256: A New Audience

A New Audience

So-called casual games are nothing new, they just have been able to reach more people though new platforms. Greg Costikyan argues that the people that pay for these games are not casual at all but are merely a new "hardcore" audience.

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Well written, thoughtful and enjoyable. Thanks for this addition to the escapist!

What a wonderfully differed analysis of the term of Hardcore. It isn't filled with criticisms and gender roles, amazing!

Very nice read, good job sir!

*headdesk headdesk headdesk*

Thats like saying witless teen movie goers are "hardcore" because they rewatch twilight 10 times in the theaters!!1

Although...then again....... hardcore=fanboy(11+ years ago it meant hobbyist which was not as bad as snob or fanboy)

Casuals do consume steadily but what they consume is inconstant, they are in it for the lulz IE whatever enjoyment they can get out of it so you can have people paying for simplistic flash games and what not(IMVU) but these are a mix of OCD repetitive activity and "ohh shiny I haz something new" on small scale. Its not so much its own whole new level as a sub group thats been there forever just never had the chance to spend like crazy on it.

I think a better term would be consistent casual gamer(as casaul games are basic,simple and on a different level than the mainstream slew of RPG,FPS,action and such even with the constant watering down....), hardcore is at a different level

This is what I really think hardcore means, gaining merchandise/paraphernalia, gaining the hardware(generally all even if hey say other wise) sticking to 1 or 2 genres flirting with a 3rd and dissing the rest, going nuts over brands and franchises and rarely complains about game mechanics or deigns. This is the sold out souless hardcore gamer consumer.

Casuals are "worse" IMO...but as far as functional outcomes the whiny gamer snob(raises hand) is about as diluted and ineffectual at the end of the day as no matter how much they want a sharp rise in qaulity and content the industry has moved on from such things and no focuses on simplified trends and fads to forever get the masses to consume dispose of and consume more of box'd,bland and questionably created media.....
/incoherent intellectual

ZippyDSMlee:
Casuals do consume steadily but what they consume is inconstant, they are in it for the lulz IE whatever enjoyment they can get out of it so you can have people paying for simplistic flash games and what not(IMVU) but these are a mix of OCD repetitive activity and "ohh shiny I haz something new" on small scale. Its not so much its own whole new level as a sub group thats been there forever just never had the chance to spend like crazy on it.

I think a better term would be consistent casual gamer(as casaul games are basic,simple and on a different level than the mainstream slew of RPG,FPS,action and such even with the constant watering down....), hardcore is at a different level

This is what I really think hardcore means, gaining merchandise/paraphernalia, gaining the hardware(generally all even if hey say other wise) sticking to 1 or 2 genres flirting with a 3rd and dissing the rest, going nuts over brands and franchises and rarely complains about game mechanics or deigns. This is the sold out souless hardcore gamer consumer.

It seems like all you're doing here is proposing a slightly more incoherent version of the casual-hardcore taxonomy that Greg is arguing against.

I think that basing a player's 'hardcore' status on the amount of money they spend on games is at least somewhat quantifiable; far better than splitting hairs over qualitative traits and infinitely debatable layers of subjective classification.

Nice uncluttered thinking.

The core market is the market that they target with their games. If they target different markets then different people are the core market. It's all relative and there is no pride in being a core retail game consumer any more than there is in being the target for stair lift advertising if you are an old codger.

It's also interesting for me how the 90% + people are freeloaders figure compares to reported levels of people playing unauthorised copies of boxed/iphone/indie games when it is not too hard to do so.

Hardcore or Casual? Why do we have to make a differentiation?

We're just gamers and we derive enjoyment from our games, period. It does not matter how much time we invest into them, how well rigged our PC is, how many n00bs we frag, how many crops we let die in Farmville.

In the end, the games we play are a matter of preference and defining whether I am hardoce or casual is like arguing that the colour blue is the best one and that everyone who likes yellow is wrong (or weird, or does not know her/his colours, or should not be allowed in my club, etc)

The problem with this analysis is that it's omitted the Flash game portals (e.g. Newgrounds, Kongregate etc.) and we are seeing an increase of micropayments being used to unlock stuff in these flash games, with systems such as Kongregate's and Mochi Games'. I suppose I could go on about how these systems are like Steamworks and Impulse Reactor but I won't, but it's interesting to see how the Flash market parallels the PC game market.

