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Phlegm
2nd Feb 2012, 13:31
I've lurked on these boards for years now, and I've seen (depending on your outlook) the "dumbing things down for the casual gamer/making games more accessible to wider audiences" arguments numerous times on here.

I can pretty safely be called a casual gamer. I have friends who are really into games and I'm just not that kind of person. Before I recently bought my xbox 360 my gaming was limited mainly to my Nintendo 64 emulator, a handful of cricket management sims and the original Deus Ex, all of which I would bust out very occassionally. I have an xbox 1 but I very rarely play it. Even when I played lots more games than now, I was mainly a racing gamer.

I got into Deus Ex through Invisible War for the original xbox. I loved that game; the multiple endings, the various solutions, the dark conspiracies, and the cool setting. So I pretty much shape up as the anti-christ to hardcore gamers.

Here's the thing though; even when I played a lot of games, I wasn't attracted to first person shooters aimed at wide audiences, trying to capture people like me. I played Halo and found it meh. I didn't see the point of buying modern shooters when I could fire up Perfect Dark 64 or Goldeneye and have just as much fun but on a longer game. The graphics are terribad by today's standards but it doesn't matter to me because the gameplay is sweet.

The same applies to the Deus Ex franchise. As a casual gamer, I got by with the skill point system fine. You earn points and use them to get stuff. Pretty straightforward. The complexity of the plot and gameplay was what drew me to Invisible War, and then the original Deus Ex. I was quickly bored by Halo. I'm sure it's a fantastic game for people who like shooting ridiculous amounts of enemies who have crazy amounts of health, but I'm not drawn to that sort of thing.

Deus Ex attracted this casual gamer in two ways: The sandbox gameplay and the deep story. I wanted to find out what happens, and the non-linear design meant I could not only muck around, but when I wanted to advance the game I didn't have to be awesome at headshotting ten overpowered enemies within five seconds or whatever. I could make my own solution to a problem in front of me.

I don't think simplification, uber graphics or lots of cinematics is what attracts casual gamers. Casual gamers want 1) to enjoy the game and feel it was worthwhile 2) offering something different to mark it out from the crowd as potentially satisfying number one and 3) we want it to work, and not to be a clunky mess.

In saying all that, I'm now going to infuriate half the forum by saying I'm not bothered by regenerating health, cinematics or third person stealth in Human Revolution.:p They didn't break the game and they worked as well as the systems I'm used to on older games, so fine, I ran with them. Those three features weren't what made the game good for me though. I can take or leave those things, because in the end I just want the gameplay to flow. What made Human Revolution memorable for this casual gamer was the story, the multiple solutions, and the unique Deus Ex atmosphere. It gave me something very few video games offer, and that's what inspired me to give Eidos my money.

I sure as hell didn't invest in an Xbox 360 to play Call of Duty.

Ashpolt
2nd Feb 2012, 13:53
I agree with you that "casual gamers" as a group don't need to be pandered to like they're somehow mentally deficient, but I will contest your post in one (potentially contentious) way:

I don't think you're a casual gamer.

From what you've said, you're clearly an "occasional" gamer, but that doesn't make you a casual gamer any more than playing Farmville for 12 hours a day would make you "hardcore." They're different things, and to me it sounds like you're a hardcore - or at least, "core" - gamer who just doesn't find the time to actually play games all that often. Your market segment - as ugly a term as that is - is dependent on what you play, not how often you play it, and someone whose gaming time is spent on Deus Ex and cricket management sims cannot, in my view at least, be classified as "casual"!

joebarnin
2nd Feb 2012, 16:12
I'm with Phlegm. I don't know if I'm a casual gamer or not, but what makes DX a great game for me, like he says, is the story, the multiple paths, and the atmosphere. If they get that right, then the precise mechanics aren't that critical. Never once when playing DXHR did I even think about health regen or 3rd person stealth, and was it good or bad. I also don't care about the exact mechanics of attributes/leveling, as long as there is some way to develop and distinguish your character.

