“Real Gamers” Play “Real Games”

At the end of Julia’s post, she¬†distinguishes between the casual phone and web games that she¬†plays and more serious “video games”. This is a great distinction to make note of, as the exclusive grouping of some games as “real” and the rest as “casual” is a driving force behind the gaming community’s often exclusionary attitude toward women.

While the casual games category is understood to contain simple, lightweight games suitable for even the least experienced of players, “hardcore” games require a greater degree of dexterity and experience. At the surface level, this appears to be a distinction purely based on complexity. In practice, though, this means that men – long understood to be the tech-savvy gender – are encouraged to play complex games, and discouraged from touching casual ones. The inverse is true, of course, for women, for whom casual games are suitable and hardcore games are not. The product, then, is a deep schism between games branded as “real” and those considered “casual”, with one gender on each side of the divide and little room for crossover.

I will say that some developers/publishers – Nintendo in particular – have made serious attempts to bridge the gap between hardcore and casual games, and consequently between hardcore and casual gamers. Games like Mario Kart, Kirby, and the Mario Sports series are intentionally designed to accommodate a wide spectrum of gaming experience. However, in my eye these attempts only serve to encourage casual gamers to play more complex games – and not the opposite. That is, even if (some) hardcore games are becoming more gender-inclusive, I’ve yet to see the same occur for casual games. For the time being, Angry Birds and Candy Crush and the like are still labelled as barely “real games”, and their players barely “real gamers.”

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