anders tonfeldt

Casual games are detrimental?
2014-05-15 10:58

I recently made a comment on the excellent blog of Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb software fame. He made a blog post about casual games and how self-elected and self-governed "cultral elites" want to somehow "fix" the casual games market. I agree with him that they're mostly a bunch of tossers, yet somehow I find myself relating (strongly) to what they're saying. My comment turned out to be.. epic, length-wise. So I figured I'd post it here as well.

This post will risk becoming preachy, but I'll attempt to balance it since I do fundamentally agree with you.

You're right. Just about your entire post is a representation of how I see it as well. Who the hell are we to say what others are supposed to play and not play? I grew up with interactive text adventures and have felt generally snobby about the adventure game genre ever since. On the large part I believe the complexity and depth declined sharply with the introduction of graphics and with only relatively few exceptions (but there are -many- exceptions to this "rule") remains a hollowed out husk of its former glory days.

Sierra and early lucasart games aren't the fathers of the genre, they're the grand-children of the genre. There's been a lot of talk about "cow clickers" lately and, while I did find the graphical interfaces beautiful (they were), that's how I came to see the graphical games after being sorely disappointed by them.

Yet, who the heck am I to tell anyone what the height of adventure games was? If you enjoyed them then isn't that enough? Does anyone even care that I sit here dreaming of the days of "proper adventure games" when Broken Age is being released? This applies across the board, everyone has their own defacto standard that they compare everything else to. If your opinion differs from mine then you're obviously WRONG! And on the internet!

Now then, herein lies my problem. I just don't like the vast majority of these casual games. Every time I finish a game on mobile devices I've got a real problem finding anything to replace it. The revival of gamebooks kept me occupied for quite some time, but now I've gone through all of them and they were "casual" to begin with compared to "proper" interactive fiction. But that is my problem, not a problem of those that fleetingly install whatever is currently trending and having a great time with them.

I also, as much as it pains me to say it, think it's detrimental to the longterm viability of the industry. It conditions the target audience to go for instant gratification and nothing else. You want to see that level pop, you want to finish that hand of cards, then you want your reward and you want to continue. Winning, tiger blood style! That's fine. But the term "tl;dr" comes to mind.

The conditioning of not just these casual games but also the websites, movies and tv-shows with constant quick cuts and minute long storylines encourage this mentality. Arguing about the value of reading above playing games (even though they're not mutually exclusive) goes beyond the scope of this post. But having people say "lol, tl;dr" to a book or game because it contains more than a couple of pages of text? Yeah, I don't see that as positive. At all. For anyone.

We both know what the target audience of your games is, it isn't the candy crush youths of today who wouldn't even grace them with a glance. When an entire genre (or genres), developers and their work is dismissed by a "tl;dr" then it -is- negative. It has nothing to do with RPGs being superior to cowclickers, it's just that nobody should ever judge anything until they know what they're talking about. With knowledge and experience comes wisdom. But would they have been your target audience to begin with, whether candy crush existed or not? Chicken and the egg.

Does this mean we're morally/ethically/whatevery obliged to do something about it? No, that isn't our right or responsibility. But with every person we condition other genres and game types are being relegated into the area of "nope". Is that a good thing or not? Zork was the candy crush saga of the 80s, but is one superior to the other? It's impossible for me to be the judge of that since I'm naturally biased. I'm just tired of seeing my favourite past-time vanish before me, game by game, year by year, and it's making me grumpy. Grumble grumble..


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