Casual Gaming

I cannot class myself as a hard-core gamer, yes when I was younger I owned a play-station 2 and did play lots of formula 1 racing games among other things (I owned a steering wheel and pedals), but today I am part of that ever growing group many “real” gamers seem to dislike, the casual gamer. I, unfortunately, am one of those people who cannot stop playing Candy Crush, and Disney’s equivalent Frozen game and have to openly admit have spent money buying extra lives when I just cannot wait half an hour to play again. As in the article Jon posted in the most recent New of the Week,,I still believe that the category of gamers I am a part of has not received the academic attention it needs. Many still view casual games and gaming as simple and inconsequential, but with its ever growing popularity (and profitability) surely more attention needs to be given to it, especially with regards player privacy which seems to be a huge issue across many different digital media forms at the moment, not just in games.

It still slightly freaks me out that suddenly after searching for possible Canucks tickets that all ads, whether than be on Facebook or that are incorporated in a game, are to do with tickets for NHL matches. The fact that casual games such as Candy Crush use information you give them, or they can gather from your playing, needs to be discussed at greater lengths. As mentioned in the article, your age, gender, consumption activities, the hours you play, the people you play with: are all elements along with many others that are seamlessly gathered behind the scenes and used to develop new levels, new items, and new games that can then be sold back to you at a premium. With such a high amount of personal data being gathered and the amount of money this industry is now making, my question is why more attention is not being given to the protection of us casual gamers?

7 responses to “Casual Gaming”

  1. laurabrown
    I’d also like to mention just how fascinating this is to me, as a casual gamer. Yes I will spend the odd 99p (not sure what the equivalent would be in Canadian dollars!) on gaining more lives in Candy Crush, but the amount of money people have spent here on a game many view as “the worst video game ever” seems crazy! Maybe that’s just me, not understanding the real importance and history these games hold.

  2. judmicha

    As someone who was once skeptical of “casual games” and Candy Crush in particular, I must say that is an incredibly addictive game. Since I was introduced to it I find myself playing it obsessively and even replaying brilliant swipes in my mind during vacant moments. Though at least up to now I have avoided spending any money on it (not that I haven’t come close).

    I think a lot of the apparent negativity that supposed “hardcore gamers” feel towards “casuals” actually reflects fears that the business model of games like Candy Crush is slowly spreading beyond casual games and into more traditional “core” titles. For instance, classic FPS games like Doom used to challenge the player by providing limited supplies of ammunition, health, etc. In more recent games in that genre you can simply pause and purchase whatever you need via micro-transactions or “MTX” as our most recent presenter had it. And there was also the recent Dungeon Keeper release by EA in which a beloved classic strategy game was turned into a half baked micro-transaction fest. I suppose traditional developers have seen the writing on the wall and companies like King making money hand over fist with their business model.

  3. eduj

    I have heard from friends who express similar sentiments as you. Like you,many are also “slightly freaked out” with how information is collected seemingly in a very discrete manner. What is interesting about this phenomenon is, despite knowing the fact that information is indeed collected, that many users still continue to use these applications. To me, then, it is matter of consent. I personally adopt the view that if one is given the opportunity to make an informed decision, it should be the end of the matter.

    I would also echo judmicha’s point that the “apparent negativity that supposed “hardcore gamers” feel towards “casuals” actually reflects fears that the business model of games like Candy Crush is slowly spreading beyond casual games and into more traditional “core” titles”. I don’t game much, but I use to play a lot of EA’s NHL series. I would buy booster packs to make my player more competitive than I ever could hope it to be if I used the normal channels to unlock achievements. In this way, I was allowed to dominate other, perhaps better players, who I had no business beating. In a way, it does create a form of social injustice within the gaming world that did not exist before.

  4. Amanda

    I feel that some of the social judgment on casual gaming comes from its origins. By that I mean old-school games such as Brick and Snake, which I think most people viewed as pass-times, not games worthy of academic study. So we have a disconnect between casual games as they were and how they are now. But the numbers speak for themselves, and I think some of our guest lecturers certainly showed that there is attention being turned to this area.

  5. kdq123

    I think there could be multiple classes falling under the term “hardcore gamer.” Such classes could be divided by console, game category, or even a specific series of games. With console choice, some people might only consider someone as “hardcore” if they play games on one specific console such a PlayStation or Xbox, whereas others might view that as not being diverse enough to be considered hardcore and that only those who play on multiple platforms can call themselves a “hardcore gamer.” Another class of “hardcore gamer” could be associated with game categories such as sports, shooter or racing etc. The final class of “hardcore gamer” for this comment, and the one that I would fall within if I went as far as to call myself a “hardcore gamer” involves a specific game series. My game of choice – Call of Duty. I was first introduced to the game about 5 years ago and fell in love. I even went out and bought a PS3 specifically so I could play. Now I will only buy games from the Call of Duty series.

  6. benjamin5rr

    Interesting post Laura. It’s crazy how much personal information games like Candy Crush are “borrowing” from the users to sell them more games. Do the EULA’s attached to those games require the users to agree to such terms?

    Regarding Amanda’s point (excellent post by the way), I think old-school games are sometimes even more worthy of academic research/study than the modern video games. It’s easier and more accurate to test a psychological hypothesis by studying the effects of a simplified game (like Snake, as you mentioned) on a particular personality trait since there are less distracting elements in those games, as compared to modern high quality games. That’s because psychological tests usually require a control group and it is easy to eliminate an element from lower quality games. So I think old-school games are incredibly useful in psychology. In terms of legal studies, we have already seen many examples of Intellectual Property issues regarding arcade games in class (Mario, Tetris, etc); so I won’t repeat them here.

  7. tony

    Interesting post Laura. In addition to the reasons you have identified, I think another reason we need more attention on “casual game” is is the psychological techniques developers are using to increase sales. The attached article calls them “coercive monetization”. It’s scary how well thought and empirically based they appear to be. I am also not sure if a gamer who decides to play a “free game” reasonably knows what he/she is getting into.

    He goes over a few but I want to reference one in particular because it is fascinating.

    1. Reward Removal
    This is based on the idea that people hates losing things. Psychological research has always shown that people are far more disappointed if they win and lose something than if they just never won. The article references a game which capitalizes on this.

    In the game, dungeons allow you to earn rewards for fighting enemies. It costs ~4 hours of real time before a player accumulates enough “stamina” to enter a dungeon. In the dungeon, you fight through a wave of enemies, where you receive rewards for doing so. Then you are faced at a boss at the end of the wave. Difficulty spikes up. If you are defeated by the boss you will lose all the rewards you received from the previous waves as well as the stamina it cost to enter the dungeon. Then, the game asks you to spend $1 (to presumably purchase more lives to keep going).

    The article points out that when faced with this decision, the 4 hours of real time to enter the dungeon is not even the primary selling point, it’s the rewards you’ve won.

    Article for anyone who’s interested: