A problem that I saw in Tuesday’s discussion that I didn’t get a chance to mention has to do with our choice of the word “casual” to describe “casual games”. I think some people took issue with this because they saw people playing games that seem to fit this category that is separate from “hardcore” games in a decidedly “non-casual” way. Some followup questions to this then might be “are there hardcore games and casual games, or are there hardcore players and casual players?” and “if casual is a problematic term, what would be better?”
To the first question I think it is probably a combination. There are definitely hardcore games played by hardcore players and casual games played by casual players. There are probably hardcore games that are played in a somewhat casual way, if not necessarily by casual gamers in general. I know for example of World of Warcraft players that can play in fairly short bursts here and there and don’t really take it all that seriously; to them, it’s pretty much just a nice chat room where you can do stuff when nothing is going on in chat. (I will say, however, that the game really is not conducive to staying this way forever in my opinion; at advanced levels you’re pretty much trapped either starting a new character, playing in a more hardcore way, or else pretty much not playing. WoW is by no means a casual game across the board.) Similarly there are definitely casual games that are played in a hardcore fashion. Guitar Hero/Rock Band was discussed extensively in this way in class; I won’t bore anyone by rehashing that discussion.
To the second question I think the best first answer is to throw out absolute terms, as someone suggested in class on Tuesday, and go to a spectrum sort of approach. However, this alone is limited as well, since we only have labels for the absolute extreme ends of the spectrum, and since we don’t have an immediate consideration of deeper details of casual play (for example, playing MMOs primarily for the social scene). To extend this well I think we need a good label for this middle ground, which is neither casual nor hardcore, and I also think we need to turn the spectrum into a multidimensional spectrum, considering why people play the games the way they do and how this reflects on the games themselves, etc.