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December 27, 2014 12:13 PM   Subscribe

  • The correct definition of ‘game’
  • Narrative vs Mechanics
  • Randomness vs Skill
  • The importance of realism
  • Casual vs Hardcore
Daniel Cook: the top 5 game design debates I ignored in 2014
posted by MartinWisse (73 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Especially Casual v. Hardcore. The author is right that this is an elitist fortress mentality about gaming. But it is also almost always engendered in some way (i.e. women are presumed casuals, men are presumed hardcore). Became especially evident after news surfaced that women comprised a much larger chunk of the gaming demographic than some people thought.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:23 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thoughtful and pragmatic, thanks!
posted by alasdair at 12:34 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


People did not like it when I posted an article saying exactly that, Aya.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:37 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I ignored so much in 2014, it was awesome.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 12:45 PM on December 27, 2014 [22 favorites]


#2 and #3 seem out of place to me. Understanding both of those is key to a masterfully designed game. It's like a director saying they are sick of talking about how lighting effects a scene or something.
posted by aspo at 12:53 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


But that's not the debate he's talking about, rather whether games are about the narrative or the mechanics and wheter randomness is better than skill in a game.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:32 PM on December 27, 2014


He's just saying the "A vs .B" setup is inadequate. So your example would be "I am tired of discussing whether to always use Lighting Technique A vs. Lighting Technique B." When a good director would know that it's not that simple.
posted by emjaybee at 1:37 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not everyone is a rigidly intellectual young man who desires only mental-skill games that let them dominate others.

If I could pick one sentence for the more embarrassing sectors of the gaming public to grok and grok fucking thoroughly in 2015, it would be this one.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:53 PM on December 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure I agree with the 'importance of realism', unless his argument is strictly that non-realistic doesn't have to equal bad (which I agree with). While there are many types of games in which realism is neither required nor desirable (platformers, for instance), there are some for which it often is (simulations) and it's a useful tool for many. Realism is a powerful tool for developing immersion and creating certain atmospheres (it's very good for an oppressive or unpredictable atmosphere, for instance). However, it's critical to know when to divert from it. So I guess I'd say that realism is a very important factor in gaming, it's just not always that more = better. A lack of realism or internal consistency can also make a game feel over-engineered and artificial, which bothers some people (I for one can't stand it).

One nice thing about the randomness vs. skill debate is that it feels nearly settled by many recent games, such as Binding of Isaac and FTL. Both are extremely random, but skill is also a huge factor. In fact, I'd say roguelikes in general utilize both skill and randomness to great effect. I think when people complain about randomness, what they're really complaining about is a game being skill-less; a game in which an inexperienced player might beat an experienced one by simple luck. Whether such a thing is desirable depends on the nature and audience of the game, of course (it's a good thing if you want to play it with a small child or a non-gamer, for instance; it's less good for serious competitive play).
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:01 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Something tells me the author is using the words "casual" and "hardcore" in a sense I'm not familiar with:
I personally tend to make games that look 'casual', but consistently melt the brains of self identified 'hardcore' players trained on endless tutorials, cut scenes and QTEs.
This comment left me feeling entirely bemused. None of these three things tend to appear in games that I would consider to be hardcore, especially Quick Time Events. These are nearly always a substitute for more flexible or complicated gameplay, and thus a staple tool in casual game design (although I've never met anyone that actually likes QTEs, it is pretty obvious why designers use them). In the former case, they create narrative bottlenecks to keep casual gaming streamlined (as opposed to sandboxed, or at the least containing many diverse solutions to a present problem---but as noted in the Realism section, the author is entirely opposed to simulation and the concept that meticulous reproduction of reality can ever be fun). In the latter they reduce complicated flexibility of situational approach with an abstracted Nintendo era approach to fighting (or whatever), where mashing buttons in certain orders is how you win---only unlike much of the Nintendo era fighters, you can't choose which combination of buttons to unleash on your opponent, which is again, why it's a fundamentally casual gaming tool. Instead of providing the player with millions of potential ways to beat a particular hard point in the game, you have a singular "hit this button fifteen times accurately" work-around with an animated "progress bar" of your character punching well or getting punched when you miss a Green Square button, or whatever. Maybe one's mouse finger feels that all of this is hardcore, however.

