For my own website I did write some blogs already so it was time for me to write about something else than hidden secrets and easter eggs.
After writing these blogs I saw something that’s going on for a while now. That’s casual gaming…. What’s with this label that people put on games you play sometimes or people who play sometimes? Before this casual gaming label there was no such thing. Here are my thoughts after 30 years of playing games.
Let me start with the beginning, which I briefly described in my previous blog posts. I was 6 years old, your average kid who’s busy with school and unfortunately the first bits of homework which I hated. But that’s a common thing will all kids I guess. When it was around my birthday parents gave me a Philips Videopac G7000 and I remember just staring at it.
My dad finally hooked it up and when I turned it on I saw a game called Bowling
I was amazed that you could actually do bowling on a TV. While I was still amazed I started to play and found out that from this moment on video games were for me the ultimate multimedia entertainment medium (repeat those last words 3x). And I was hooked: I bought magazines, got books from the library to look at. My parents supported me so I always got the latest consoles and computers when I saved enough money. So you can say I experienced every console-war there was. While I got older I noticed that around me games were still considered for small children and as I became 13 my aunt did tell me a lot of times why I still play Super Mario bros 3 because that’s for kids. When I asked her to try as it apparently was very easy she refused. Of course, most parents and that is still nowadays a issue, don’t understand the medium that is video games. So that part didn’t change over time. What I did saw was that more and more people got a computer at home, first a commodore 64 or a Olivetti computer and a IBM computer.
It was so normal for me to have a computer or a console at home, but for most people it was, like the early era of the tv, relatively new. Friends and family were amazed how much I knew about games and computers/consoles. I believe it was from 1995 where a computer really became a standard at home and so were video games. This started basically the digital era where you see nowadays people play games everywhere and on any device. Laptops, tablets, handheld consoles, smartphones. People love games. It’s obvious that the video game industry sells more than Hollywood. You see that Hollywood struggles with making movies and you see film adaptations of Gran Turismo and Need for Speed to live up the needs of the gamers alike.
So you may ask, where does casual gaming fit in? Well you could say that it’s due to the fact that gaming nowadays became entertainment for everyone and not just for hardcore games (also a pretty stupid phrase!). Also funny to mention that Western people often felt that people in Japan are stupid for playing video games everywhere, while nowadays we also play video games everywhere. So who’s stupid now? Yes I have been to Japan enough times to judge it correctly as the gaming culture there is brilliant. It’s just as common to go to the arcade and play games then to go to the cinema. It’s pretty damn cool I can tell you. Gamers know why you should go to Japan….I only need to mention Akihabara….. And the maid cafe’s because they are a very funny in a cool way to witness.
Before I go berserk on a sidetrack let me focus on casual gaming, because there is also a downside of the fact that gaming became also casual….. The difficulty of video games, nowadays I feel that games are far too easy. Let me give you a past example and a recent example. Note that I am not saying the bad example is a bad game…no it’s not. Okay… that’s clear let’s start:
When I was young, you didn’t have internet, no walkthroughs and in my case no friends around who played video games or later a Nintendo Hotline. I played games such as Castlevania, Platoon, Shadowgate, Dragon’sLair, Megaman, Ghouls ‘n ghosts well the classics…. And they were all difficult because you had to learn where the enemies where, you had to see through the pattern of the end-bosses, where the items are located etc. Most of the time you had limited lives and limited continues. And when they reached 0 it’s most of the time tough luck for you and please start over! The example is Castlevania, how hard this game sometimes was with multiple enemies shooting bullets alike in different heights. And when you dodged them sometime else unexpected came and you were thrown in the water….a life less to play the game. Of course it sucks but it enables you to remember the levels in and out, You mastered the game and when you completed that one level after months of struggling, you felt euphoric and extra happy. And that’s what I feel what gaming is about! You had to do effort to beat those classic games. And the only way you know about those hidden secrets was through a expensive magazine or your friend or fellow student who played the game and had news about it.