Another interesting case study is VVVVVV. It has a demo on Kongregate, with the option to access the whole game on Kong for $15. However, this has prompted plenty of complaints due to this system, despite the fact that it's available on Gamersgate and Get Games. Perhaps it's due to the tagline "XXXXX people playing XXXXX free games!" Perhaps it's due to the long held belief that Flash games should be free. (Certainly, I won't pay money in a flash game unless I get a download to burn onto disc, at least)

Although, to be honest, I can't quite equate in my mind someone who is a hardcore Mafia Wars player to someone who is a hardcore Starcraft player (to pick two games at random). However, I can equate hardcore Rock Band and Starcraft players. Maybe it's the amount of skill, rather than dedication, that's required.

Excuse the rambling post.

Clemenstation:

ZippyDSMlee:
Casuals do consume steadily but what they consume is inconstant, they are in it for the lulz IE whatever enjoyment they can get out of it so you can have people paying for simplistic flash games and what not(IMVU) but these are a mix of OCD repetitive activity and "ohh shiny I haz something new" on small scale. Its not so much its own whole new level as a sub group thats been there forever just never had the chance to spend like crazy on it.

I think a better term would be consistent casual gamer(as casaul games are basic,simple and on a different level than the mainstream slew of RPG,FPS,action and such even with the constant watering down....), hardcore is at a different level

This is what I really think hardcore means, gaining merchandise/paraphernalia, gaining the hardware(generally all even if hey say other wise) sticking to 1 or 2 genres flirting with a 3rd and dissing the rest, going nuts over brands and franchises and rarely complains about game mechanics or deigns. This is the sold out souless hardcore gamer consumer.

It seems like all you're doing here is proposing a slightly more incoherent version of the casual-hardcore taxonomy that Greg is arguing against.

I think that basing a player's 'hardcore' status on the amount of money they spend on games is at least somewhat quantifiable; far better than splitting hairs over qualitative traits and infinitely debatable layers of subjective classification.

Well hardcore is IMO brand/franchise followers qaulity and such has nothing to do with it its more to do with the mainstays of mainstream gaming, casuals tend to flock and follow non mainstream gaming flash games, IMVU, party games, non traditionally mainstream bread and butter IE RPG/action/adventure/Strategy/FPS sold by the mainstream publishers.

Its more to do with what is consumed rather than how much of it, of coarse I am a old foggy game snob WTF do I know? :P Dyslixa/Dysgraphia FTW!!!!

Hardcore is about the obsessiveness and the drive to master a game, not about what the game costs, what genre it is, or who made it.

There are no hardcore games, only hardcore players.

Well, except for the games that are so difficult people who play them automatically become hardcore.

I like this definition of hardcore. A hardcore gamer was originally just an enthusiast, if the term was used at all. More often than not, gamers just called themselves "gamers". I don't know when it shifted to mean people who play violent games, but it seems silly, especially when some of the hardest games are essentially bloodless, and some of the easier ones are quite violent.

Also, there's a broken HTML tag on page 2 of the article. It ends in [/i], when it should end with something else.

Wow Greg, you're still fantastic to read.

I think a very early article of yours brought me to the escapist and it's cool that you've written one again.

I always found the casual gaming industry to be a self invented phenomeon. I don't think the term was really made up by the Gamers themsevles at all. It's a relatively new word and movement based, as your article rightly shows, on fiction.

It's also partly Proabaly to stop some of these 'casual' games being judged by the standards games are usually judged by. Farmville and Evroy surely fail by those standards; 'Casual' does not mean acessible. You are right there have been excessible games for decades and even some of these new 'casual' games are consumed by long time gamers (usually the ones that ditch the label ala world of Goo. Also helps that that game is fantastic).

The term is used as on opt-out for shoddy games everywhere and we as a community have been slightly succered into it. "It's ok it's just a casual game" is a sentace i don't like to here. It's lead to people thinking they can get rich by making frankly Shite for peoples home computers and the Wii.

It's good money for very old rope.

