Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Casual Play

My last post was, of course, about addiction, but addiction seems to be more and more of a problem these days. I think I have an idea about why.

MMORPG's and other games used to be about difficulty level. It was hard to get to the end, and only serious gamers would put in the time and effort to do so. For MMORPG's this was the grind, but for many other games it was just a difficulty curve that was fairly steep. This meant that being a gamer meant wasting a lot of your free time playing games. However, most games were beatable in X number of hours. Going way back, Super Mario Brothers could easily be beaten in an hour or less, and a couple hours if you played through every single level. Only the RPGs of the Nintendo era took much time to beat once mastered, and even then they pale in comparison to today's titles (the ability to save several game files independantly of the disc/cartridge did wonders to game length). In this era, casual gamers didn't really exist, in that there weren't really any hardcore gamers either. Gamers were just gamers, and consoles were light entertainment.

Now, though, there are distinct differences between casual and hard core gamers. Many games will be beaten eventually by everyone, merely because there is an inevitable end to the story, but most aren't difficult enough on the normal mode to prevent unskilled players from beating them. Eventually everyone will win at a modern game. For hardcore gamers there are achievements, multiplayer, hard modes, unlockables, and a handful of other things that they can spend more time than is required to beat the game to 100% complete the game.

MMORPG's are a different beast all together, but have similarities. In WoW, for instance, given enough time everyone will reach max level. In the old version of the game, though, not everyone would be able to raid without significant time investment. That is no longer true. In current versions of WoW, with the badge systems, someone who plays for a half hour a day can, in the course of a few months, get very good raid gear. This unlocks part of the game, end-game raiding, to almost everyone. The over-use of addons such as gearscore also allows casual gamers, some of whom are great and others who are not, the same access to raiding as hard-core gamers, sans of course membership in a raiding guild, which many casual gamers will not be able to achieve.

Maybe I should be happy that games are appealing to a casual audience, because I am becoming more and more a casual gamer due to time constraints. I can, in theory. play a game for a hour or so and still get somewhere in it. This is true now of many MMORPGs as well. However, the influx of casual gaming also cheapens the feeling that comes with beating a game or doing well. Being invited into a raid in WoW used to mean something, not its just to fill space. Finishing a difficult game used to mean something, now its not a feat unless its on hard mode or you have X Y and Z achievement. Maybe I'm just bitter that I don't have the time to spend enjoying games for a large portion of my day.


1 comment:

  1. I think the increasing accessibility of games is the biggest part of why they are still profitable. The hardcore market is solid, but it's not going to carry the industry alone.

    (Beside that, it's unhealthy to be hardcore all the time. The time investment alone could be something better spent elsewhere.)