In defence of casual games: an argument no one else will make

Draft last edited 8th June 2017 Written by: Avery

OK, clench your bums, I’m gonna say something incredibly divisive and anger inducing to the common game playing person stereotype: Casual games are important. No, seriously. Hear me out for a minute here.

In a world currently dominated by games with obtusely difficult games (no thanks to the popular Dark Souls series by From Software), having chill, laid-back mindless games to play is good. Some people need to take a breather every so often, while others simply either don’t have the time for more action oriented games or have the patience for them. Now, don’t take this as me saying that games with brutal difficulty is /bad/, because I don’t think that. Believe me, I agree that we needed Dark Souls. It delivers to a very specific niche that people have wanted for a while: A finely crafted, challenging and difficult game that throws you into the deep end almost immediately. The thing we /didn’t/ need however, was every other game copying it.

See, the problem now is that the market for video games has become somewhat over saturated with brutal difficulty games, with people trying to copy Dark Souls or create games with a similar amount of challenging gameplay. Not only that, but the genre as a whole has dramatically increased toxicity in gaming communities, encouraging the disgusting “git gud” attitude. Apart from the fact that it’s a really nasty mood to take with fellow players, that some people may just be playing for fun rather than seriously, and its school playground bullying manner of “ha ha, you’re shit”, it’s ableist as hell. Literally, you are taking the fact that someone cannot accomplish a certain task in a game and shoving it in their face, telling them to “git gud”. The main problem being here is that some people /physically or mentally cannot “git gud”/. It’s incredibly important to remember that disabled people play games too and making sure they’re accessible to them is something that is oft forgotten. And if you dare utter “But if they have trouble playing this super hard game then they shouldn’t be playing it at all” then I will honestly tear you a new one.

Anyway, I’m getting rapidly off track. As I said, the market is progressively getting over saturated with complete gubbins. Be it the Dark Souls-likes, the creepy anime trash (see: Gal*Gun) or even shovelware made for a cheap buck, it’s getting harder to find something genuinely decent that isn’t overly hard. So more often than not, I turn to the casual game genre for such an occasion. Yes, there’s a bit of an abundance of complete garbage here too, but with a bit of searching and testing, you can find some real gems. For example, I’ve tested so many generic match 3 games that I can happily and confidently tell you that the best ones to go for is either Bejeweled 2 (or 3) or any entry in the Treasures of Montezuma series. Both are great, the former being a classic and the latter being surprisingly fast-paced for a match 3 puzzler. Or perhaps you want something that requires a bit more brain work – in which case, I heartily recommend Hexcells Infinite. Sure, it’s glorified Minesweeper, but it’s a damn good version of it.

Not to mention, if you’re one of the many game playing people who talk shit on the genre whenever they’re brought up, chances are that you’ve actually already played and enjoyed a casual game. Two really good examples would be Cookie Clicker and Fallout Shelter. Both of those games are, by definition, casual games. The former has barely any gameplay, the main crux of it coming from watching a number go up over time and eventually strategizing what to spend your virtual currency on. The latter is based off a successful franchise wherein you manage one of the nuclear shelters (or vaults) from the games, taking care of the people inside it and building it out with more facilities. They’re also incredibly popular games, picking up a fairly large bit of traction in a short amount of time.

Recently though, it’s become more and more difficult to find genuinely decent modern casual games. This is mostly in part to the increasingly exploitative smartphone gaming market. Again, people are likely to complain over one calling games on your phone actual “gaming”, but it’s true regardless (and also as a side note, there are actual full games available for your phone such as XCOM or A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build, so shut up.) The rise of smartphone games has changed the casual games market – and it's not for the best. Since the creation of the In-App Purchase, a large amount of new casual games are exclusive to iOS or Android, since making the core game free then offering items to make the game easier via paid transactions nets them more money in the long run, rather than just having the full game out for a set price as if it were a PC title. It’s why every time you look at the “Top Grossing” category on Google Play, the top 5 apps on there are guaranteed to be free-to-play casual games. I would go further into why this is a really bad thing for games in general, but it’s an article for another day.

But I digress. When all is said and done, there's no denying that these trends aren't going to be stopping any time soon. But it's worth trying to make a start. Give more support to less brutally difficult games, stop encouraging “git gud” mindsets in people, and stop parading around like you're hot stuff just because you don't like a certain genre of video games which aren't even aimed at you. It's like shitting on games made for kids – stupid and pointless (Of course, if the game itself is explicitly bad even for kids, by all means talk crap on it, but otherwise shush up.) Video games are for everyone, not one specific audience.

[Retrospective 2020 Note: Just popping in to say that I (Avery) don't completely agree with what I said this post nowadays. Hard games are cool with me even without accessibility modes, especially if designed so that you'll inherently get better with more practice. This post largely stems from a frustration with gamers more than anything else, looking back on it. This is mostly why it went unposted back then, but hey, I'm salvaging what I can from the old site, so it's getting posted now.]