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From Core to Casual: The Joys of Being a Casual Gamer

Most of us who read Gamasutra are core gamers. This is the story of a core gamer transitioning into a casual one, and finding the joys of doing so.

I’ve always considered myself a “hardcore” gamer.  I’ve been playing games for about 20 years now (almost exclusively on consoles and portables), and I’ve dabbled in many game genres along the way. From platformers such as the original Super Mario Brothers, to RPGs like Mass Effect and the Final Fantasy series, and action/adventure games like Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted.  I liked video games so much that I also turned my passion into my profession, having worked as a game tester and eventually a producer at a couple of local game studios. I also have a passion for writing and this combined with my fascination for video game magazines such as Gamepro and Expert Gamer growing up also inspired me to write about video games. As a freelance writer, my greatest achievements (well, at least so far) include a published feature article about game development on GamesRadar, and several of my blog entries being featured on the Gamasutra front page. To round off my hardcore gamer cred, I’ve been a member of NeoGAF since 2008 and have visited the legendary forum on an almost daily basis ever since.

During this entire year however, I noticed that my gaming habits have evolved. In an effort to balance my time between work, family, social relationships, and even health issues, I was no longer buying and playing a lot of games; and I turned to only one game to satisfy my gaming fix. Being a basketball fan, that game was NBA 2K14. From January to the early part of May, I played nothing but NBA 2k14’s My Career mode and had a lot of fun doing so. I still read video game articles regularly and still frequented NeoGAF but the biggest component of being a hardcore gamer, playing a lot of video games extensively and regularly, was no longer happening for me. It was then that I realized that I’ve become, at least for the time being, a casual gamer.

But what is a casual gamer really? Casual gamers or casuals can have different defining characteristics. There are those who play low commitment and non-time consuming games such as puzzle games, hidden object games, and time management games. These are the mostly female gamers who play games like Candy Crush or Diner Dash on their desktop or mobile devices. And then there are casual gamers who don’t really play a lot of games but instead focus on a few, highly-replayable, core-oriented titles such as Battlefield, Call of Duty, FIFA, and Madden (or NBA 2K14 in my case). These casual gamers only purchase a small amount of titles (mostly annual releases) throughout the year; and spend all of their gaming time (mostly playing online multiplayer) on the said games. Simply put, they invest a significant amount of time and effort on the limited number/genres of games that they play.

Having identified myself with the latter definition of casual gamer, I experienced the joys that go along with being one. Limiting my video game purchases and focusing on a single game made me forget about my game backlog (and how I would be able to clear it); and it made me stop worrying about all the new games I wanted to play but didn’t have time to. Additionally, since NBA 2K14 was basketball game, I wasn’t worrying about completing all the side quests, getting all the items, and making sure I didn’t miss out on anything the game offered. Most importantly, I was able to enjoy playing a game more since it was just a matter of picking up a controller and playing, essentially becoming a part of my “relaxation routine” . Ultimately, the casual gamer mentality strips out all the worries and frustrations of the core gamer; and brings the video game experience back to basics: controlling things on-screen and having fun.

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