This week we are wrapping up the Know Your Player Type series with the oft maligned category of the Casual Gamer. The term “Casual Gamer” gets thrown around a lot by people trying to differentiate them from the “Hardcore Gamer” which, I guess they think is some sort of badge of honor. The problem I have is when people use it to refer to the types of games that someone enjoys playing rather than their actual involvement in the game. It usually gets trotted out when talking about phone games like a Bejeweled or a Fruit Ninja. Making the assumption that to be a “Hardcore Gamer” you need to only play AAA titles with deep intricate gameplay is kind of terrible. I’m pretty sure that most Call of Duty players are also fucking around with Candy Crush while they wait in line at the DMV.
No, the Casual Gamer that we are talking about here is referring instead to the type of player that plays a game not for the sake of playing the game. They are less likely to become heavily invested in a game, whether from a mechanics or a story perspective, and are playing for reasons that are generally outside of the scope of the game. This isn’t to say that the Casual Gamer isn’t enjoying themselves when they play the game or that they would rather being doing something else while they are playing. Merely that the involvement with the game isn’t at a deep level and they aren’t really likely to think about it beyond the playing of it. With the Casual Gamer, I’ve split it up into the two types of the Socialite and the Bored Gamer.
The Socialite is usually only playing a game because their friends are also playing. They love to hang out and socialize with other people and see games more as a way to get people together and having fun rather than something to pursue for its own sake. While they might be very good at whatever game they happen to be playing, the reason they are playing it is because it gives them the opportunity to interact with people in a structured and low pressure kind of way. They are more likely to enjoy “party games” such as Cards Against Humanity, Scene It?, or Mafia than they are to enjoy something like a fighting game or FPS. The Socialite will gravitate towards any game that will let them talk freely or joke around and isn’t supposed to be taken completely seriously.
When you have a Socialite in your gaming group, you can fairly easily appease them just by having them actually involved in the group. They might be the ones that are constantly talking about things in guild chat or always suggesting get-togethers for game nights. Usually there isn’t much of a problem with having a Socialite in a gaming group unless you are actually focused on having a serious gaming session of whatever you happen to be playing. They might be constantly breaking character and interrupting scenes in an RPG to make jokes or talk about how that NPC totally reminded them of someone they know. Maybe while you’re trying to talk to the group about how to beat a boss, they are off talking to someone else and distracting from the game plan. Whatever issues you might have, it’s mostly going to stem from them needing more interaction than gameplay and you’ll need to decide if that is a deal breaker for that particular game or not.
The Bored Gamer is more the picture that people get in their heads when they hear the term “Casual Gamer”. They are generally going to be playing a game just for something to do. They see games more as a way to pass the time than something to get obsessed with. They are the Candy Crushers, the Farm Villagers, and the Minesweepers. While I mentioned that we do all play these types of games, the Bored Gamer is more likely to only be playing these types of games. If they do happen to play other ones it will usually be for maybe an hour or two at a time a few times a week. Maybe they will log on and only run a dungeon or mindlessly hack at some monsters in Diablo for an hour. They might be having tons of fun while they are playing but the playing isn’t something they are going to invest a lot of time in.
Playing with a Bored Gamer can be a difficult experience on both ends. Other players will not be able to depend on the Bored Gamer being interested or even present for a lot of the time. When trying to put together a table top game or a raid, it is going to be in the best interest to either leave them out or just have them involved in a non-crucial way. This isn’t to be mean to the Bored Gamer as they are going to prefer it that way. Having the obligation to play a game for any extended period of time is the most sure fire way to make them have a bad experience. Playing a single board game or a few maps of a shooter is pretty much perfect for them. Don’t try to force an extended game night where there is nothing else going on or have them be at a LAN party where you plan to play the same game all day. As long as you can understand their desires and limitations, you can play together just fine.
I think it bears repeating that a Casual Gamer is no worse or less a gamer than any of the other types that I have described before. We love games and by “we” I mean humans. Saying that your enjoyment of games is somehow more valid or more fulfilling because you spend more time playing them is a bit self-aggrandizing. Labeling yourself as a “gamer” falls into the same trap that “foodies” or “film buffs” fall into, which is that they tend to look down on and exclude people that aren’t in their group. We should be encouraging their love of those things we enjoy, regardless of their knowledge or experience. Being elitist about your food, your films, or your games only discourages people from looking into those things to begin with. So let’s try to stop using “casual gamer” as some sort of slur and start embracing all of those that just want to play.