Saturday, December 18, 2010

Casual or Core: What are We Talking About?

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to write a series of opinion pieces that went up on Gamezebo, a casual games review site with an industry-friendly focus. I encourage you to please check them out and leave comments if I've said anything worth responding to or disagreeing with. The links to all four parts are below as well as a selection from part I. Thanks readers!
The games industry has a dirty secret. We hold press conferences and give keynote speeches, put up billboards in Times Square and displays in 7-Elevens. On stage, online, and in every message that reaches public ears, we declare our steadfast dedication to making “core” games, or announce our bold decision to explore “casual” games. Yet in reality this is a dishonest message because every good game creator knows that there has never been a successful game that was either exclusively “core” or exclusively “casual.”

The problem stems from the popular notion that there are two discrete groups of people in the world: casual gamers and core gamers. When someone loosely refers to “casual gamers,” we all smile and nod our heads as though we know the specific group of people they’re talking about. Still, like all labels used to define large groups of people, this system quickly breaks down. At a recent press event, Microsoft caused many of its loyal fans to feel betrayed and alienated, largely due to a few misguided statements that relied heavily on this assumed difference between “core” and “casual” players. More on that later.

Surely, though, there must be some inherent truth to the core/casual divide that makes it so easy to grasp. The first solution is to stop assuming that the world is in black and white – if the original Game Boy could produce two additional shades of gray, then surely people and gamers must come in a few more. If we cease thinking of casual/core as a binary trait, and picture our players as existing on a number line somewhere between casual and core, we can pat ourselves on the back for not dealing in stereotypes, and we get a mental image like this...

Part 1: Core and Casual: What Are We Talking About?
Part 2: Initiation: Ever Played This Game?
Part 3: Taste: Everyone's a Critic
Part 4: My Kind of Gamer

New Thumbstruck posts are coming soon!

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