Stellazira
3rd Feb 2012, 01:14
I had a discussion about what it meant to be a "casual" gamer versus an "hardcore" player on another forum but the problem was that none of us could really get anywhere because all of our definitions of the two types were different. If we aren't on the same page at the start, it's going to be difficult to continue discussing anything past that. I consider casual gamers to be people who play all types of games with little to moderate time spent playing them and how seriously they take them while hardcore gamers are people who sink large amounts of time into them and always worry about stats and tactics. Someone else who was in the conversation at the time thought that casual gamers were people who played Facebook games and if you played on a different platform then you were an hardcore gamer. Either definition could be right or wrong to varying degrees.

I'm not always sure what developers mean when they say they're trying to reach "larger audiences" or trying to attract "casual gamers", so usually I don't pay attention to it. What I do pay attention to is what reviewers and friends have to say about the game and then decide if I'm interested in it or not. Good stories and fun gameplay are always a good start and I go from there. Developers will try to attract a certain group of gamers but they don't always get what they expected; they can drive away old fans and gain new ones, whether they wanted to or not.

In the end, if I had fun playing the game and I feel like I got my money's worth then I'm happy. When everyone agrees on who casual and hardcore gamers are then maybe there can be discussion on what the industry is trying to do, but until then I'll just let them know if I hated a game or loved it.

Romeo
3rd Feb 2012, 01:16
Ashpolt nailed it head-on: You aren't a casual gamer. Someone who plays Forza Motorsport a couple times a month still obviously enjoys hardcore racers, they just don't play them as often as someone who plays them for a few hours a week. Forza then, by extension, does not cater to the casual (I'm aware they have mechanics in play now for the casuals, but overall, still catered to the hardcore). Ergo, someone who enjoys it, enjoys hardcore racing. Conversely, someone who much prefers Mario Kart would be defined as a casual gamer, whether they play it here or there or religiously.

It should also be noted there isn't a "concrete" definition of what casual and hardcore actually mean, although the accepted scale seems to be a lack of complexity/difficulty is casual, with more complexity and difficulty tilting it increasingly towards the hardcore end of the scale. Thus, a game like Dark Souls these days is catered almost exclusively towards the hardcore, wherein Angry Birds is designed with the casual gamer in mind. With this we find Deus Ex: Human Revolution tilted towards the hardcore somewhat, as it is more complex than most modern shooters, but not as punishly so as Sniper: Ghost Warrior is.

For the most part, designers are correct in their market assessment though. Angry Birds is annihilating Infinity Blade (Arguably one of the most hardcore games on the iOS platforms). The Elder Scrolls sells more and more copies with each simplified sequel. Because the overwhelming majority of the population doesn't want to think. I don't think it's because people are dumb, but when you've been thinking all day, you don't want your entertainment to make you think more, you just want to unwind. I know that if I've been trying to creatively re-wire an entire vehicle or figure out the best telemetry for a customer, when I get home I go on to something simple like the first Dawn of War, or Need for Speed, or flash games. Alternatively, if I have a slow day where I needn't think or strain myself, I'll hop straight to Starcraft II, or Crysis, or Forza 4.

The only thing I dislike is that most publishers see that Angry Birds or Farmville is selling well, and so every game gets the simplified treatment to attract more customers, ignoring the fact that Starcraft and Dark Souls are now such niche products that they have a garaunteed market to themselves, as opposed to fighting the sea of casual games.

Further compounding this is the fact that with every game doing something, it becomes adopted as an industry standard, which means new entrants to the industry (such as my younger brother) simply don't know how to play a game that was considered "Normal" a little while back. Goldeneye - a game that came out in my youth - was completely average in terms of difficulty. My brother cannot complete it on any difficulty, because the industry has taught him that you can run in to a situation like a moron, hide, and keep going. Call of Duty represents the "Normal" difficulty these days, but a few years ago, Call of Duty would've been a total cakewalk. The average difficulty has been dragged down as a result of everyone emulating the highest selling game.

I don't oppose casual games - not in the slightest. But I do oppose almost every develloper simplifying things to attract the casual market. It's sacrificing variety, such as the shooter market forcing everyone to accept regenerating health, "set-piece" single-player stories and quick-time events. There is practically no market for those who don't want those element in their game any more.

Grimesy
3rd Feb 2012, 04:02
Call of Duty represents the "Normal" difficulty these days, but ...

