Thursday, 11 September 2008

Why I called myself a casual gamer

My first memory: My brothers put a cassette into a box. On a screen in front, horizontal lines appeared, flashing and scrolling. Eventually, this gave way to a white screen with black lines - my brothers were somehow controlling lines on the screen! This was a simple drawing toy on the Spectrum and I went on to enjoy the games I was allowed to play and saved up pocket money to buy one of my own.

My first console was a Megadrive, bought late in its life from a schoolfriend and I own every 'successful' console from NES to Gamecube, excluding xBox. Dreamcast and Gamecube were bought within 2 days of UK release (and GBA within a week of Japanese release).

I've stayed away from the current generation, though I'm interested in buying an xBox360 for Dead Rising, various xBox games and Braid and would love to get a Wii for Warioware and Super Mario Galaxy - which I successfully know next to nothing about - but money and time conspired against it. (Ironically, I currently spend too much time on certain flash games.)

I actually found Dead Rising's save system added significantly to my enjoyment of it (having played it for maybe 20 hours on a friend's console) yet I hate games that ask me to redo elements with no variation - a reason I stopped playing Resident Evil.

I admire brevity in games, but if I find one I love, I can find myself playing levels hundreds of times or replaying the game once every so often.

I desire simplicity of rules and controls, yet want the game to spin them into varied settings and if puzzles and other challenges remain simple for a long time, that bores me.

I prefer experience-orientated games rather than goal-orientated ones.

I've never been able to beat Street Fighter 2, but could beat Samba de Amigo on the secret 'Super Hard' mode, sometimes getting 100% hit rates.

Back when I was working at the cash'n'carry, I was willing to spend hundreds of pounds to fund my videogame entertainment.

I long to work within the games industry, yet when I answered Chris Bateman's questionnaire, I decided that I was 'casual'.

I believe that I want simpler, more immediate games. I can only thank those who choose to make their game shorter, rather than padding out the length - Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin seemed perfect to me, despite the slight backlash at the time.

Maybe it's a modern-day ADD-ish nature but I want a game to clearly tell me what it's about. I don't want to spend 3 hours immersing myself into a new world, only to find that I don't enjoy the mechanics. Let the start of the game clearly relay the ensuing experience.

Perhaps that's why I play so many flash games - they maintain simplicity of control and immediate feedback about what the game will be like. Brevity is the rule, rather than the exception, with many taking 20 minutes to complete.

I guess that's why I consider myself a casual player - I want simplicity, brevity and focused intent. Some quirkiness - to differentiate it from other experiences - is essential. To me, these seem to be things that 'hardcore' games are forgetting about, with sequels packing in new controls or features rather than refining those that exist (or even removing superfluous ones) whilst the industry as a whole tends towards iteration, tweaking existing ideas rather than risk time and money on previously unseen mechanics.

Lack of difficulty or a forgiving nature aren't strictly necessary - if I'm playing with novel mechanics and realise why I failed - with success remaining a definite possibility - I'm happy to fail 20 or more times before success. Cirplosion's final challenge and Unirally's Gold-medal stunt tracks are testament to that.

Simplicity, brevity and a clear focus on something new. Sorry for the lack of the 2nd in this post.


Mogly said...

I'm not sure if in my opinion I agree. I see what you mean and it was interesting to read your view in the way you worded it, but I like the idea of a sophisticated, strange game. One that you spend three hours getting to know before you know the mechanics.

But then again... do I really? If I think about how I play games.. I tend to give up at a tough hurdle. Final fantasy 10 for example, I played for a bit, enjoyed it, but got stuck and gave up. Later, a friend and I carried on with it, and we managed to get past that hurdle and played the game for ages.

The reason I opposed what you said in my first paragraph, is because this idea I have for quite a complex flash game. I like the idea of it being back handed and that if the player can't get into it, then no bother - someone else will. A game that would be an experience.

But I have yet to make and therefore play that game.... so i'm not sure on my own view.


Behrooz 'Bezman' Shahriari said...

Well, I'm not trying to say that "simplicity, brevity and a clear focus on something new" are the key ingredients to a great game - just that that's what I, personally, look for.

Hence the title - I feel that those are elements that you find in a more 'casual' game and that a lot of the hardcore market would disagree with some of those qualities.

Any FF-lover certainly isn't after brevity and FF and Dragon Quest rank highly in the charts each time a new iteration is released.

I'd need to know more before being able to imagine your 'sophisticated, strange game' idea better.

The idea's certainly novel and thus intrigues me - I've not heard of such a thing! But for a game to take so long to 'reveal' itself, there's need to be some assurance that the payoff is actually worth it.

As humans, we have limited time and I don't want to spend hours on something unless I'm either enjoying it this minute or know it'll result in something enjoyable/beneficial later on.

With exercise, study etc. I'm prepare to put in the time, since I practically KNOW that that'll increase my life-enjoyment in the long-term. But unless I already had prior information for various folk whose opinions I respected, I doubt I'd be willing to take the time to play through a 3-hour introduction.

Of course, if you mean that the game is enjoyable from the start but that the mechanics evolve and shift, only fully revealing themselves after that much time, then that's another matter.

Maybe my primary desire is 'immediate fun' - specially with flash games.