And cut scenes being a defining aspect of hardcore games? It seems to me the author is perhaps unaware of the rich variety of games outside of the mass market that they work within (my assumption, based on their arguments throughout the blog article). Many of the games I would consider to be hard core aren't even driven by a narrative. A cut scene wouldn't make any sense, and certainly isn't something you "train" with. It seems we can take a look at a game such as The Swapper, a great little casual platformer title with some interesting puzzles and gameplay (and incidentally, it has a tutorial), and compare it with a dedicated A-10 Warthog simulator that takes hours of learning just to figure out how to turn the damn airplane on, or even something like Hearts of Iron, or any other grand strategy that can take months to complete a single game of, or huge games where 50+ hours of play is considered the learning phase---and say there is no casual and hardcore in the equation. What?

I don't have any sense of "elitism" over this, as seems to be the automatic assumption whenever anyone uses the words hardcore and casual in the same sentence. Both of these polarities, and the grand scale between them, are interesting to me as games (as well as why people play them). I've enjoyed Star Fleet Battles with its 1,000s of US Letter-sized pages of rules printed in 9pt fonts, as well as Angry Birds, which requires very little explanation at all for even a child to learn how to play it effectively. What the author seems to get hung up on, however, is that a casual game such as that can have depth. I don't think anyone is arguing against that however.

Attack the elitism, sure, but to deny that there are games designed to appeal to game/topic nuts vs. games designed to appeal to mass markets is just silly. But maybe I just don't understand the author's debate, because of their strange definition of hardcore gaming, and their focus on trying to argue that no game can be designed as one or the other successfully. Does the author really think that a game like Pillars of Eternity is being designed and marketed for everyone?

Anyway, that's one of my pet peeves. Attempting to suggest that games should not be developed for those have very specific or in-depth interests in certain topics, or even in game itself, as a topic, just feels to me like a strain of political correctness. We don't want to make some people feel dumb, so we better just make all games as easy as possible, and keep making them easier and easier until eventually things like Quick Time Events and Cut Scenes are considered... hardcore.
posted by MysteriousMan at 2:15 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'd tell you about the top five game design debates I ignored in 2014, but I wasn't paying attention.
posted by JHarris at 2:20 PM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


"Casual vs. hardcore" is one of those distinctions like "growth vs. value stocks" that used to be helpful but has been blurred to non-existence by the market and increased availability of the console/platform.

For example, the chief aspect of casual used to be that the player would pick it up in odd moments as opposed to dedicating time to the game, which was hardcore. For example, Mahjong hidden behind your spreadsheet at work was casual and playing Starcraft multiplayer in full-screen with IM signed out was hardcore. You played Civ for five hours and flash games for a bit if your friend happened to send you a link. The distinction was useful to developers because if you knew the attention your players tended to devote to your game, you could design the complexity and immersion accordingly.

But, some really immersive games can be put on mobile and SSDs, autosave, Steam on every device, fast matchmaking technology, streamlined play, shorter levels due to bad budget planning, etc. make getting in a turn or a few rounds of a "serious game" hardly any more inconvenient than taking a turn in Clash of Clans -- and going the other way, a percentage of simple mobile game players spend a great deal of time and money on them.

And while game preferences still segment by sex, and those segments are still correlated with different aesthetic and mechanical preferences, obeying those aggregated preferences is not nearly as valuable as using deeply segmented/mined data and responsiveness to individual player behavior to maximize the user's engagement and spending.
posted by michaelh at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2014


I think when people complain about randomness, what they're really complaining about is a game being skill-less; a game in which an inexperienced player might beat an experienced one by simple luck.

Mitrovarr, I agree with most of your comment, but this part triggered a stream of thought. So, I'm not picking on you – just springboarding off of something you happened to say.

