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.