The Spectrum of Gamers

I’ve loved gaming for a long time now, ever since I was kid playing on my parents Apple IIc (I still love Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego) but the truth is I don’t always have a lot of time for it. I can make excuses about how stuff gets in the way, job, friends, money, but the truth is I’m just not as dedicated as a lot of other gamers.

However I’m fascinated with gaming culture; I like to keep up with all the latest news, I watch the TV shows and read the magazines (but don’t quite make it onto the gaming forums). I also love it when new consoles come out, despite the fact I might not buy or even play one for years.

I used to call myself a ‘casual gamer’, but that was until I found out how casual gamers were defined these days. In the past, I had reckoned that a casual gamer was someone who ducked in and out of gaming, maybe playing intensely for short bursts of time, or maybe just picking up a console controller once a week or so. Not so; this kind of gamer is more accurately described as an ‘occasional gamer’. This is someone who likes the culture of gaming but doesn’t get to participate as often as they’d like.

As I have learned recently, casual gamers are much different, and sometimes even despised by the more ‘hardcore’ members of the gaming community. The reasons were interesting to me; first of all casual gamers often don’t even call themselves gamers at all, they play in-browser, Facebook, or App games, usually on their phone or tablet (but not always), and the games they play are often simple, can be learned very quickly, and can be put aside without a second thought.

So why do some hardcore gamers hate them? Well, ‘hate’ is strong word, but their concerns were interesting to hear. Since the development of apps, a lot of money can be made from micro purchasing. The production costs of these games are much lower because the games are simpler as well. So instead of selling a massive and expensive-to-produce game, people are worried that companies will sell simpler games to a bigger market.

Hardcore gamers are also the people who spend large amounts of money on their hobby and also see it as part, sometimes a major part, of their lifestyle. They don’t want to be lumped in the same category as people who annoyingly send you Farmville requests over Facebook every two minutes, but at the same time, app-players don’t want to be called ‘gamers’ because to them it can still carry the stigma of ‘the great unwashed basement dweller’.

I’d also like to point out that this thinking led to the development, and subsequent failure, of the Nokia N-Gage.

However to be to fair to casual gamers, the leap from simple tap-app games to the latest PC or console FPS is massive. Not only is there a big learning curve, but hardcore gamers can make certain games (especially online ones) feel very unwelcoming to anyone new. To anyone not used to having their pets’ lives threatened by a 14 year old in upstate New York, the initial experience can be a rude shock.

The app market is very crowded and I haven’t seen a lot of evidence to suggest that developers are giving up on AAA games. These games are mostly created by people who love games themselves. To my observations there appears to be a wide variety of casual gamers, from those who play Angry Birds in the doctor’s waiting room, to people who sit on Facebook and play Farmville all day. Plus the app market itself is ever evolving and the games are getting more complex, which might eventually help bridge the gap.

Today there is a much wider spectrum of what you would call a ‘gamer’. I think most people are over the stigma of the basement dwelling, dirty gamer (although I’m sure there are still some out there). Most often, these people have jobs, partners and a standing in the community. It’s probably too much to ask us all to get along and have a sing-song, but I’d be happy with a “Whatever floats your boat” kind of approach.

Although personally I much prefer the more serious games on PC and console, I’ll give anything a go. The only game I won’t try is Candy Crush. That game is the crack-cocaine of apps, and I’m forever being told “Try it man, the first hit is free!”

- Andrew “ProdTally” Yoshimura

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