Those of us deep in the trenches of videogame culture like to think of casual games as an aberration, a blight on the face of our seemingly bright future, an error in judgment on the part of those who play them, a “new” thing, bound to turn the tide of public opinion against us and our games, and ultimately end the world as we know it.
They are not words we speak often, but they are thoughts in the back of all of our minds. You can see them in our eyes when we hear about a “fantastic” game of Bejeweled, a “thrilling” session of Luxor or an “engaging” game of Minesweeper. You can hear these black thoughts reflected in our voices as we extol the virtues of games taking longer to play than a few minutes and requiring more of a commitment than a speed date. You can read them in the absence of print on the subject of games that are selling faster than Halo and are played by more people than World of Warcraft.
And yet, casual games are not new. They aren’t even new on the PC, as Marty M. O’Hale’s treatise on Freecell illustrates. Casual games are as old as the act of play, most games, in fact, falling into the category we believe we created to hold the objects of our disdain. It’s the art of taking a game as seriously as we take EVE or living within it as fully as we live in Azeroth that are modern concepts, and practices that will remain as alien to most people as dressing like a cartoon character to have sex.
Now that most people in the Western world use a computer for some part of their day, it only makes sense that they bring their ideas of play with them into the virtual world they inhabit. And we may turn our noses up at solitaire and Peggle, but it’s important to remember that we didn’t start that fire. We didn’t make playing fun. We just pioneered a new way of doing it. Whether the other 90 percent play the same games we do or not is irrelevant. We’re all playing. That’s something.