What is a casual game?
A casual game is a game aimed at a mass audience of people who enjoy casual games. Casual games can fit any gameplay and genre and are seen as casual games due to their simplistic rules, lack of necessary commitment and need to specialist skills in order to play. Casual games are normally found to be played on the PC but are becoming increasingly popular on a range of platforms such as mobile phones and game consoles.
Casual games still have a pull which lures a once untapped audience into picking up a Wii controller and bonding with games while still being able to walk away from a game like it was something that had been normal to do. This untapped audience was seen as the set of individuals who would not usually consider themselves ‘gamers’ and would never dream of becoming committed to a typical game which involved long hours and commitment, but yet there was a market for these gamers known as casual gaming. This is described perfectly by Jesper Jull in his book ‘A Casual Revolution‘ in which he states;
‘and these non-players of video games had been enthralled
by the physical activity of the simple sports games, had enjoyed
themselves, and had even asked that the video game be brought along
for the next gathering. What was going on?
When I dug a little deeper, it turned out that many of the people I
thought were not playing video games in fact had a few games stored
away on their hard drives. These were not shooting games or big adventure
games, but smaller games—matching tile games, games about running
restaurants, games about finding hidden objects in pictures, and, of
course, Solitaire. These players did not fit any stereotype of the adolescent
male video game player. ‘
There is a huge range of different causal games available such as Pac-man, Tetris, Farmville, Mafia Wars, Wii play and Freecell. The first game to be considered a casual game was Pac-man which was developed and published by Namco. This game has said to have been played over 10 billion times, selling over 100.000 units its first year and is still a major hit today even having its own song made by Buckner and Garcia due to the success of the game.
Following Pac Man’s succession was the creation of the gameboy in 1989, and was sold with Tetris as a bundle. This grew extremely popular and allowed casual gaming portable access with games such as Tetris which could be taken anywhere. 1990 saw the creation of Microsoft solitaire which was provided with every copy of Microsoft windows, and soon after this casual gaming began to move online with similar games such as bingo, cards, puzzles and trivia. This was a major advancement in casual games as it allowed people to challenge each other on games such as Bejeweled through high scores, it also allowed people to connect with each other by bonding using games as a tool. 2006 gave us the Wii which was a part of the growing market of casual console based gaming with hit titles such as Carnival: FunFair games. During 2008 is when we began to see the popularity with social network games after the release of Happy farm which also lead to the creation of hit Facebook games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars.
In order for a game to be a casual game it must have particular characteristics.
Casual games are/must…
- be cheap or free to play, often some games can pay to use extras yet offer a core free game.
- be easy to walk in and out of, no commitment needed.
- be entertaining
- not be serious
- contain social aspects although this is not always a factor and has been somewhat of a more recent characteristic
- have simplistic controls and rules so its easy to play if its new to you
- be easy to access; for example its downloaded onto your mobile phone
- be visually attractive (for example a game like Farmville has a bright, cartoony and cute visual style)
- have a simple storyline, if any, so that it can be taken on board quickly
- make sure that the player is constantly rewarded
- have tons of levels but the levels are short and sweet
- have achievements for completing certain rounds or playing for a number of days
- be logical