I think that 'hardcore' and 'casual' were inappropriate labels for the two groups of gamers to which they are applied, however, these two groups do exist. Two individuals who play Farmville and Peggle, to the exclusion of all other games may have one label applied to them: (Label A) gamers. One of them plays for at least 2 hours each day and so may be called a(n) (insert adjective) (Label A) gamer. Another two individuals play games released on consoles including Mass Effect, Halo, Uncharted, and Mario Galaxy(these individuals are not unlike myself): (Label B) gamers. While one of them plays for a few hours a week, the other plays a few hours each day, so they may be called a(n) (insert adjective) (Label B) gamer. These four individuals each differ on how much they play and/or what they play. You can certainly ascribe a label to each of the four, or adjectives to better describe how much time, money, or social interaction each of them contributes towards their hobby/habit.

The author of this article, Greg Costikyan, only makes a semantic argument that the labels 'hardcore' and 'casual' do not properly describe the individuals they are used to label. Of course, a different label without any pre-existing meaning could be applied to one group or another, and there would be little argument that could be made against it except on a case by case basis. Many gamers who grew up playing games on the Nintendo, Genesis, Playstation, and Xbox (or any of the many other platforms for electronic games), see ourselves as being distinct from those who only play Bejeweled and Mafia Wars, and we have labeled ourselves as such. I won't argue that anyone who plays games can be adequately or fairly described with just one or two words, but such labels do server their purpose of saving people the trouble of having to describe each and every game that each and every gamer plays.

This article does discriminate between the new so-called 'casual' games and the more complex games they are based on, but argues against using conventional labels to discriminate between them in conversation. How should we label that distinction which is so widely acknowledged?

Everyone under 50 has been exposed to games of one sort or another, and everyone except for the very oldest portion of the population will play games, if games that appeal to their interests are made accessible to them

Arbitrary line! Also, is chess not a game, is cards not a game? Hide and seek? I'm sure those of older generations have played that.

And if you deny all them, then your claim is wrong, I imagine there are thousands of impoverished people or people who deny the electronic age who have never played any games.

Those who are willing to pay nothing are the casual gamers - they'll kill some time with the game, but they sure won't plunk down hard-earned cash.

What if they pay nothing for it yet spend large amounts of time on it

hard core
n.
1. The most dedicated, unfailingly loyal faction of a group or organization: the hard core of the separatist movement.
2. An intractable core or nucleus of a society, especially one that is stubbornly resistant to improvement or change.

I'll stick with the dictionary's definition. What you are looking for is loose (in monetary terms).

From a gamer's perspective, no. Paying money does not make one hardcore. I've paid good money for games I barely played. Hardcore? No. I think that hardcore as a term is meaningless,anyway.

From the perspective of someone actually in the game industry, as in, looking to make money from games, well, yeah. Of course someone who pays is hardcore. That's just who they're looking for. Hey, you bought our game/content/imaginary tchotchky, you're hardcore!

You know what this reminds me of? All those arguments back when the Publisher's Club first came out. I ragequitted the escapist for a while because of that. Think about it; you're only a REAL gamer if you pay. You're only a REAL fan of the escapist if you pay. It's all about attitude. People want to feel like they're better than everyone else; anyone who seeks to make money from us will try to make us feel like we're better than others if we give them our money.

But the fact that lighter games can be sold to an audience beyond the hardcore is nothing new; it is, in fact, something old. The "casual revolution" is no revolution at all. Instead, it's a return to the past.

Having recently published a book titled, well, A Casual Revolution, I would like to steal back that phrase: The argument in the book is that the casual revolution is a return to the broad audience seen in the early history of video games.

I agree with Mr. Costikyan that "casual games" share some of the simplicity and accessibility of early arcade games, but casual games nevertheless tend to be quite different by virtue of having more lenient punishments for failure and by being easier to drop in and out of.

Meaning: What we are seeing is not just a case of history repeating.

My old maths teacher would spend most his time on Facebook playing the dross Zynga pumped out and he was level 70 on Farmville last time I checked. Is he "hardcore" or just silly. It wasn't free time, I'm still waiting for my last test's marks and I haven't been at school for 6 months or so. (I finished I didn't just stop going)

JesperJuul:

But the fact that lighter games can be sold to an audience beyond the hardcore is nothing new; it is, in fact, something old. The "casual revolution" is no revolution at all. Instead, it's a return to the past.

Having recently published a book titled, well, A Casual Revolution, I would like to steal back that phrase: The argument in the book is that the casual revolution is a return to the broad audience seen in the early history of video games.

