Juul goes casual

Good to see that Jesper Juul is taking on the casual games. He gave several speeches about the topic in the last days (The Sun Always Shines in Casual Games, How They Got Game).
There are some problems connected with the use of the term „casual“ in computer games.

There are these games which we are calling „Casual Games“ with properties like „small games, easily learned, and usually distributed over the internet“ and so on (Zuma, Beeweled and Diner Dash being examples).

But then there is also the way how you play. You can play any game in a casual manner. You can play a quick „casual“ Quake session. And you can try for hours „hardcore style“ to compete with a high score in Bejeweled.

On the Gamers in Society Seminar in Tampere last week Jussi Kuittinen, Annakaisa Kultima, Johannes Niemelä and Janne Paavilainen from the Game Research Lab presented a paper proposing a stricter use of the term Casual-in-Games. Probably Juul and the Gamelab should exchange ideas (and keep me in the loop ;). Their paper is not published yet. If Copenhagen an Tampere would come up with a casual games terminology together it would not only be industry interests forging the „casual“ terms.

Juul is using the term Gaming Literacy – sounds nice. I thought about Game Capital (like Social or Human Capital) which represents investment into learning how to play games.

(Thanks to Daniel Pergman to giving me the „Juul is casual“ hint)

Problems using the term "Casual" Games

Using the term casual for people who play casual games for long hours and pretty excessively is kind of strange. This shows us that there are at least two aspects of the term casual which are often confused.

On the Gamers in Society Seminar in Tampere Jussi Kuittinen, Annakaisa Kultima, Johannes Niemelä and Janne Paavilainen from the Game Research Lab presented a paper proposing a stricter use of the term Casual-in-Games.

Find a blog entry on the presentation here and updated slides here.

Casual concerning the design characteristics of certain games which are typically called casual games (meaning games on popcap.com, pogo.com and so forth). These often feature general appeal, simple controls, fast rewards, possibility to play in short time bursts.

We could refer to this aspect by calling the games Casual Games, and the people playing them Casual Game Player.

Casual concerning the way someone is playing a game. This means playing any game (casual or hardcore) while not being focused on the activity and/or playing only for a short while. Is someone playing a certain game session just for fun without being afraid of loosing or with a more competitive attitude (example in an tourney including price money).

We could refer to this aspect by calling the activity casual playing.

A Casual Gamer would be someone who is playing in an casual manner (casual playing) or who has a generally casual approach to playing computer games as a hobby .

The casual/hardcore playing dimension stated here is compatible with my definition of casual/hardcore playing in this earlier post.

Problem is that it is still pretty hard not confuse the terms.

Could we come up with more sticky words for the different concepts. Any suggestions?

The game research lab will most likely hand out the paper to anyone requesting it (it is not published yet).

Definition of casual/hardcore playing

There are many possible approaches to define Casual and Hardcore playing. This is a more crisp one than used in my casual games and gender paper.

Level of ‚hardcore‘ playing:
= Amount of effort invested into a game session.

Types of effort:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Game Capital
  • Social investment (self reflection against social norm)

Less invested effort means more ‚casual‘ play session.

Time: Time you are investing in a game session

Money: Money your investing in a game session

Game Capital: Similar to Human Capital theory you are acquiring Game Capital which is your individual experience with (computer) games. A player will have to master using a mouse and the keyboard in a pretty decent way before he can play an FPS in any reasonable manner (my grandma can’t do that). When you are playing a game session you are automatically bringing your game capital with you. So you already have made this investment into your game capital long before you start the gaming session in question.

Social investment: There are many stereotypes surrounding playing computer games. Many people don’t want to be associated with these stereotypes. Imagine your grandma playing a violent game like Quake. For example most elder people and especially females seem to dislike violent games. Playing these games is not what they are supposed to do. It would not feel right for them to engage in an activity they (partly wrongly) associate with young males. Bridging this gap between the social norm of what you should do on one hand and what you actually do on the other is what is meant with social capital.