Casual Games vs Hardcore Games

Posted: November 6, 2012 in Introduction to Game Design
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Over the past few years, the lines between a hard-core game and casual game have become increasingly blurred. Just what is a casual game? And what exactly is a hard-core game? Let’s go into it a little more.

Casual games are considered to be games that do not really require any level of skill, anyone can just start up these games and play them without really having to worry about having to learn copious amounts of controls and button layouts before they can play a game. Casual games are also considered to be games that a person can play in small amounts and then walk away from only to return at a later date. It is also taken into consideration that a casual game is something that is simplistic in nature and is yet very addictive, meaning the player will return to it on a regular basis.

The usual criteria for a casual game stands as this:

  • Simplistic game play
  • Little or no tutorial
  • Little or no level structure
  • Easy to complete challenges
  • Basic leveling up system
  • Single player and co-operative play possible

This is the criteria that most casual games are broken down into, however, therein lies a problem, because over recent years, there have been numerous arguments that casual games can be classed as hardcore games because of their addictive nature and the frequency with which players return to the game along with the number of hours that players spend on the games themselves.

Hard-core games are considered to be games that require a level of skill to play, the players tend to be people who have played a particular style of game for a number of years, such as first person shooters, and they have picked up skills that they can move over from one game to another. Games such as Halo and Call of Duty could be considered to be hardcore games because of their competitive online game play and the fact that the player usually needs to have a certain level of skill in order to survive in the game.

Hard-core games are normally broken down into the following criteria:

  • Competitive play
  • Single player and multiplayer play
  • High end graphics
  • Intense game play
  • Level structure and progression
  • Upgradable items and equipment
  • Statistics sheets for competitive play

This is the criteria that is usually found within hard-core games. The competitive play comes with statistics sheets at the end of each match and on the players gaming account so that they can see how they performed in a game and they can compare their performance overall against that of their friends, bringing about a concept of competition as players compare and outdo one another, building on their skills and performing better each time they play. This kind of game also requires many hours of play before a person can be considered proficient in playing it and they have some skill in games.

There have been arguments that the two types of game are easily distinguishable, however this is not the case as has been counter argued. Players that play a casual game for so many hours a day, every day are effectively hard-core gamers, dedicated to that game and determined to see it through to its end, if it has one. However, there are people in the world that can pick up a game that is considered hard-core and play it for a relatively small amount of time over a weekly period, which in turn could make them be a casual gamer and therefore the games they play casual games.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether a game is considered hard-core or casual, because I believe that in the end, the player defines whether a game is casual or hard-core and that games should not be categorized beforehand. The line is continuously blurring between the two types of games and players are constantly shaping the way companies design and develop games as the needs of players change.


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