn off their own gaming culture and repeat the behavior they so disliked in their athletic peers.

    The whole thing just has to stop. We come to games on their own terms. By definition, these activities are recreational. They should be regarded as fun, no matter how much or little time we want to put into them. I threw myself into poker when I first played the game, but it was still recreation. I had no disdain for people who wanted to “dabble.” That’s the way it should be.

    I don’t have time for a better comment, but I think you get what I’m trying to say; I agree with you. I think that the games are their for us, not for us to conform to someone else’s idea of an acceptable culture.


    • That is part of what I hope to get at in this blog. Gaming is just another form of “play”. Play is analog, digital, physical, virtual…..etc etc. People who like to play like to play games. Play is essential to our development as humans.

  2. I don’t think it’s generational because just a few days ago at the MIT BIG conference, a young woman was trying to identify gamers into the two categories. I think that media and game companies have created that wrong image.

  3. Agreed. Gamers seem to have an image issue in the eyes of the industry and in the eyes of themselves. I am wondering if this is generational. Will the negative stereotypes exist in 50 years?

  4. That is so true. My mother, for example, is a hard-core Solitaire player and also loves boxing on the Wii. Ironically, she doesn’t think of herself as a gamer.

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