The Big Tent of Gaming

People who pride themselves on being “hardcore gamers” befuddle me, and the reason for that is because they like to segregate games like they’re dorky versions of George Wallace. They spend so much time trying to identify what is a game and what is a game that it bleeds into their dreams. And what have they established? As far as I can tell, Demon’s Souls is a game. Bejeweled is a game. Skyrim is a game but Peggle is a game. It’s confusing to me, because last time I played Peggle, it seemed kind of gamish to me. But then it gets really confusing when stuff like Madden or Call of Duty falls into the a game category, apparently on account of them being played by people who spend less than two hours a week on their consoles and occasionally insert their genitalia into the orifice of a member of the opposite sex, as opposed to just telling people they do. I think what it really comes down to is gamers don’t want to share their hobby with others. They don’t mind if something is popular, as long as it’s only popular with their inner circle. The moment it becomes something that the football quarterback, the librarian, or their mother starts to play, it’s not just theirs anymore. It becomes the embodiment of everything wrong with gaming. It becomes, gasp, a casual game.  THUNDER CLASP!

The Angry Birds series has gotten a ton of scorn from guys who claim to be hardcore gamers. I say claim, because I am of the opinion that you can’t be a hardcore gamer if you exclude a series just because it’s popular and your grandmother can play it just as well as you can. Some people think Angry Birds (ironically) represents the canary in the coalmine. The tinfoil hat wearing gamer crowd says that games like Angry Birds will destroy their precious “hardcore” games, because why make something only they like when they can make something everyone likes and make more money. Soon, stuff like Portal or Skyrim will cease to exist just because one series has banked nearly a billion dollars. Of course, in reality things don’t work that way. My Big Fat Greek Wedding made $400,000,000 off a $5,000,000 budget. If the logic of the sky-is-falling gaming crowd were to believed, Hollywood would have phased out big-budget blockbusters in favor of “casual” fare such as Greek Wedding. They didn’t. And Angry Birds is not going to stop your Skyrim sequels from being made.

Rovio made a series so well received that they were able to make nearly a billion dollars in revenue from the game and all related merchandise, spawn off a successful spin-off, and break down mainstream barriers. The fucking nerve of them, am I right?

I don’t care if you have a beef with a game based on how it plays. If you genuinely don’t like Angry Birds because you don’t find it to be a fun game, great. If you say you hate Angry Birds and will never play it because it’s a casual game and ruining the industry, to paraphrase Sarah Silverman: maybe you’re not a hardcore gamer? Maybe you’re a cunt? And the same goes for Madden, and Call of Duty, and 99 cent iPhone games, and Peggle, and every other successful franchise that is too successful for uptight game nerds. Why is it okay for you to love Shadow of the Colossus but not okay for a 65-year-old grandmother to like Wii Sports Bowling? The answer is it is okay for you both, and you’re just being a little bit of a douche.

I’m just as capable of veering off into the hateful “but gaming is my thing” category too. My mother plays Angry Birds now. My mother, who has never played a non-Wii console before. And, get this, she has more achievements and more stars in Angry Birds than I do. My mother, who can’t do math on paper because she can’t grasp the concept of carrying the one, is officially better than me at Angry Birds. When she showed me that she had three-starred an entire section of Angry Birds Seasons, I had two thoughts simultaneously pop into my head. Without exaggeration, there was a tiny voice in my head yelling “Wow, go Mom!” that was being shouted down by another, angrier voice screaming “THAT BITCH!” But, then came the really shameful moment. The one where I was absolutely stuck playing Angry Birds Space, and.. can’t believe I’m admitting this.. my mother beat the level for me. On her first try. And the look of pride on her face was so adorable that I couldn’t even concentrate on trying to figure out where the best place in the house to hang myself from was at.

Madden, a series that provably drives console sales and generates profits that go towards funding such new IPs as Mirror’s Edge, is bad for gaming. Because someone who doesn’t have an Xbox Live Gold account might enjoy it. I don’t get gaming culture sometimes.

