After having finished 24 hours of gaming for Extra Life this weekend, I had a ton of time to think (and be a little sleep-deprived) about gaming and how much time I’ve been able to (or rather, not able to) devote to it lately. Additionally, this week’s blog post is partially inspired by Duane at Creative Traction’s recent blog post on a similar subject.
Rise of Casual
The rise of casual/social/mobile gaming has been pretty phenomenal in the last couple of years. Maybe more accurately, it has exploded – something that almost goes without saying, to anyone in the industry. In most places, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t play digital games in one form or another – something that would have been very different just a few years ago. Even some parents who would scold their kids for spending too much time going through Mario’s latest adventure are now addicted to games like Angry Birds.
Along with more accessible platforms, improved design and several generations of people now growing up in a “digital age”, casual gaming has not only made its way into the mainstream: it has nearly become the mainstream. While my point also focuses on social games like those found on Facebook or even some console games like Wii Sports; for the sake of argument, let’s just bundle all that into “casual games”.
Games & Time Management
Probably one of the stronger reasons for why casual gaming has become so popular is the concept of managing what little time people seem to have these days. This is perhaps particularly resounding with most adults: people with careers, romantic relationships, a social lives and a plethora of other things prioritized over playing video games. Simply put, casual games offer “bite-sized” experiences where someone can play for a few minutes, put the game down, and not feel like they’re missing out on anything by not continuing. It’s a great concept for people wanting a little bit of entertainment/distraction and nearly the complete opposite of most blockbuster AAA titles today; games that often feature engaging story lines, character development, etc. These games are and almost always have been, more akin to a dramatic television series in regards to time commitment. And while some people are glad to watch several episodes of Game of Thrones in one seating, many people aren’t.
However, that doesn’t mean “dramatic, immersive” gaming is dying. Instead, it means the segregation and subsequent quality bar for these games is increasing. Sure, there will always be those that feel like the “Bud Light” of games – mainstream games that work out well for most people who like certain generalized genres of video games (FPS, RPG, racing, etc.). However, particularly for those people who do have time to allocate to traditional, more immersive gaming; there’s no time to waste on mediocrity.
The value proposition
There have been some pretty awesome games from recent years that while perhaps not as eccentric or “out-there” as certain indie games, have nevertheless raised the bar in a given genre and presented a unique value. To be fair, there have also been some awesome indie games that have kept me going for a few hours on end! However, I can’t say there have been mediocre experiences that made me go back for more. Major publisher/developer or 2-man team, if there’s an experience that wasn’t up to par to that of another game – it didn’t take up much of what little gaming time I have nowadays. Sure, innovative gameplay is a good and often-used value proposition; but it’s certainly not the only one out there.
In the end, that’s what it really comes down to. Most modern gamers don’t have an infinitely expendable amount of time to spend on games. Most of them aren’t going to be very satisfied replaying the same experience they played last year (or last month for that matter) either. They’re smarter about what they’re spending money on. Best (or worst) of all, they’re vocal on social media about what they like or don’t like.