Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Art of Casual

Being a casual gamer is much like being a casual hobbyist. Those who follow it with a passion, gaze down on you in disdain, and those who don't understand the hobby, think it a waste of time.

But in all honesty, how much of a hobby is gaming? Is TV watching a hobby?

The concern comes from the fact that games are moving from challenge, to easy for everyone. When the only difference between beating or losing a game is time investment and not skill, what makes that a hobby as opposed to just mindless entertainment?

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with it either, I'm simply saying that it can no longer be defined as a game. There is no challenge, no discovery... nothing to make it worth anything other than waste time and relax.

Many people out there are currently thinking, "But Pangoria, when I come home from my busy job, I don't WANT to think. I want to veg with my favorite game."

What I want to say to every casual player right now that is not performing in the top 1% of the game's raid scene, you are not playing a game. You are enjoying interactive media.

I think we need to really get away from calling everything that has graphics and a controller of some sort a game. It implies skill and challenge to call it a game.

Now breathe deeply before you start ranting or passing my statements off as elitist. I'm looking at it as someone who likes the mindlessness.

I had a recent conversation that has been playing around in my head for awhile. It was about an unmentionable MMO, and how it was useless. I paraphrase, "There is no challenge, it requires active time investment taking away from interacting with family, and its "end game" amounts to nothing more than either yelling at people to do something, or following someone's yelling."

After reaching level 80, we found ourselves bored. We would reroll, and play together, challenging ourselves, making restrictions on our game play.  Doing instances with only the two of us. But in the end, we got just as bored as before.

Again I paraphrase, "At least when I'm watching TV, I can just listen to it in the background while I play a game with my son. Or I can cook while I do it, or any number of things. Even then, the shows I watch, I end up learning something from them. LIke CSI, I learned that smiling helps suppress the gag reflex, and that works."

So I brought up the point that the unmentionable MMO had spreadsheet to maximize information, and stats studying, the math involved by those who did it, surely had value!

Again, I paraphrase the response, "I remember doing statistics class, and the teacher handed out baseball cards, and we did all sorts of calculations based on it. We could see why some players were good, because of the numbers." And after some conversation they continued, "But the numbers on the card were real numbers, those players actually did those things. It wasn't just fantasy."

So somehow, because it wasn't make believe, it had more merit. I compared a gamer to a golfer. Saying there were both just as likely to skip work to play their choice of hobby. The answer I got was, "Yeah, but they guy who is skipping to play golf, is probably playing with his Boss."

So a true gamer, is still viewed lowly by people, but the casual interactive media consumer? Thanks to iPod touch, and iPhones, and Android phones, we are going to start seeing an acceptance of those who enjoy interactive media.

Us Gamers though, will still be viewed as playing make believe.