Wednesday, September 14, 2011

the strange case of the casual gamer - part 2

our last [first] post in this series ends like this:

Casual gamer, as any audience, brings expectations and experiences. Which experiences they bring? What can we assume they already know? Who are they and what should we know about them to properly create a game that adresses their needs?

A good game teaches skills with high perceived value for the player. That is the subject of the next post in the series...

so, now it's time for the second post. the one that talks about the perceived value for the player... our post, just like this other one, is based on Nick Fortugno article. so the casual gamers we are talking about, at least for now, are the ones that plays casual downloadable games from internet portals. Who are they?

Basically moms. Moms that like to read Stephen King, for instance. And that is why you see lots of terror themed, hidden object, games in top 10 lists of portals. Couldn't be further from the the typical male teenager or young adult hardcore player that buys console games... to illustrate that Nick says that
Most hardcore gamers have dedicated hardware to fulfill their needs. From the last post we learned that the audience brings experiences and expectations. An interface full of commands and complicated controls using a specific controller or even a keyboard are ok for a hardcore gamer. For AAA developers that is also a problem. we are not talking about experience only, they come with expectations too. See the hardcore gamer in the previous image? He has all that dedicated hardware and he expects that the game supports it(special controls, multiple monitors, addon creation, ...) !

On the other hand, our hands, casual gamers came to games first as internet users. They did not, still don't, think about computer as a game-playing device as much as a web-surfing device.
AJ Kelton makes a nice list of things Nick says about the experience and expectations that comes with casual gamers. One of the things that I see as very important, and exemplifies perfectly what we are trying to state, and Kelton don't talk about it is the left button rule. The left button rule states that the only input allowed is the mouse and only moving it and clicking with the left button.

As Nick says, "One clear point is that casual gamers came to games first as internet users [...] the dominance of the left mouse button is unsurprising given the way that casual gamers were first exposed to games". 

Surfing the web doesn't require anything other than clicking the left button of the mouse! Casual games have evolved a lot from their first hits with more strategy, new genres and even going social massive multiplayer. But, the left button rule stand strong after 10+ years...

This leads us to one of Nick's conclusions: "Casual games appeal to all kinds of players, particularly non-gamers, which creates a set of particular concerns and constraints that influence the design of these games". So: mechanics must be intuitive, interfaces must be clear and achievements is prized over struggle. 

After these whole text what do you think is of high perceived value for casual gamers. Comments?

Since Nick's article in 2008, these so-called casual games evolved and gone multiplatform. They are now all over facebook, with social games, and cell phones in mobile games for iPhone and Android (not to mention in tables like the iPad). That is the subject of the next post... games as services.