So this is an example of how it was for gaming, difficult, a niche-market, only for people who considered nerds as they played games. So you can say nowadays everyone is a nerd. But that as a side note . Now a bad example of the face that gaming became well known and accepted as entertainment: Call of Duty. Call of Duty is great to play, it looks good but….it’s far too easy. It’s super scripted with events that gives you a short rush of adrenaline as you shoot your way through the levels. And to attract a wide audience nowadays the developers need to make the game and the games in general more accessible to the people who play games sometimes….by lowering the difficulty. How nice and shiny Call of Duty looks, it’s very easy to finish for people who play games on a regular basis. 5 hours and you look at the credits screen, goodbye 50 dollars (or 60 euro’s here in Europe). This is with a lot of games nowadays, it needs to be accessible and profitable so they made it easier to make progress, unlimited continues, auto-aim, a never die sequence like Prince of Persia. And if it’s still that difficult, look a walkthrough on the internet. Search and now you know how to progress in Darksiders for example. And yes there are exceptions to the rule like Dark Souls or the before mentioned Darksiders which are challenging but in general in my opinion the games are far too easy and help the player as much as possible so they finish the game. Browse through the Nintendo forum and be amazed of how many teenagers are complaining they can’t finsh Metroid or are stuck and don’t know what to do. They are too much used of looking it up, google is their best friend. It makes them lazy!
But why games were so difficult so many years ago? One reason was at the beginning of the arcades to let the player put as much coins in the arcade machine as possible. The simple gameplay mechanics also limited the rules of programming so auto-aim was not a option. Most of the games were also developed by people who played games themselves and wanted a challenge instead of a easy ride. And this is what it should be, a challenging game from beginning to the end which keeps on testing your reflexes, makes you think or you see the Game Over screen.
And so we now know casual gaming, since when is gaming casual? Why people started to use this phrase? Aren’t we all gamers, not matter how much or less you play? And maybe you don’t like the casual gamer because a casual gamer thinks it’s a status nowadays to play games although they played Angry Brids once, but this gamer also does what you like to do: play games. I think it’s a bad thing to put labels on this in terms of gaming as a medium. Why do we need to care about whether you play a lot or only once a month. Is that really so important, or you just want to prove yourself towards your environment?
Casual gaming did bring something negative into the gaming industry in terms of how games are played on the challenge they bring to the table. Due to the easy access to gaming nowadays you see a lot of casual crappy games, what you also saw in the early days of the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, gaming was kind of popular so there were a lot of games and holy shit how crappy were some of those!
A negative thing about casual gaming is also that because of to many gamers need to be reached, the companies see the big money and only focus on that….. Myself as a indie developer sees development as fun and excited and the money is just a nice way to make more games in the future. Nowadays they care more about the money to be earned as these games are big projects and costs a lot of money. So they tend to play it safe and choose easy to pick up games that a lot of people like, or in case of Call of Duty that people buy the games because their friends play it.
This is where indie games come in as these are creative out of the box games, most of times very original. The biggest and best example is Super Meat Boy. Simple, yet complex and challenging. Oh hard as nails too! I myself didn’t finish the game yet.
This is my take on casual gaming, it’s great that people of all ages play games and started to play games but there is also a downside that games are too easy. Big audience brings the big cash and safe games to decrease the risk of failure. I am happy as a gamer that people play games, after all those years I thought that people should as games are great. But I never expected the commercial success and general usage of games bring the games to a lower level in terms of difficulty.
Leave a comment if you want, it’s always great to discuss about things. No matter if you are a casual or hardcore gamer (yeah someone invented these stupid labels), enjoy this form of entertainment, play the games you like and love. And support the developers because no pay for them is no games for us.
If you like difficult games, check out our epic difficult but challenging game A Clumsy Adventure, our current build (beta) can be found on our website or email us at [email protected]
Game on or be clumsy!