[A little different format for this week’s RantPost. I’m still worked up but it’s a bit more sensible this time!]
Casual. Hardcore. These are the two main subsets of game players that some genius marketing guy came up with when trying to explain to investors why a game called “Super Legend of War: The Sons of Crime” would sell well to a certain demographic. Since those early days of segregation there’s been a rift growing between the hardcore crowd and the more casual, everyday players. The fanboys continue to play their petty elitist game and I think it’s rubbed off on some of the hardcore gamers. Earlier this week a Joystiq post about MySims Kingdom poked a smarmy finger at The Sims franchise calling it “never more than a stone’s throw away from being an all-out casual series anyway”. It takes a derogatory tone, as if a casual game were somehow less of a game than any another. Joystiq’s post isn’t the only example but it is the most recent and it got me a little worked up.
In the interest of gaming (that’s all games, by the way) I say it’s time to put aside the pretentiousness and embrace our mutual brothers and sisters simply for their love of games. Any games. After all, Tetris and Pong — two games that get slumped in with the old school, hardcore mentality — are the oldest casual games of them all. Selling millions of copies, pushing new hardware into the hands of soon-to-be-addicted players, and inviting them into our gamer culture.
Just because it doesn’t have aliens, hookers, or topless warrior men doesn’t mean it’s some trivial waste of time or something to ridicule without even so much as playing a demo. A game of The Sims involves just as much dedication and strategy as any weapon-fusing, potion-building RPG. And online communities like Pogo.com and Gaia Online are just as fanatical and tight-knit as any server on World of Warcraft.
It’s best to drop the prejudice now anyways as the line between “hardcore” and “casual” games continues to blur. Visual “experiences” like flOw and Everyday Shooter are equally trippy and enticing to many players. The Nintendo Wii has pushed everyone closer together with casual offerings and unique control that hardcore players also enjoy. There’s also a growing library of challenging retro games at casual players’ fingertips.
An even more interesting example is the upcoming Fable 2, a could-be epic RPG adventure that’s already been designed to appeal to a wider range of players than the original. Outside of the game are a series of “Pub Games”; a host of “casual” titles that can be played endlessly on their own but let you take your winnings into the world of Fable 2. It holds appeal in both directions and promises to make all of the games more compelling. Imagine a hardcore player taking on a casual one in hopes of winning some quick gold to continue their Fable 2 adventures. The casual player may present a real challenge and the hardcore player may pique their interest in the more expansive Fable 2 experience.
As community continues to become a bigger part of our gaming experience we should all be happy to have others to play with, no matter which marketing demographic they fall into. Let’s all try to get back to just being gamers again.