User generated content and casual games

I was mentioned in an article on by technology review:

This was the question the author Erica Naone asked me:

„Do you think casual gamers will respond to these efforts to encourage them to form casual gaming communities? Considering the suggestion that they may be attracted to casual games because of less familiarity with computers, do you think they are likely to respond to offers to participate by creating user-generated content?“

This was my answer:

Generally your question is a tricky one. Especially because the term casual is used in so many different ways. I will first focus on „casual gamers“ as .

It takes time and effort and some kind of skill with computers to take part in an online community or generate content. This speaks against „casual“ online communities if you use the term casual as „not very interested“ or „not very involved“ or mean users who are not experienced with computers.

For making it interesting to take part in a community the level of freedom what you can do and how you can participate is an important part. On the other hand one characteristic casual games normally feature is that they are non-offensive. The designers try not to turn someone off with violence or sexist protagonists…
If you are pretty free what to generate in an community you can also generate offensive material. You can swear, or upload a picture which is explicit and so on. Therefore a community which would be targeted at older or more female audience would need tight controls to prevent the creation of unwanted material.
These tight controls would on the one hand be hard to implement and on the other hand limit the freedom of the possible content generators. (There are some community games for very young players under 10) which only let you communicate with other players using predefined text modules. This is one way to prevent paedophiles to try to contact the minors. But I don’t think it is not much fun to use these text modules).

On the other hand to at least being theoretically able to create user content as well as „feeling“ to be part of a lively social community is a strong incentive for many users. Especially users who have a negative feeling towards computers or technical devices.
One main goal of the casual game developers is to tell the non-typical potential computer players (especially women or seniors) that gaming is also something for them. That message is hard to spread if the women and Seniors who are already playing are mostly playing alone and at home. Community players are more visible. This makes a community especially interesting for casual game designers.
As only few of the potential casual gamers are actually playing till now and therefore there is a huge untapped potential, I am sure many companies will try to create casual community games in the near future.

Then there is the different way to use the term „casual“ as meaning „simple game“. I think is the biggest casual game community and features lots of user generated content. But does not fit the to the, or audience at all. The games are simple and quick to play but many of them can be considered offensive. You can take part by uploading your own flash games or films or your music. Or you can comment on the stuff uploaded by others.
While the flash games are pretty simple to make there is a great incentive for many non professional designers to create something and show it to the public.
The community is very free and you are very power full as a creator as well as a user. Therefore newgrounds is one of the best places to find creative people playing around and from time to time having great and innovative ideas.

The community itself is associated with and not with specific games. So it is not a casual game community but more a casual gameS community.

To sum it up:

  • Everything depends how you use the term casual.
  • A casual (as seniors and women) game community must be very simple to use and non offensive.
  • A casual (meaning simple game) game community can also work if it is much more open and therefore give the users a real chance to create interesting content for the other users.
  • Out of thousands of players of a particular casual game (also as seniors and women) you will always find some who will want to invest a lot and be able to do so in a pretty professional way (ask Ion Hardie from Reflexive for their response to Big Kahuna Reef).

Survey on Casual Games and Gender

While we know that the demographics between hardcore and casual gamers differ (hc: mostly male/younger, cg: mostly female/older) it is not as clear why this is the case.

Therefore I plan to do a online survey on one typical casual games site and one typical hardcore games site.
To get clear results I try to find two websites which are as similar as possible except for their casual and hardcore audience and ask them about user motives, time investment, experience with computers…

I think for the casual side it makes sense to focus on the „try before you buy casual games“ on the pc (and leave the consoles and Massive Online Games out of the way).
This leads me, on the hardcore side, to PC Hardcore gamers, for example Ego Shooters, Real Time Strategy or non massive RPGs.

On the other hand distribution models and often the level of violence differ between these two markets.
Both are aspects which could have a big influence on the possible customers (e.G. many women being turned off by violence). But both are not central differences between casual and hardcore at least if you go with this casualgames whitepaper definition:

Casual / Hardcore games involve less/more „complicated game controls and overall complexity in terms of game play or investment required to get through the game“ (or enjoy the game session as I would formulate it).

I am thinking about good example sites to highlight aspects of the casual – hardcore games difference?

How about „try before you buy HARDCORE games“ which would lead us to indie games – right?

