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What IS a casual game?

Casual Games are according to the Casual Game Association a rapidly growing sector in the gaming industry with more than 200 million people playing casual games worldwide. When it comes to defining what exactly a casual game is the sources vary and the de

Iris Winter, Blogger

July 12, 2011

2 Min Read

“A casual game is a video game targeted at or used by a mass audience of casual gamers. Casual games can have any type of game-play, and fit in any genre. They are typically distinguished by their simple rules and lack of commitment required in contrast to more complex hardcore games.[1] They require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play, and there are comparatively low production and distribution costs for the producer.”

This undefined description is probably caused by the history of casual games and their quite recent popularity through the internet. So basically you can only try and define casual games by their common attributes, but still there are games that can’t be categorized clearly.

Gregory Trefry defines the attributes for casual games in his book “Casual Game Design” as follows:

- Rules and goals must be clear.
- Players need to be able to quickly reach proficiency.
- Casual game play adapts to a player’s life and schedule.
- Game concepts borrow familiar content and themes from life.

I believe he has made a good approach in trying to define common aspects in casual games although I would disagree with his last point. I think the concept of trying to save your house from getting entered by Zombies for example doesn’t really reflect real live content. And yet PopCap’s  Plant vz. Zombies is one of the most popular casual games. I would even argue, that the actual game content doesn’t really matter and it is more about the game mechanic, game rules and especially the layout / artwork, but I will discuss this later.

Another interesting aspect he mentions in his book and which gives an indication why the definition is so difficult is the fact, that casual gamers don’t consider themselves gamers. And I guess out of this 45 Million people harvesting their crops in Farmville regularly very few have heard of the term “casual game”. But then these games are often referred to as “Social Games” as well.  And where do Browser Games fit in? Are they a different genre or can some be considered “Casual Games” as well ?

Casual Games nowadays appear on a variety of Platforms, from Hand-helds to IPads, PCs or even consoles ( think of WII Sport for example), however I want to concentrate on casual game design for PC in this Blog. See http://www.casualgamedesign.net for more information and Tutorials.

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