Core vs Casual: What Defines a Gamer

There have always been arguments between people who play games. Mario vs Sonic, Western vs Eastern RPG, PC vs Console. But one of the newest rose out of the advent of social and phone gaming. The Core vs Casual argument exists because of the lack of a unified, generally accepted, definition of what a gamer is. What makes one gamer better than another?

The casual gamer really came into the mainstream eye when social media decided to get into gaming. Facebook games were created and most of the initial ones all shared common elements that came to be the basis for casual games. They took away the idea of failure and made sure that there was no end to the game. The actual gameplay was nothing more than clicking through menus or icons and most had an energy mechanism that limited how much game could be played in a set amount of time. Games like Farmville and Mafia Wars used mechanics like these. The iPod, after getting an app store, had games on it as well. Most of the first games fit the idea of a casual game. Many people were first introduced to gaming through Facebook and mobile gaming due to their widespread popularity. Gaming became, and still is, a very popular activity for people of all ages since most people carry devices that can play games.

Somewhere along this transformation of casual gaming, the original gamers(or hipster gamers), for some reason, had to make it known that they were not associated with the casual gamers. Often times saying that the casual gamers weren’t gamers, or better, weren’t “true” gamers. I have thought about, on several occasions, the need to separate people who game by what games they play. The same incident happened with the GameCube and the Wii where players of those consoles played “baby” games. The Sony and Microsoft consoles were described as the adult gamer systems. I think back to the Sega vs Nintendo years and the rivalry wasn’t as petty. There were arguments about who could beat who, namely Mario and Sonic, but no one trashed the consoles. It wasn’t until the release of the PlayStation when Sony made the commercials with Crash Bandicoot calling Nintendo a child. The gamers, however, did not repeat these foolish words of Sony. The earliest I remember gamers badmouthing the consoles was during the GameCube/PS2/Xbox era.

I understand the disconnect between the two styles of games. Most players of one style do not play the other. As stated earlier, most casual games do not have failure systems. Without that, skill floors and ceilings tend to disappear as skills has very little to do with the game. Worst case scenario is that something will take one player a while longer than another to do the same set of actions. Taking Farmville as an example, a critical thinker may optimize their energy and choose actions that will facilitate the highest possible monetary return.  Another player might randomly pick actions. In the end, though, both players will have hit max level and planted every kind of plant and unlocked every animal(I’ve never played to end game content so someone correct me if I’m off here). Games have, traditionally, been competitive. From the leaderboards in arcade games to deathmatch in modern FPS, games have always leaned towards obtaining a skill and then showing it off. Casual games do everything to go against this. While I can show off my farm in Farmville, I can also go to yours and help out. There are exceptions, Angry Birds, but the idea of a casual game is typically thought of as one that is relaxing.

Going back to Angry Birds, the “core” gamers tend to get casual and accessible mixed up. Angry Birds is accessible to most ages and types of people but some of those later levels require either luck or extreme skill to complete, especially 3 star. I would never consider Angry Birds as casual. On top of late game difficulty spikes, it also includes skill floors/ceilings. failure mechanics, and a definitive end.

The main difference is that there is a lack of difficulty in casual games. I could extrapolate that and say that anyone who cannot 100% complete Bayonetta or any of the extreme bullet hells are not true gamers. While I doubt this will change the minds of the “casual gamer” haters, I had to get my thoughts out in hopes of proper conversation. What are your ideas on the core vs casual debate? Should casual gamers be called gamers?

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