Why Casual Gamers Are Gamers Too

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With the recent mishmash of new console announcements hitting the gaming world, it’s understandable that tempers are running high. Opinions are divided, and when that happens, feelings will be hurt. But I keep hearing a term thrown around like a swear word that I can’t help but double-take at:

Casual gamer.

Casual gaming is inherently hard to define, since the definition tends to depend on one’s feelings towards the market. In general, casual gamers tend to take gaming less seriously, and when the term is thrown around as a swear word, it generally includes Angry Birds as being in the casual gamer’s repertoire.

At the end of the day, there are three things you need to know about casual gamers.

1) Serious gamers despise them and believe them to be ruining the video game industry.

2) Casual gamers make up the majority of the gaming market.

3) Casual gamers are not actually out to destroy the market with their differing tastes.

Many gamers absolutely hate the casual gaming market. The mere mention of casual gaming is enough to send an entire comment thread into all-out war. This is something that I don’t understand. Every time something good happens to the gaming market, gamers start flame wars about how x or y is ruining the market.

Gaming is a relatively small niche that has flourished with the advent of the internet and modern day gaming, but this niche is still small, and gamers need every man (and woman) they can get. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of HGAs (Hateful Gamer Arguments) that need to be done away with. Add a few swear words and poor use of punctuation, and it’ll be like a virtual trip to any Nintendo blog you care to think of. Enjoy.

 

1) ‘Casual gamers don’t count because they haven’t logged 9999 hours on Game X that I deem worthy.’

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“Wait! Don’t shoot! You’ll ruin the market!”

 Okay. First of all, a game is a game. While people have the right to judge which games they deem worthy or not, this standard should not be held over other gamers’ heads in an effort to make them feel like less of a gamer. This is the same tired argument I hear in the literary community, only in a different form. ‘You’re not well-read, therefore your opinions don’t count.’

Confession time. I haven’t read many classics, because frankly, I found them so boring. But I don’t think that means I can’t call myself a reader. It’s honestly shocking how much this argument is thrown about. It is exactly the same thing as saying that a kid playing basketball is not a basketball player. Come again?

A gamer is one who games. It doesn’t matter if you play Angry Birds, or Halo; you’re still gaming. Granted, these are entirely different audiences, but a game is a game. This different audience is not a lesser audience.

I write. I’m unpublished, but I still write. I have need of different resources than do published authors. Does that mean I’m not a writer? No. Does that mean that people are only ‘gamers’ if they play Starcraft professionally? No. One who writes is a writer. One who games is a gamer.

 

2) ‘Hardcore gamers have Hardware X, Graphics Card Y, and an overclocked PC to run games on. Casual gamers aren’t real gamers because they don’t have these things.’

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This argument is courtesy of my brother, who seemed to believe this at the dinner table one night. My irritated parents looked on as the conversation devolved into an argument. Frankly, I don’t understand where this argument came from either. Essentially, this argument is saying that real gamers have money. Real gamers have both a PS3 AND an Xbox 360, where casual gamers might have only one.

This argument is flat ridiculous, and only continues to contribute to the snobbery that is the gaming world. How does owning 3 consoles make you more of a gamer? Frankly, not all people who enjoy games can afford more than 1 console. I know that’s the case with me. There are a ton of games I would love to play on the PS3, but at the time these consoles were released, I only had the money for a 360. I don’t consider myself less of a gamer because I only owned one console (although since then I’ve purchased a Wii. I couldn’t help myself— I had to play Zelda).

Folks, it is never a nice thing to define someone’s immersion in a hobby by their wallets. If people enjoy something, they’ll make do with what they have, whether that’s a twenty dollar game boy color from the used game store, or the latest and greatest console. Don’t have the money to run the rat-race? Don’t worry. You’re still a gamer. But lots of losers will say you’re not.

 

3) ‘Casual gamers are ruining the hardcore gaming industry. Every bad game is their fault, and if the gaming companies make any stupid decisions, we can somehow always pin the blame on casual gamers.’

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Let me start by saying that this argument might be closer to the truth than the other two. Casual gamers aren’t ruining the market, but they are changing it. And where there is change, there will be hurt feelings. Developers saw that casual gaming was a market they could tap into, so they did, and they will continue to do so. Games will be made that are specifically targeted to instant gratification and easier gaming. While this will likely produce some really terrible games, it ultimately won’t hurt the hardcore industry.

If anything, the rise of casual gaming has created even more gamers. Gaming isn’t the nerdy niche that it was 10 years ago— it is something that the vast majority of people in developed worlds have done. Not everyone had played Zelda, or Street Fighter, or Mario Kart ten years ago. But now, you can easily find someone who has spent some time on Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, or Stupid Zombies. Casual gaming has actually widened the gateway and made it easier to make gaming a hobby.

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And these casual gamers that the ‘original’ gamers go around swearing about? A lot of them will become more serious gamers in the future. They’ll find that they love a true console game even more than Angry Birds, and that will be another person moving the hardcore market.

The hardcore market isn’t going anywhere. If anything, the casual market is feeding the hardcore population as those gamers grow older and transition into casual gamers themselves. Lifestyles change. People get married, leave their parents’ basement, get jobs, start their own families— this won’t stop them from gaming, of course. But it will definitely limit the time they can devote to this hobby. The hardcore gamer becomes the casual gamer. Life has a funny way of giving us what we flame on the forums.

Gamers— stop the snobbery. We should welcome this increase in population. If gaming remains a niche, it will die.

My advice? Be nice to casual gamers. You’ll be one some day. 

This is a divided subject, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Feel free to comment below. 

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