I agree with Mr. Costikyan that "casual games" share some of the simplicity and accessibility of early arcade games, but casual games nevertheless tend to be quite different by virtue of having more lenient punishments for failure and by being easier to drop in and out of.

Meaning: What we are seeing is not just a case of history repeating.

Well put. I have to say that if I see the term "casual" or "hardcore" one more time, I might lose my head - to me, hardcore is OCD driven: getting as many trophies as possible, metagaming (knowing the numbers behind a game and exploiting them to the fullest, ie. maxing stats, getting the highest of high scores, fighting the same enemy X number of times for an item drop, etc.)

I think that "hardcore" is something that takes away from most people's experience of a game...usually, getting a maxed out character, scouring the game map for that one last tidbit (be it a star, coin, gem or other collectible), doing something in a game that is incredibly boring, at least to me (and probably most people out there...think about what kind of a game is fun to watch, and at what point people get bored watching you, as an analogy. Adventuring in Zelda is fun, scouring the map for a shiny collectible bug, the one that you're missing? Not as fun)

I think that everyone is a casual gamer, that is, any "gamer" that enjoys videogames does it simply for the fun of it. If you like a game for it's story, then, to me, casual is playing through the story once or twice and hardcore is seeing every branching dialogue tree in the game.

I wonder how it compares to when games were mostly promoted via shareware and word-of-mouth. I heart about Doom that way, I remember trying the shareware version of it, and when we found a game that we loved, we would go out and purchase it. Shareware at that time didn't have the sort of feel that pirating a game would have now, nor did it have the limited scope that, say, a free demo would.

Course, when shareware was still around, I was like, still in the single digits of age; does anyone else remember and know if it comparatively worked better then? (I am trying to bear in mind that games have a much higher production cost now than they did then.)

Casual gaming now just isn't the same to me, and the main reason I think that way is that the game is constantly reminding you that you're doing it wrong: the biggest one is trying to get you to purchase those upgrades It's almost like product placement gone wrong. If it's not the perpetual reminder that you'll not be able to compete if you don't shell out money, it's the dependence on your friends in order to achieve anything. You should be able to play a game solo, not be disadvantaged if none of your friends want to join up or share info with yet another application. The other huge one is the sheer amount of time you need to spend daily checking in on the game, giving new commands, etc. You should be able to walk away and leave it be, pick the game up when you want to play, not feel chained to the desk because if you leave the house for a few hours, something will die or what-have-you.

A good article and I agree with the primary point that "Casual" gamers desire the same variety of experiences in gaming that hardcore gamers do. The primary difference between the hardcore and casual gamer is the amount of per gaming session time they are willing to commit. Just like in hobby board gaming. The successful early games prompted games with more and more detail and longer playing times narrowing the number of players able to commit to them. Then the Euro game game along and it reduced 3+ hour games to 1-2 hours while still holding onto some of the core gaming experiences and the audience began to expand again. There is still a audience for the super detailed games but a much larger one for the shorter games that still manage to fulfill the experience the gamer is seeking.
Many electronic games want a financial sim experience, RPG, Adventure ect, but they want to be able to jump in and out of it quickly as their day allows without the game experience suffering.

I tend to see 'casual' games defined by their simplified interface. I have a lot of family and friends who won't play a game if it takes more than the mouse to control it. Playing an action WASD controlled game is still foreign territory to them.

A 'hardcore' can be thought of as a game that uses all the buttons on the controller. Using both thumbsticks at once.

It's all about the intensity of the experience, and not really about hours devoted.

A very well written article that has obviously given us food for thought.

I would like to highlight another point of view. What is different with the past is that video games have now managed to draw a much wider target audience. Between Farmville and the such and the Wii Sports and the such the audience seems to have expanded a lot over the last few years.

I think there is another dynamic in play, not mentioned in the article.

The video game industry is now quite older. Video games have been around for more than 3 decades, in one form or the other. Over the span of all these years, a lot of people have been exposed to them and even if the primary entry point still each our teenage years, a lot of video game players has maintained this hobby in later years.

As a result, we have grown up, industry and consumers alike. This means that we also need more "grown - up" games, whatever that means, than what we needed before. To try and find an equivilent from a different industry, I'll say this. All of us have watched Cartoons at some point. We all loved them. Some of us still do. Likewise, we may have loved Rambo and Rocky movies when in our teens. Some of us still do. But, having grown up, we also now have the need for movies for grown ups and might also enjoy the new Eastwood movie.

