Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Plants vs. The Popular Hatred of Casual Gaming.

We all know a crazy guy named Dave.
Within recent years a torrent of abuse has washed through gaming forums, blogs and videos arguing whether or not the emergence of perhaps the most recent of gaming phenomenons, ‘Casual Gaming’ is or isn’t beneficial to the industry as a whole. Surely though, herein we find a contradiction. By their very nature, causal gamers aren’t interested in the intricacies of the games industry. Consequently, the casual crowd are absent from the majority of forums where these arguments take place. How then can an argument take place if one side is oblivious? A metaphysical conundrum for a far more intellectual blog than this one.

Firstly, I’d like to make it clear now I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘Casual Gaming’. Surely all games are approached casually unless you work for the industry? Either that or you’re the sort of humourless automaton that wouldn’t chuckle if the pope dropped a sly fart during Christmas mass. Like it or not, Casual gaming is one of the most profitable wings of the gaming industry with Popcap boasting an 85.3% boost in profits following the release of ‘Bejewelled Twist’ and the Wii selling out faster than Gwen Stefani . If I know anything about Capitalism that means casual gaming is here to stay and frankly, I think that can do only good.

Prime example of Plants vs. Zombies humor.
Recently, my girlfriend and I have been playing ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ one of the bejewels in Popcap’s crown. Prior to this my girlfriend had never played video games (except for a few spells on the Wii) and represented a prime example of a Casual gamer. Within a few minutes she had mastered the core mechanics and was sailing through the introductory levels. Within a few hours I’d grown bored of my uninterrupted session of Metro 2033 and decided to see how she was doing. With the gradual introduction of more complicated elements she was raking in the sunshine and making those decomposing shufflers her bitch with a confidence neither of us expected. Just as when I’d played the first Sonic on the Mega-Drive circa 1997 she was hooked and has since played Left 4 Dead and Portal 2, hardly casual titles.

Casual games such as Plants vs. Zombies and Bejewelled are introducing gaming to a much wider audience. If we want gaming culture to blossom and grow past the gritty tea-bag brown shoot-fest we seem to be lodged in, we need to merge the conflicting gaming styles and inject the ‘Hardcore’ with some of the colour and ingenuity of casual gaming. Hopefully, getting us one step closer to convincing investors that aiming for the Monster Energy fuelled frat boy demographic is a thing of the past. After all, what games are remembered? Frontline: Fuels of War? Homefront? Any other COD clone you care to mention? No. Mass Effect, Portal, Team Fortress 2, these are the games we remember, the colour, the wit, the charm, this is what gaming needs. All of these games are perfect examples of the ingenuity and charm of casual games mixed with all the elements of a ‘Hardcore’ title. Gaming needs a renaissance to take us away from accepted mediocrity and with luck the sudden popularity of casual gaming will help us achieve it. 

Want Plants vs. Zombies? Get it here.    

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