Snacking on casual games

Snacks

Fol­low­ing up on an ear­li­er post about short-ses­sion games here are some com­ments on a recent Gama­su­tra arti­cle by Ian Bogost (it’ll be in the link post for tomor­row). It’s titled ‘Casu­al As In Sex, Not Casu­al As In Fri­day’ and in it Bogost argues there is quite a bit of unex­plored space in the casu­al games domain.

In the arti­cle, Bogost points out that casu­al games are usu­al­ly seen as easy to learn but hard to mas­ter, like Go. They are com­mon­ly cheap (or at least cheap­er than typ­i­cal con­sole and PC titles) and easy to get. Final­ly, con­trol of the game is often sim­ple and lim­it­ed to few inputs. (Bogost rec­om­mends only using the mouse on the PC, I won­der what he’d rec­om­mend on a mobile…one but­ton?)

Bogost points out that a typ­i­cal casu­al game-play ses­sion might be short, but that the over­all mod­el of casu­al gam­ing (both the dis­tri­b­u­tion and the game mechan­ics) actu­al­ly encour­age repeat­ed play over a long peri­od of time where­by a play­er achieves an increas­ing­ly high­er lev­el of mas­tery of the game (which arguably is the antithe­sis of casu­al­ness.)

What we rarely see are games that are explic­it­ly cre­at­ed to be played once and nev­er revis­it­ed. Bogost men­tions Sep­tem­ber 12th and Zidane Head-Butt as pro­to­types for these types of casu­al games.

This is all very inter­est­ing to me because in a cur­rent project I have been dis­cussing this notion of snack-sized games quite a lot. I am con­vinced there is a mar­ket for games that are con­sumed once and are then dis­card­ed, but there are some chal­lenges to over­come. Bogost men­tions these as well: They need to be ridicu­lous­ly sim­ple to access, as cheap as pos­si­ble (ide­al­ly free) and instant­ly learn­able.

One point Bogost doesn’t raise is: Who will feel com­pelled to cre­ate these games? Because game cre­ation always involves some effort, typ­i­cal game devel­op­ers might not see much prof­it in releas­ing their games into the wild for free. What’s in it for them? I think the key there is the democ­ra­ti­za­tion of game cre­ation. Giv­ing ordi­nary users fun tools to cre­ate these short-ses­sion, snack-sized, casu­al-as-in-sex games as a form of per­son­al expres­sion.