Posted September 30, 2012 by Amy in Features

Casually Yours


There is a battle being waged…a secret battle that burns with the fire of a thousand suns. It is a battle for supremacy, for profit, and ultimately, for the future of gaming as we know it.

It’s funny – the world of gamers. Nearly everyone – literally – in the civilized world plays video games of one sort or another. But it is really only the devoted few who choose to call themselves “gamers”. And with that title comes a whole host of expectations and stereotypes. The pale faced teen in his mom’s basement; the violent racist on XboxLive; the hopelessly awkward geek who can’t connect with others without the anonymity of a screen. None of them are an accurate portrayal of the majority of today’s gamers, of course. But then again, neither is the image that gamers themselves have of what it means to be a gamer.

What do I mean by that? Well, let’s first take a look at is generally considered to be a gamer by those who choose to be called that. They are devoted to their favorite games, and to the companies that make them – so much so that unexpected endings or frequent delays cause huge outpourings from the community. They devote hours of time both to playing and waiting in line for highly anticipated games – and drop tons of cash while they’re at it, both on purchase price and DLC. They are the early adopters, the loyal serial buyers – and being a gamer is a big part of their identity. And let’s not forget, despite major inroads of late, they are overwhelmingly male.

There are few who call themselves gamers who would argue with those characteristics. And yet, they are miles apart from what gamers have truly become. With the advent of casual games, mobile games, handhelds, family games, and more – the face of today’s gamer is not a familiar one. They are grandmas and moms; 6 year old girls and 60 year old men; they are the yuppie on his commute and the sulky teen in the minivan. In short, gamers are everyone.

Particularly surprising to many people is the fact that 47% of all gamers are women (about as close to half as you can get without being there). Women, in fact, make up quite a larger percentage of the gaming population than those ever cited teenage boys who are supposedly the bulk of the demographic. And today’s gamers certainly aren’t stuck in the basement, hiding from their families. In fact, the majority of parents think of video games as a great tool to bring their families together. Even those dreaded social games (reviled by many a “true” gamer) capture a hefty percentage of the gaming population – 30% of gamers admit to playing them.

What accounts for this huge shift in the gaming demographic? I attribute it greatly to the rise in casual gaming. Let’s face it, many people don’t have hours to put into gaming, and wouldn’t want to if they did. Still more don’t like the complexity of less casual games – whether they are intimidated just by the idea, or truly don’t have the skills – the idea of approaching something like Call of Duty or even Mario turns off particularly those who are new to gaming late in life. But pull out a game of Angry Birds or Bejeweled, and even a senior citizen who has never played a video game in his life will be happily playing within minutes. That is the accessibility of casual games – everyone really can play.

And yet, many a hardcore gamer will scoff at casual games, especially of the Facebook variety. These games are denounced as fluff; as something to be laughed at, rather than embraced. There is definitely a sense in many circles that casual gaming is not real gaming. Yet, nearly 40% of all games sold in 2011 were rated “E” for everyone – that’s not Assassin’s Creed of Dead Island. And while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 did reach that coveted top selling game last year, Just Dance 3 was a close second.

There is a definitely a myth out there that gamers expect more violence, more complexity, more difficulty, and of course, higher prices every year. While that may be true for some, there is a huge section of the demographic that want the exact opposite – and developers are finally starting to take notice. The upsurge in mobile and social games has been huge lately, and it only promises to get bigger. Casual games sell. Why? They are cheaper, they are easily accessible, and they are something the whole family can enjoy together.

So does this mean the day of the FPS are over? Of course not….but I suspect they will also change to capture a larger chunk of sales. Already, even FPS are trending more towards a social experience, and less towards something that can be enjoyed alone. And mobile versions of even AAA games are popping up all the time. The world of gaming is on the brink of huge shift; where that shift takes us – whether it be a focus on digital distribution, social gaming, or something entirely different – will be a defining moment for the future of gaming as we know it.


*Figures Sourced from The Entertainment Software Association 2012 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry*


U.S. Senior Editor & Deputy EIC, @averyzoe on Twitter, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @macanthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)