Into the mind of a casual gamer.

I haven’t said or ranted about gaming in quite a while now. Quite unlike me. I often have to say and rant a lot, especially about gaming. If you read the last 10 posts you would never guess I was a game developer. So I guess it’s time to put the Blog back on track! The absence of any game related post have been for a couple of reasons. For one, I haven’t installed any new games as of now. Too busy with finishing off Doofus 3D. Neither have I upgraded my old aging NVIDIA 6200 and 6600 cards. So anything new like Bioshock or Crysis is out! I have promised myself a brand new 8800 GTS or something newer as soon as I complete and ship the game, and that’s been now like, forever! On the contrary, for the past 6-8 months I have had the opportunity of actually watching others playing games and it’s been a learning experience as a game designer. You wouldn’t believe it, one of them happens to be my mother. She has been doing all the playing while I have been working my ass off to finish my game, though I must say her taste is very (very) different from mine. No Half Life-s or Oblivion-s for her, she kinda enjoys the Zuma-s and the Insaniquarium-s; casual games in general.

Just watching and being a spectator can teach you volumes about how people enjoy computer games. Casual gamers in many ways can very different from hardcore counterparts and can be very similar in other respects. A casual gamer is generally not interested in complex gameplay. They are the ones who enjoy simple yet immersive games. Simple puzzles and not overly complex challenges are ones that are favored over long story lines and dark alleys. Also appreciated are short levels. For instance, I tried selling a game called Caesar III to my mother but nope, didn’t work. For those who don’t know, Caesar III was a city building game, kinda like Sim City and I loved that game when I played it. The game has no gore, so I was pretty sure she would love it. However, the comments I got from her were, “Too complex”, “Very difficult to manage”, “Can’t understand it”. It just goes to show casual gamers tend to favour easier set of “game-rules”. Anything that is more complex than a few set of keystrokes is a big NO.

Over the past few months I observed and chatted with a few other casual gamers too. Mostly friends and relatives who often play casual games. It’s always good to understand the market mentality, especially if you are developing a product catering to them. Most casual gamers I chatted with have played 2D games, but quite a few I must say, have played 3D games. Interesting, since I am developing a 3D casual game myself. When asked if they would be interested in such a game, the overwhelming response was, Yes, to obviously a simple 3D game. Most of them said they would be very interested, but were unsure if they would like it. Some even told me they wouldn’t mind learning a few extra keys to play something like Marble Blast. So it means Doofus 3D does have a market after all, but it remains to be seen if it would indeed translates into sales.

In general I have found casual gamers dislike having to learn a lot of rules, period! Games that involve significant learning effort quickly become unpopular. So I guess games like Oblivion are out. Also not so much appreciated is, gore. There is an interesting paradox here, unexpected I must say; many casual players admitted to playing arena games like Quake III. The reason; such games was easy and fast paced. Most enjoyed it, some said the games were violent but they generally didn’t mind. None of the casual gamers I talked to knew exactly what game genres were, none cared. Most said they looked at the game cover or screenshots to decide if they would indeed play a game. 90% said they played flash games. About half said they don’t understand things like DirectX or OpenGL or h/w acceleration. Nearly all said they had only on-board graphic cards. More than half said they didn’t even know you could install separate graphics cards. More than 75% said they had and do play games on laptops.

OK, my survey is far from being completely accurate. All I have done is maybe asked a few questions to people who I have met in the past year or so. I have in no way used a proper methodical approach for the survey. However, it does give you an insight into the mind of a casual gamer. As a game developer I generally tend to forget these important lessons and sometimes do go overboard. Then, I usually drag myself back to reality!

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