There’s no denying that there’s a difference between gaming now and gaming 20 years ago. Adventure games, platformers, and turn based RPGs are just three examples of genres that have had their time in the spot light and have since been overshadowed by something new and different.
These days casual gamers get all the flak from core gamers because of how much things have changed over the years. Does “casual” really need to be an insult? While I like making people feel lesser just as much as the next self-absorbed nut job, I have to question whether or not all of the hate needs to go toward the casual gaming crowd.
I’ve been playing video games for a long time. My first console was a NES, which I got in 1989 for Christmas. It was the best Christmas ever until I got both a Dreamcast, Saturn, and a copy of Monster Rancher 2 (PS1) for Christmas in 2001.
My point is, I’ve always been heavily entrenched in gaming. I started very young (at the age of three), and maintained an active interest in video games and their news throughout my entire life. 23 years is a long time to be into one thing almost exclusively.
It would be an understatement to say that I feel superior to those just getting into gaming or people with different tastes. No offense, but it’s not something I can help. Generations of console wars and the competitive nature to gaming as a whole is the main contributor to this mindset, and it’s hard to shake. Any core gamer will say the same thing.
Some people draw a parallel between gaming elitists/core gamers and bigots. Both have a hate for a demographic based on old ideals and lash out when given the chance (especially under protective wing of internet anonymity), but I can’t really say that elitists are ignorant. Their real weakness lies in the unwillingness to accept change, even as the genres and mechanics that they’ve come to love slowly die out and are replaced by something else.
The term “casual gamer” is hard to define, because everyone has their own definition. To some, it means someone who only plays certain genres. To others, it’s someone who simply enjoys games instead of taking an active interest in them. My definition entails both of these.
Is it wrong to dislike someone for being a casual gamer? Yes. Is it easier to look down on them than it is to vote with your dollar and refrain from purchasing games from developers and publishers that have let you down? It’s hard to admit, but this is certainly also a yes.
Things Are Changing
The phrase “Why change what’s not broke?” comes to mind, but the video game industry is consumer-driven. Developers (and publishers) want to make money, and where the money is changes from generation to generation. For example, platformers and Japanese-style (turn based) RPGs used to be the big genres in the industry. These days they’re overshadowed by FPS and social games.
For older gamers, it’s easy to question where the industry is going and whether or not it’s really going in the right direction. Those new to video gaming don’t really have the experience to wonder where the industry as a whole is going — they just know they have games to play, and that’s good enough for them. But it’s not good enough for me.
When you’ve dedicated a huge portion of your life toward something you love, you instinctively don’t like it when someone else comes along and changes the basis of what you’ve come to feel close to and enjoy. This is the first reason most core gamers do not like those on the more casual side of the spectrum. The problem with this is that the industry is the one doing the changes in order to appeal to the casual market — the casual market is not the one forcing the gaming industry to change the way it does things.
It’s wrong to dislike people who sorta-kinda enjoy the same hobby that I do, but at the same time I’m not seeing the types of games I used to enjoy being made as much as they used to be. I’m not seeing the vast variety of settings and stories that we used to get. While games are getting to be more technologically advanced and grand from a visual standpoint, I feel it’s more difficult to get immersed in them now. It is very easy to blame these changes on the casual audience, which is why you see so much disdain from core gamers when you bring up the word “casual”.
The real blame lies in the lowering of standards and the willingness of the industry to shift toward the market that will happily accept these lower standards. Alienating your core fanbase is acceptable these days because the larger market lies in those willing to accept less meat with their potatoes. It used to be the other way around.
It’s easy to say “Well, gee. Maybe you’re just growing out of video games,” but I’m still passionate about them. I still find titles that I enjoy, I’m still having fun and seeking new challenges. I don’t feel I’m growing out of them, nor do I feel like my tastes are stuck in a time warp. I just feel like there’s something missing, and I’m scared I’m not ever going to get it back.
It might be unfair to look at casual gamers with disdain, but looking elsewhere to place the blame only makes things more difficult. Why does there need to be blame in the first place? It’s unpleasant to explain, and is even worse in practice because it’s something that is not going to go away.