That above story? It’s absolutely true. It happened. And it wouldn’t have happened if not for “casual games.” Yea, it’s an embarrassing story, but it’s a great one too. It’s seriously cracking up my boyfriend as we speak. And I am happy that something that is so important to me is now, in whatever small way, part of my mother’s life too. And it’s made her curious what she’s missed in the gaming realm up to this point. She’s 43-years-old, and never once while I was growing up asked to play Banjo Kazooie or Spyro the Dragon with me. So the other day, imagine my surprise when she strolled in and asked what I, as Indie Gamer Chick, was playing next. The fact that she was even curious, or that she called me Indie Gamer Chick, was in all honesty one of the coolest moments of my life. And then I showed her the game about sperm that I’m reviewing this week, and she bolted for the door.

I guess the point of this rant is gaming is a big tent. There’s room for everybody. If someone makes a game that everyone likes, it doesn’t mean games that only you will like will cease to be. I think it’s awesome that we live in era where a game like Angry Birds is enjoyed by 5-year-old girls or 75-year-old retired construction workers. I think it’s awesome that a “casual” platform like the Wii is sitting in the White House right now, occasionally being played by the fucking President of the United States. So when a company like Rovio scores a major hit with Angry Birds, tip your hat to them. They’re bringing people to our big tent, and there’s still plenty of room. And if they can make money by flooding big box stores with so much junk merchandise that it could knock the planet off its orbit, good for them on being able to capitalize on their success. Just because they have toys, t-shirts, and a television series in the works, don’t call them sellouts. I mean, it’s not like they’re George Lucas or anything. Now THAT guy is a sellout. I seriously doubt Rovio would ever, say, join forces with him and create an Angry Birds-Star Wars tie-in game and line of merchandise to complement it.


About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

21 Responses to The Big Tent of Gaming

  1. The elitist sneering is one of my most disliked features of gaming culture. I could ramble at length, but 12.30am is not the time.

  2. Seandood says:

    Some people criticize the the fact that I only have a certain amount of hours (or minutes) a day to play video games (like, um… most other people). Another thing I’ve heard is that retro games — even though I played most as an overly nourished 90s kid when they were still current — are basically “casual” themselves.

    Nope… it HAS to be 14+ hours of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, or any other game that’s automatically addicting enough to make me forget about my life. Oh, and even if you play the aforementioned games for, say… an hour… nope! You’re still too “casual.”

    Sure, I could easily turn around and argue “Screw you! I knew what Doom was 10 years before the first CoD even came out!” But again, the “I have limited time” thing — these arguments of specific classifications are pointless (and immature).

    But kudos for calling “bullshit” on the terminology. In my mind, there are people who play video games and people who don’t. Opening the tent to everyone also dispels awful myths like “video games cause ALL the violence,” and so-on.

    • Mike says:

      You know, I used to think I preferred retro games because I’m a gaming hipster, but I think at my age those games hit the sweet spot between being engaging enough to hold my interest but not so engaging that I need to give up sleep, friends, or hobbies to enjoy them.

  3. Justin says:

    I want to liquefy this article. I want it in liquid form.
    And then I want to suck it up into a syringe and inject it into the foreheads of some people-I-know-who-will-remain-nameless.

    I’ll have to settle with sending them the URL.

  4. Miroslav says:

    I’m not exactly sure what’s the problem here? Is it the fact that some people have BAD reasons for disliking games, or is it the fact that some people simply dislike casual games? Because, you see, the first one is definitively bad — if someone hates a game simply because it’s popular then that’s just stupid. However, if someone, on the other hand, after playing all casual games in the world, concludes that they are all stupid, then what’s the problem with that?

    For after all, only few develop taste. Casual games are for *anyone*, that’s why they are dumb, hardcore games are for those with taste (or at least those who can appreciate them), and that’s why they are good.

    • I’m not sure how it’s possible to write off all casual games as being bad, because how does one define casual? Is it all the stuff that Popcap makes? Is it anything that costs under X amount of money?

