Abyssal Pixels: Casual Enjoyment
Welcome to the abyss, peons! Is that catchphrase trying too hard? I think it’s bloody awesome. Anyway, I’m here to talk to you about casual games. You see, I’ve recently acquired a 3DS from my loving brother because he wanted someone to play Pokemon with him. I know, he has too much money. After playing Pokemon White 2 for quite some time I started lurking around online retailers for more games for the system. I’m a lover of everything JRPG so I set my sights and money on a few of them. Namely Fire Emblem: Awakening, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn and Rune Factory 3. One of those is not like the others. Rune Factory 3 is a game where you farm crops, get ladies and kill monsters. It’s a very strange game to classify because of how it jumped around various mechanics, but in my eyes it can be seen as a “casual” game.
Rune Factory 3 classifies itself as a “fantasy Harvest Moon” in its full title and being a fan of both fantasy and the very first Harvest Moon, I was instantly attracted to it. Harvest Moon can be closely associated with Farmville because you grow crops to get money to grow even more crops. It doesn’t have any real point to it other than providing a little addicting experience for you to relax with. That’s what Rune Factory 3 achieved with me. The game did have an admittedly deep RPG focused combat system with dungeons and labyrinths filled with monsters. But being the proficient RPG gamer that I am, it didn’t really provide much challenge to me even on Hard mode. So I mainly spent my time growing turnips and clearing out weeds. I only ever went out to fight after I’ve watered my lilies and made sure my field was clean.
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The game also featured very cheesy romance options that would make even the most traditional anime series blush, but I enjoyed it. It made me happy to just chase after pretty girls with no real seriousness behind it. I got a few smiles out of the dialogue and the girls blushing when I said something flirty always cheered me up. I know it’s incredibly corny and would invite every troll on the internet to call me gay, but I liked it. It was fun.
You would think I would instantly jump on Fire Emblem or Golden Sun, but I chose Rune Factory 3 because I needed to unwind a little. Before I got those games I was playing very deep and engaging games such as The Last of Us and just a slew of other more “serious” games. I needed something a little mindless. Something that didn’t have me tense up on the couch or require all my mental capacity to play. Just something frivolous and kind of pointless.
I have been giving casual games a lot of shit throughout my days as a gaming writer, but I see why they have their place. You don’t always want to be forced to have perfect headshotting abilities or be able to sneak by hundreds of guards undetected. Sometimes you just want something to waste your time with and invoke a few cheesy smiles. Gaming provides us with these options. You can go through a meticulously crafted experience with deep character arcs and brain melting complexity or you can lounge around in your bed planting eggplants without a worry in the world.
I’ve even been an avid Sims fan back in the day because I enjoyed the “no obligations” method of gaming. There was nothing really complicated to the game and you just spend your time doing the most pointless things, but it was enjoyable. You didn’t have to save the known galaxy or be stabbed by some hobo in an alley way. It was an euphoric kind of gaming. iOS games have also sucked me in with their casual rich games such as Game Dev Story that’s just a little management game with no real deep thought required. I played it for days on end because it was just a nice change of pace.
I don’t think that exclusively playing casual games is healthy though, but if that floats your boat then I understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes life just gets too much and you just want to relax with something stupid to detach you from the crushing realization that your life is one big ball of boring. Not everyone has the time or energy to invest hundreds of hours into engaging and deep games and just want to play Candy Crush while they wait for their latest prostate exam.
I’m not a fan of the industry putting a heavier focus on the casual game market, however. Just because there’s millions of people playing Peggle, it doesn’t mean that everything that follows that formula will grant instant success. It’s not worth it to alienate thousands of fans to make your game more “accessible” or “easier to pick up”. The Fable series has fallen into this hole quite loudly and I’m pretty angry at Lionhead for cocking up a franchise that had so much potential. The newest installment has you waving your arms to cast spells and railroads you around from one conflict to another, just so it can appeal to a more “wider” audience. What then happened was the reputation of one of Microsoft’s strongest exclusives being tarnished and now I think it will be a miracle if we see anything great from the franchise forward.
In short, casual games have their place. They’re there for a little change of pace and something that doesn’t require a lot of energy from you. But focusing on them as the “end all be all” of gaming is really not an ideal situation. So what do you think about casual games?