This is the need that Mafia Wars or Brain Training cover, to some extent.

JesperJuul:
The argument in the book is that the casual revolution is a return to the broad audience seen in the early history of video games.

Precisely. I've been making much the same point myself for a couple of years, such as when observing the New Arcade phenomenon in early 2009:

http://wosblog.podgamer.com/2010/03/15/the-new-arcade/

Since Final Fantasy 7 came out for the PS1 in 1997, nerds have taken a tighter and tighter grasp on gaming, as far as the specialist gaming media goes. The nerds' agenda has completely dominated that media, which is why - for example - nobody ever published a print magazine or significant dedicated website about the Nintendo DS, despite it being by far the most successful gaming platform of its generation.

Nerds love nothing more that to exclude others from their world, and as the gaming audience grew broader and broader (thanks in large part to the aforementioned DS, but also the GBA, Wii, XBLA/PSN and most recently and dramatically the App Store), nerds sought to protect their hegemony by deriding the simple, accessible games that were once again drawing a wide audience - just as happened during the first gaming boom - as being "casual".

The labels "casual" and "hardcore" are founded in nothing more than childish sour grapes from a niche sector that fears becoming increasingly marginalised as the nature of the gaming market evolves again. It's much the same impulse as causes early fans of a rock group to react bitterly to "their" band becoming more popular and attracting "casual" fans.

"the gaming revolution isn't a revolution, it's a return to the past"

return to the past you say?

we have to go back Marty!
why doc?!
It's your kids Marty, they're playing retro games!

XD

This is a refreshingly balanced article, and, as one who has been gaming for 32 years of his life, I agree 100% everywhere except in those last 4 paragraphs, where it felt like the article was reaching a bit.

What some people today don't realize(forgivably, because they probably weren't alive during those times, but I was) is that gaming back in the day was very casual, very wide-spread, and very social. The arcades were not venues solely for the geeky teenagers. Everyone went there, young, old, geek, and non-geek alike.

Meh, I play to win. And to enjoy the experience along the way. 2 opposite ends of the hardcore/casual spectrum ironically.

Despite what you say, a casual future in gaming is not glorious. Turning to casual games is a power play by publishers to continue to crank that ever creaking dollar machine. This pretty much points the proverbial middle finger to us actual gamers who have to continuously settle for crappier care bear games all the while having our beloved nostalgic franchises chopped and screwed for the casual masses. It is well known that big publishers like EA and Activison do not care about how their actions affect franchises and actual gamers as long as the casual crowd continues to spoon feed themselves over every carbon copy game they put out. Why cater to your actual gaming fans when you can just crank out more casual games and offset the hardcore gamers you lose?

Let me tell you something. The backbone of the gaming industry has been supported by us, the hardcore gamers, for the better half of the last three decades. The gaming industry would not have survived or made it nearly as bad if we were not there supporting it. However, apparently that doesn't matter to everyone. The fact that publishers and developers basically have told hardcore gamers to piss off as they destroy our beloved franchises and childhood memories for the almighty dollar hurts us in the worst way imaginable. Also, the fact that you have the damn balls to post some crap article like this saying that what they do is ok and leads to a bright future is one of the primary reasons they continue to do this while lying to themselves that it is justified.

Now I am not one to give into nerd rage and I generally try to see both sides of a debate or argument. However, this is one area that I cannot compromise on. I am all for the casual crowd getting their games and being happy with what they do. I really am. However, when some idiot CEO with dollar signs in his eyes(I'm looking at you EA) says that the casual crowd, not us actual gamers, are the future of this industry, it strikes me to the very core of my being.
I am sick and tired of us being over looked for the sake of more money. Throwing us to the curb once you get a whiff of casual gamer money is like killing off your parents for insurance money after they spent their entire life raising you and trying to make sure you had a good life. You can dress this up how you like and you can say that I am fan boy, troll or whatever else you want however the fact remains that everything I have stated is honest and complete truth. Mark my words, corporations like EA and Activison constantly screwing with our legacy and mucking up every title they can with carbon copies and care bear features will be the downfall of this industry. After that, it really will not matter what happens next. After all, who in their right mind wants to be a part of this industry when it loses it soul and legacy?

Where the hell is the Jimquinsition when you need him? Jim, I'm tagging you in if you are out there.

 

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