Gamers in Society Seminar

„University of Tampere Hypermedia Laboratory’s Game Research Lab organizes a seminar on Gamers in Society. The two-day event consists of themed sessions that discuss the social and cultural aspects of gaming.“ I will be happy to attend. You find the program here:

Especially the „Casual Games Discussion“ with Jussi Kuittinen, Annakaisa Kultima, Frans Mäyrä, Johannes Niemelä and Janne Paavilainen
‘You Play Like a Girl!’ Cross Gender Competition and the Uneven Playing Field“ by Elena Bertozzi could be interesting for me.

Immersion and Gender

Frans Mäyrä and Laura Ermi did a small but interesting survey about immersion in computer games You can download the text from Frans blog: direct link to text.

‚Summing up mean values of all the three component of gameplay immersion, Half Live 2 appears to be the overall strongest game in immersing its players. On the other end, the experience of playing The Sims 2 is apparently not felt as immersive. But it would be mistake to claim Half Life 2 to be a better game than the Sims 2 on this basis. It may well be that the more “casual” character of the Sims 2 gameplay is one of the reasons behind its appeal for these particular players. The Sims 2 was also the only one of the examined games with a notable amount of female respondents, but the relatively low evaluation of immersion is not relate to the gender of the informants, since females gave overall higher evaluation to the immersion in that game than men.‘

Would be interesting to find out if casual gamers in general are less immersed than hard core gamers. Often the term ‚casual‘ is used to point out that you can stop playing at any time or doing something else while playing. Both speaks against strong immersion through casual games.

A similar concept to immersion is „Flow“ by Csikszentmihalyi:

„The concept (…) describes an optimal mental state where a person is complete occupied with a task that matches the person’s skills, being neither too hard (leading to anxiety) or easy (leading to boredom).“ (Jesper Juul:

Probably casual gamers are not as experienced with computer games and need easier – meaning casual – games to reach flow states.

And what impact has gender on immersion. Will men and women be immersed in different kind of games in different ways? In the survey women were more immersed by the casual Sims 2 than men. On the other hand they responded lower immersion levels than men for the other games.

Paper about Casual games and Gender

Right now I am working on my master thesis in sociology about the topic „Casual games and gender“. As part of the preparation of the thesis I wrote a shorter (18pages) paper.


This paper discusses the question: “Why do more women play casual games than men, if altogether more men play computer games than women?”

Gender seems to have an impact upon the affinity towards different kinds of games and upon how much effort a person is willing to invest while playing a computer game. This is indicated by the different gender ratios of casual and hardcore gamers. Many potential gamers do not identify themselves with the stereotype of ‘real’ gamers, i.e., hardcore gamers, who are often seen as being young, male and lacking social skills. This could be one of the reasons why women and older people more frequently play the less ‘real’ or ‘typical’ casual games while often not seeing themselves as ‘computer gamers’.

However, there are indications that the primary factor for the preference towards casual or hardcore games is, in fact, not gender. On the contrary, gender (as well as age) could cloud the more important variables, such as experience with computers or time allocation.
For a better picture of the relationship between the different variables we would need more empirical data.


Casual games and gender (English)

Casual Games und Geschlecht (German)

I would be very happy about comments or suggestions concerning the text or my future research. I plan to do conduct a quantitative survey on casual and hardcore game sites starting March or April 2007.

The German version was marked with an 1.3 which equals an A- in the US.

Studie über Computerspieler in Deutschland

Die Studie findet sich hier:
Bejubelt wird sie in einem Spiegel Online Artikel.
Die Studie erhebt einen wissenschaftlichen Anspruch, kann ihn aber nicht aufrecht halten. Über den vielen bunten Bilder und dem Blick in den Kühlschrank der Gamer wurden leider genaue Angaben zur Erhebung vergessen (wie viele Leute wurden denn überhaupt befragt?).

Natürlich ist jede mögliche Einteilung in Spielergruppen recht konstruiert und daher angreifbar. Da ist die genutzte Einteilung in „Freizeit-, Intensiv-, Gewohnheits-, Denk- und Fantasiespieler“ keine Ausnahme. Während sich Freizeit, Gewohnheits- und Intensivspieler entlang einer Dimension bewegen, passen die Genrebezeichnungen Denk- und Fantasiespieler nicht in dieses Konzept.

Vielleicht kann man aber an die Rohdaten der Untersuchung kommen. Vielleicht könnte ich diese für meine Eigene Forschung im Rahmen meiner Diplomarbeit (Casual Games and Gender) nutzen.