Whether or not people like to admit it video games are growing up. Especially in this last generation games have been maturing quickly and with it games that blend fluid gameplay with a story that has something to say or an experience to tell has become more common.
Another area of the industry that is growing is the “casual gamer.” You hear more developers talking about how they are working, “with the casual gamer in mind,” which usually means, “make it play and look like Call of Duty.”
Games developed for the casual crowd generally shoot for tight and simple controls that are easy to pick up and play for short periods of time. While gameplay should always be the top concern, I feel like some games aren’t being marketed to this casual gaming crowd and those are games that tell an involving story.
The greatest party game I played from the current generation wasn’t a kart racer or Mario Party 30 (or whatever number they’re on now), it was Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. One afternoon, three of my friends who would never be described as gamers sat down with me as I popped in Heavy Rain. We turned this single-player game with a heavy focus on story into a multiplayer game by randomly assigning one of the games four characters to each other and that was the character we played as exclusively. We played long into the night due to my friends’ desire to get that one step closer to finding the Origami Killer.
We finished the game in a day and half and it was all my friends could talk about for the next week. They had never experienced a game where the story was the central focus. One of my friends told me they had never felt as attached to a fictional character as he had to Private Investigator Scott Shelby.
I’ve had similar and more recent experiences with friends from college. My first playthrough of Journey not only captivated me for its two hour campaign, but also pulled in my roommates to watch as myself and my nameless PSN ally travelled through desert, caves and snow.
Seeing the way my non-gaming friends reacted to these simple yet story driven games had me wondering, are developers in tune with what casual gamers really want?
Games are being made with a cinematic and movie-like quality to them more and more these days, is it that hard to believe that the casual crowd might find these games as appealing as they would movies? Certainly games like Heavy Rain and Journey aren’t intentionally ignoring the casual crowd but I’m not sure the marketing is reaching them.
It might not even be marketing’s fault though. I doubt a lot of casual gamers keep their fingers pressed to the vein of video game news and announcements, or are going to sites that advertise games heavily. Maybe it’s up to other gamers to spread the word on games that should be played by a wider audience. Word of mouth remains one of the best marketing tactics out there.
Yes, not all casual gamers want or care for a deeper, more mature story, but so far I’m 7-7 on getting people with little interest in gaming completely immersed in the stories being told today. If I’m doing that well then think of all the people out there who are still waiting to see what games have become.