On the one hand, I don’t get the use of “casual” as an insult. “Casual” could reasonably translate to “sane,” particularly in the MMO world. They spend only a few hours a week playing? Yes, that’s a good idea. Games designed for casual players are more accessible, have a comfortable learning curve, and can be enjoyed in relatively small increments.

On the other hand, I completely get why “hardcore” players do not want casuals in their (our) games. Some games require a heavy investment to really pay off, and there are levels of play you cannot reach without practice. If I am trying to play at those levels, I will not be happy about having teammates or opponents who are just there casually. There is a difference between shooting hoops in the driveway and playing basketball in a competitive league. Relatedly, hardcore players reasonably scorn games designed for casual players because they are often shallow, with a low skill ceiling.1

“Mastery” is the concept I think I want here. Casual players are there to play, to have a bit of fun. Hardcore players are there to master the game, and that is where their fun is. Neither is a wrong way to approach playing games, although one might be ill-suited to particular game, and conflicts arise when you put both sorts of players on the same field, whether in direct competition or simple interaction from playing with the same toys.2

Many of the best games have both casual and hardcore appeal. They can be enjoyed with a minimal investment and enjoyed further with greater investment, without making the casual players feel like they are being excluded. But you know Sturgeon’s Revelation, and those relatively few games are “the best” because they capture that rare pinnacle.

: Zubon

(1) Casual players can reasonably scorn games designed for hardcore players because they are often unnecessarily complicated, with a huge investment required for limited reward beyond the cognitive dissonance that it must have been worth it.

(2) Good PvP matching systems help separate those two groups to make competitive games. Oddly, the market is one place where casuals and hardcores can interact to mutual benefit. Hardcore speculators love profiting off naive casuals, and naive casuals can immediately cash in for what they consider a decent price without even noticing that they could have gotten 12.4% more if they had researched market trends. Capitalism, ho!

6 thoughts on “Casuals”

  1. Casual absolutely translates to sane and well balanced because that’s what we generally try to go for at least that’s what I’ve seen in every game. Casuals make up the majority, they ask for quality of life improvements instead of the constant moar dps moar raids moar content nonsense, they try to improve the games they are in so that there is plenty to do so no one gets bored. Almost none of the games out today have a good payoff so the hardcore crowd really aren’t taking a long hard look at what is happening instead they are spending most of their time in forums and chat rooms telling casuals how terrible they are while the hardcore crowd continues to let the game slip by and not do anything positive to contribute to improving it by forcing the hand of the developers or publishers. There are more hardcore apologists that let terrible things happen to games in the name of making things more difficult than in the casual crowd because the casuals aren’t seeking to making things more challenging they are seeking to make things more diverse and fun.

  2. I agree with your general sentiments, but have to say that either you’re missing a possible class of casual or need an additional term. I’m casual compared in terms of play time compared to most of my guildies but I’m comparatively hard core compared to folks that like say, Candy Crush. I actually read up on the classes I play for about an hour to 4 hours a week, depending on the week, because when I do get in game, I want to play well. I don’t know if that is casually hard core or some other term, but just because I don’t want to put in a lot of time in game, does not mean that I am satisfied with crappy performance on my part. Performing at a relatively high level is how I have fun. I’m totally a fan of challenging content, I just prefer that it not require enormous investments in time, or at least that said investment can be split up over a longer period of time (no 4 hour sessions multiple times a week req’d). That said, when I play single player games, I typically knock em to easy because I’m playing for the story, and I kick up the difficulty if it’s way too easy.

    1. Or how about the converse, where someone like me is willing to play games for 2-3+ hours every day after work (and go nuts on the weekends) but don’t really sweat it over high level I play? Or like to play at a super-competitive level either?

      People keep telling me I absolutely fall within the ‘hardcore’ category, but I don’t -feel- very hardcore. My personal standards are high, but I rarely enforce the same standards on anyone else. Nor do I obsess over seeking mastery, I just mostly let it happen naturally, if it does.

      I generally don’t crank difficulty up, I leave it on average or crank it down, even. I gravitate towards easy no or low stress content because I rather relax when I play a game, rather than get worked up and all adrenalized.

  3. There’s a phenomenon among geeks that could be summed up like this:

    – If you’re less serious about something than me, you’re a casual, a noob, or incompetent.

    – If you’re more serious about something than me, you have no life, you’re obsessive, or have a mental disorder.

    People can be very uncomfortable dealing with people who don’t approach something the same way they do; basic human behavior, one supposes. So we find ways to categorize those who see something differently, that gives us a feeling of authority, power, control, or superiority over them.

    1. Tori that phenomenon doesn’t exist solely amongst the geeks.

      Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? – George Carlin

      R.I.P. George.

  4. Just going to say, Recettear reference noted and applauded! Capitalism, ho!

    That was a great little game, despite its numerous flaws.

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