In my view, the following casual games definition is important as it will help you appreciate the difference between a hardcore (or traditional) video (or computer) game and a casual game.
However, before we go on to define a casual game, there are a couple of minor points that need to be brought to your attention.
- First, what is a game?
- Second, what is an electronic game?
- Third, what is a hardcore game?
For those of you who new to the notion of casual gaming, having a basic understanding of the meaning of each of the above-mentioned terms will hopefully make it a little easier for you to grasp the concept of a casual game.
What is a game?
Actually, this is a very good question. Why do I say this? Because a universal definition for the word "game" doesnt seem to exist. Moreover, if you were to ask ten different people to give you a definition for the word "game", my guess is that you would most likely obtain ten different answers. Be that as it may, Wikipedia that wonderful free online encyclopedia defines a game as:
"a structured or semi-structured activity, usually undertaken for recreational enjoyment".
Let's break this definition down into its constituent parts and take a brief peek at each in turn.
- "...structured..." In order for a game to be structured, it necessarily requires the following crucial elements:
- Goals. The goals of a game are merely the objectives that players must strive to achieve in order to complete or win the game.
- Rules. The rules determine what players can or cannot do when playing a game.
- Challenge. Players must find the game challenging in one way or another, otherwise there would be no incentive to play.
- Interaction. Players need some kind of mechanism that will enable them to interact with the game itself and/or with other players.
- Players. This is the obvious one. There is no game if there are no players.
- "...recreational..." Strictly speaking a game can be played for reasons other than recreation. For example, people may opt to play games for educational, health or a variety of other reasons. We will discuss some of the applications of games in other industries later on.
- "...enjoyment..." How should the word "enjoyment" be interpreted in this context? In other words, how do we ascertain whether a player derives "enjoyment" from playing a game or not? While it is not necessary to delve into specifics, these factors have been identified as a players age, understanding of the game being played, intelligence level and, to some extent, personality.
What is an Electronic Game?
Following on from the definition of a game, an electronic game is simply a game that is played on some kind of electronic gaming device, such as a personal computer (e.g. Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, etc.), a video game console (e.g. set-top and handheld gaming devices manufactured by companies such as Nintendo, Sony Playstation, Microsoft and others) or a mobile/smart phone, just to name a few.
What is a Hardcore Game?
A hardcore (or traditional) video (or computer) game is an electronic game developed for and delivered on a dedicated game console, as well as CD-ROM or DVD, that involves more complicated game controls and overall complexity in terms of game play or investment required to get through the game.
What is a Casual Game?
Right, now that we have dispensed with the basics, let's proceed to the next and final definition, the casual games definition.
A casual game is defined as an electronic game satisfying the following key characteristics:
- It's simple to learn. First of all, you do not have to wade through a 100-page user manual before being able to play the game. Secondly, dont be fooled. While these games may be easy to learn, many of them are difficult to master. If this were not the case, people would not find them particularly challenging and refrain from playing them (recall that "challenge" is one of the key elements of any game).
- It's easy to play. Most hardcore games (games developed for hardcore or traditional gamers) usually have a large number of complex game rules, difficult game play and, in most cases, require sophisticated game controls. The exact opposite is the case for casual games. That is, you dont have to contend with complicated game rules (i.e. typically, there are a small number of simple game rules), complex game play (i.e. game play is straight forward) and intricate game controls (i.e. in the case of a PC, a single mouse button is quite sufficient to play the game).
- It can be played in a series of micro time slices. You can play for as little as a few minutes a day or as much as several hours a week. Its entirely up to you and your appetite for playing these games.
- It's generally non-violent and devoid of offensive content. Given that casual games are often referred to as games for everyone, this is what we would expect. Of course, no one can guarantee that this will be the case for every single casual game out there.
- It can be played on a variety of gaming platforms such as a PC, a game console, a mobile phone and more. Some games have been developed for a specific platform and will only run on that platform. Others have been developed for and can run on multiple platforms.
- It's fun to play and can be addictive. Again, dont be fooled by the simplicity of these games. Some can become quite addictive.