That reminds me, first time I played CoD2 my approach was somewhat around the same approach
I use on Goldeneye64 (It's STILL connected to my tv :))... Felt like hours before I was able to clear the
x'th level (fixxing the lines, or something). Few days later I was very grumpy and needed to unleash
some steam, so I started it up again and went all Rambo...

finally finished that game that day...

edit: on topic, guess I agree with Romeo, it's not the quantity of games, nor the total time you play,
that qualifies someone as a casual gamer, but in my opinion more the level of intelligence you are
willing to put into playing those games you DO play. At least, that's what I make out of the way
the industry uses the term "casual gamer".

Phlegm
3rd Feb 2012, 10:32
I've always defined "casual gamer" as someone who picks games up every so often and isn't all that worried about regen health vs medkits or that kind of thing. Just out to have a good time.

I love Mario Kart btw. First video game I ever played.

Romeo
4th Feb 2012, 05:50
I've always defined "casual gamer" as someone who picks games up every so often and isn't all that worried about regen health vs medkits or that kind of thing. Just out to have a good time.

I love Mario Kart btw. First video game I ever played.
Oh Mario Kart rocks, not saying it doesn't. Nothing wrong with casual games. =)

4ugged_v3t
4th Feb 2012, 21:39
I agree with what you say Pleghm.
When it comes to video games, there's is a TREMENDOUS audience. This increases every day. I think it may even be bigger than cinema audiences now!
But what makes this incredible is the fact that everybody wants something different.
There isn't and never has been a game that everyon e loves with a burning pation.
Gaming is a variety box filled with different intricacies and stories each suited to a different audience.
That's how the story goes, whether you're a causal gamer or a hardcore stay-up-till-5-the-next day gamer, everyone loves a great story and inviting GamePlay.
I know myself, I hate it when something is too oversimplified, I like some bit of a challenge, whether that be through selectable difficulty levels, or just how you choos e to play.
But despite popular belief, gaming is for everyone at some time in their life.
-religious gamer since I was 5. Been playing all sorts of games and always will be-

Romeo
5th Feb 2012, 01:15
I agree with what you say Pleghm.
When it comes to video games, there's is a TREMENDOUS audience. This increases every day. I think it may even be bigger than cinema audiences now!
But what makes this incredible is the fact that everybody wants something different.
There isn't and never has been a game that everyon e loves with a burning pation.
Gaming is a variety box filled with different intricacies and stories each suited to a different audience.
That's how the story goes, whether you're a causal gamer or a hardcore stay-up-till-5-the-next day gamer, everyone loves a great story and inviting GamePlay.
I know myself, I hate it when something is too oversimplified, I like some bit of a challenge, whether that be through selectable difficulty levels, or just how you choos e to play.
But despite popular belief, gaming is for everyone at some time in their life.
-religious gamer since I was 5. Been playing all sorts of games and always will be-
You touched on an interesting point with difficulty, and it's something I've always found odd about gaming: Most games don't have anything different between easy and hard, save for a couple stat tweaks. I much prefer games like Forza or Crysis that will actually adapt the gameplay to easy or hard. Forza, for example, will do most of the work for you on easy, you just need to steer. On hard though, you're steering, braking and accelerating all on your own, you need to manage your damage, fuel levels and tire wear, need to keep your car from spinning out, losing traction or locking it's brakes, and lose your frame-of-reference of the racing line. A gamer making a conscious effort to learn and get better will actually have the game evolve as they progress from easy to medium, hard and professional. Crysis, while it also affects how much damage you can take, also affects how intelligent the AI is. On easy, for example, the AI will watch their buddy take a sniper round to the head, look around for a couple seconds and then go back to standing patiently, and that's only if someone saw that person get shot - if they didn't, you're absolutely fine. As the difficulty ramps up, they will progress to actively looking themselves, up to organizing actual grid-searches to try and find you. On top of that, on Supersoldier difficulty, the AI will also periodically check-in with one-another, meaning that a soldier failing to report in will cause all AI to become suspicious. Because of this, the tactics required from easy to medium, hard and supersoldier each change accordingly, making for a unique experience.

Then again, I suppose this also falls in to what a hardcore player wants more than a casual player. The hardcore player wants to have to learn, whereas the casual player typically wants to show what they already know.