      By the way, Brian and I are honestly not sure if

      “Casual games are for *anyone*, that’s why they are dumb, hardcore games are for those with taste (or at least those who can appreciate them), and that’s why they are good.”

      was sarcasm or not. I’m hoping for sarcasm myself, because I hold out hope that nobody could possible say and mean anything so retarded.

      • mirosurabu says:

        They don’t have to define casual. They can refer to whatever they want — flash games, Facebook games, PopCap games, iPhone games, Wii games, XBLIG games, indie games or all of them — it’s up to them.

        So, for example, if I play through complete AppStore catalogue and conclude that the best of what AppStore has to offer is far worse than a mediocre PS3 game, what’s wrong with that? (of course, to do so would require a great deal of effort, but that’s beside the point)

        And no, the last sentence was definitively not a sarcasm! But I suppose it’s a little hard to get one’s head around it. The point I was making is that not everyone can appreciate higher pleasure; it’s impossible. Casual games are by definition casual, which means they aren’t as engaging as non-casual games are. And this, this stems from the fact that they are designed for *anyone*, which is for people who have less time, who are less concerned about games. Higher pleasure — at least in games — by definition EATS TIME. It’s something that you want to do all the time. That’s not something everyone wants to do, only select few.

        • Jim Perry says:

          “Casual games are by definition casual, which means they aren’t as engaging as non-casual games are”

          Incorrect. They can be just as engaging, just in smaller chunks.

          “Higher pleasure — at least in games — by definition EATS TIME”

          By your definition, which isn’t necessarily the correct one.

          • That word itself implies it. 😉

            • Argamae says:

              To say that casual games are not as engaging as “non-casual” games is the stupidest thing I have heard in a long time. And the one absolutely at odds with the reality around me. They have been named “casual” because everyone–non-gamers and gamers alike–can pick them up and play them without having to remember a specific jump-kick-combo or re-read some obscure npc background info to understand what is going on. But it does not by definition imply that these are not as engaging as trying to get the 120th star in Super Mario 64.

              • Chess is easy to pick up and play but it’s a hardcore game, and that’s despite the fact that it can be enjoyed casually.

                Casual implies lack of concern. It means to not give a fuck. In other words, it means lack of passion. How hard is to accept this?

                • Again, it implies lack of concern TO YOU. It’s your definition, not a universal one.

                  To me, ‘casual’ says ‘fun’ and ‘hardcore’ says ‘work’. ‘Hardcore’ also frequently says ‘pretension’, as it’s usually bandied about by people who tie their self-esteem to how much better they are at a certain game than other people.

                  I very rarely play the games that people like you label casual games, but I wholeheartedly consider myself a casual player, despite spending a quite ludicrous amount of time thinking about and writing about games, because I play for enjoyment. It is a casual activity. As soon as a game experience becomes ‘hardcore’ it also becomes work, and that’s completely missing the point.

                  That’s MY definition of ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’. For people it’: Casual = enjoys games. Hardcore = pretentious twat. Roughly the same applies to the games themselves.

  5. Steve says:

    Games on the phone and the Wii really allowed the non-traditional “gamer” to become associated with games, and to be honest it is great for games as a whole and for people. Games allow for people to have a common interest again. Board games were popular for the aspect of bringing the family to the table. Now, with the ever-increasingly mobile environment we are in, phones allow for the inter-connectivity to play games with our family and friends across the globe. Games with leaderboards and online multi-player have truly allowed family game time to come back into play, and for that the casual game has done more for society than any “hardcore” title.

  6. drake1993 says:

    wokkie bird is freaking awesome .

  7. Jimmy Page says:

    Oddly I’ve always been a bit confused about why this whole Casual vs hardcore thing started. I mean I looked at the Wii and had people say it was a casual console, yet it has many old school things including the modern version of light gun games. The wii hasn’t evolved into a glorified excel spreadsheet of numbers so because its like all gaming before its now casual ? That seems to be the argument anyway.

    The only issue is with what people are calling “Casual” games is the idea that’s propagating in companies is the idea of go mass market or go home. With some Mass Market games its fine like Angry birds (which I have installed in my web browser no less) and Wii sports but the problem comes when companies try to convert their existing games over.
    Resident Evil 6 being slammed recently for giving up its routes for action gaming and an attempt to gain more people.
    Ninja Gaiden 3 becoming a little bit of a joke from what was a game that chewed up and spat mot players out.
    The Fact EA have hired Anita Sarkeesian to help DICE develop Mirrors Edge 2 because they believe by putting her control and mechanic ideas into the game (note : not character ideas) that they will gain more sales because um …………. yeh no-one is quite sure but maybe from her fans or something.

    The worrying thing is how gaming is 3 tier almost now in terms of companies.
    You have the AAA makers at the top
    The studios who are independent but many consider “Too big to be indie”
    The small indie studios.

    The problem being the gap between the two lower tiers and the top as there no real middle ground games anymore, no games that are just made with the idea of making some money but not raking it in. With many of the AAA houses focussing on titles to rake in the money without looking at the merit of the series.

    THQ turning what was meant to be a very good follow up to Frontlines fuel of war into a COD style ripp off then closing the studio when the game didn’t sell well enough despite being the best selling game that month.

    Or THQ getting violition to abandon work on the Red Faction Franchise which brought in geomod because it wasn’t selling well enough despite still being profitable.

    Crytek not wanting to put out Timesplitters 4 because “everyone just wants realistic military shooters”

    The rather legitimate worry I can see being expressed is that by appealing to the masses and not diversifying just hooking onto the next big thing gaming will slowly grind to a stop. The FPS market being a great example of how games are all going for the same theme with few (Xotic and Painkiller HD being two of the only recent arcade shooters as such).

    People are worried because Double fine studios can’t get to make Brutal Legend 2 but yet there’s a studio out there who have got funding to make Soulja boy the game, all on the idea of mass appeal.

    “Casual” games themselves are not a problem they have always existed. Heck Rob the Robot on NES was a “Casual” game in essence but its the modern market with the amount of investment games require and the fact some publishers just don’t get it especially as to why people buy and enjoy certain franchises. Its kind of the fear that every company will think gamers are dumb and try to turn every game into a game for the lowest level. some people like chess, but if some companies made chess and constantly updated it every year you can bet by now it would have 50% more explosion. Which would admittedly be slightly better to watch, but it would change the game from what it is.

    It is however stupid to attack games for being “casual” games unless the game is part of a franchise that’s never tried to appeal to casual gamers. I’m guessing if some “casual” games suddenly brought in very complex mechanics the audience for them might be slightly annoyed to see such a radical change. The fault is with “casual” games as they have a place and probably always will in gaming but with companies perceptions.

  8. Argamae says:

    I am certainly not opposed to games that companies like Popcap make. To the contrary, I love ’em for the unencumbered fun they provide when there is some time to kill. On the other hand I also adore those “big” games that require huge amounts of time and/or real skill to play and get immorsed in. I am also not a fanboy of any specific console nor do I favor a specific game genre, theme or franchise. Super Mario, Dead Island or Need For Speed? Great, bring’em all on! Sure, I got some favorites, but nonetheless I am open towards any game, no matter how cute, gory or weird it looks. Which is reflected in my game library, where Manhunt rubs it’s disc case against Viva Pinata.
    But despite all this, I am really fed up with most of those browser games which are being constantly offered on the social networking platforms of today. And I admit that I sneer at those “games” most of which are copies of copies of copies. Like a gum that has been chewed on way beyond every last bit of flavor in it. Those kinds of “games”, well, the majority of them anyway, require no skill or thought at all. And then manage to reduce even this by offering success with money. I can’t bring myself to really consider them “games”.

  9. Dangus says:

    Seriously though, Fuck Star Wars. People who “love” the franchise are lame as fuck. They get shitty Star Wars tattoos and tumble photos of Star Wars, because Star Wars is the epitome of cool since being a nerd is mainstream and Star Wars is entry-level nerd. Basically what I’m trying to say is, Fuck Star Wars.

  10. CJ says:

    I hate all games released after 1999. Does that make me a “hardcore”, or “casual” gamer? 😉

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