Many games in which an inexperienced player might beat an experienced player by luck in a single game are not "skill-less" at all. Poker is a prime example. The luck adds the following characteristics to the game:

- Less experienced or bad players have an incentive to play, thereby feeding the economy, both monetarily and with new players that may grow into great players.

- Good players are required not just to be smart, but to have conviction, courage, and discipline. It is one thing to say that you know you should reraise all-in preflop with a pair of kings, but quite another to still make that correct play after you've done it before resulting in an opponent beating the odds to beat you holding ace-eight or something. Many players say they understand probability, but upon experiencing the "1" on 4-to-1 odds of beating a flush draw on the river, those same players lose their nerve and become awfully superstitious.

(My personal favorite poker situation is seeing a haughty tight player who's read the books melting down over a bad beat.)

- Attention to the long view. It rewards players that focus on improving their play in the aggregate and to let go of individual hands or sessions. It also helps players understand how incremental gains and losses affect them over time. Yes, it is important to make the play that lets you lose only $30 instead of $50 and to not dump your chips just because you're tired and your stack is small.

Combat sports are actually another game in which luck can result in a less experienced player beating a more experienced player. They are most certainly not skill-less. They just require the experienced fighters to put something on the line when they fight and to take every fight seriously.
posted by ignignokt at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I ignored so much in 2014, it was awesome.

2014 forced me to learn to ignore lots of things on purpose that I once ignored by accident ... or never thought I'd have or even be willing to ignore.

As Annie often observed, it's a hard-enough life. And I never, ever expected to feel so much like an orphan.
posted by Twang at 2:34 PM on December 27, 2014


I think the definition of "hardcore" in play in this article is to do with the demographic of the "core gamer," 18-25yo males who buy Call of Duty and the like. It hasn't much to do with how serious they really are about games, but they probably care a great deal about being perceived as more serious about games than thou. Around $60/game of serious.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:42 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I thought it was a bit more than that, but I agree that calling the willingness to buy a few mainstream titles at full price "hardcore" is like reserving "film buff" for people who go to the theater every week to see what's playing.
posted by michaelh at 2:51 PM on December 27, 2014


Games that are solely about mastering a skill are useless and boring. I find learning actual useful skills more entertaining.

I used to love games, but now, with a few exceptions, I find "passive" forms of entertainment more enjoyable because it's such a relief to not have to jump through ridiculous hoops to get to the art. I play the most interesting games on "easy" mode, and find I get my skill fix from mastering RL skills.

Something has to change with gaming, but I'm really don't know exactly what that is. There has to be a way to blend interactivity with art without making one feel like you're just taking your medicine to get to the good parts or wasting your time.
posted by smidgen at 2:55 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


When you say something has to change with gaming what do you mean? Just that something has to change in order for you to enjoy it more? Because it's a hugely successful multi multi multi billion dollar industry already and its popularity is only growing.
posted by Justinian at 3:04 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Casual vs. hardcore" is one of those distinctions like "growth vs. value stocks" that used to be helpful but has been blurred to non-existence by the market and increased availability of the console/platform.

michaelh at 2:33 PM on December 27
So you would agree with the author, that The Swapper is designed to be just as hardcore as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.; that the distinction between these games has become a blur of meaninglessness? Again, I feel like perhaps I'm just not understanding the debate, if that is the contention.

I'm also unclear on what consoles or smart phones have to do with this either, let alone whether you use a spinning platter or an SSD or a "cloud" to save your game. Is that really a thing now in the stereotyping debate now? Well, that all feels like a red herring to me, and not central to the issue of whether or not games could and should be designed for hardcore, in the dictionary sense of the term, fringe enthusiasts of a particular topic or genre.

For obvious reasons, however, most of these games are not mass market because they set out from the very beginning to deliberately winnow out the user base to only those that really dig that type of game and want it to go as deep into the genre as it can. That guy that made Space Empires IV was hardly doing it to get tens of millions of people playing it while sitting on the throne.

What is wrong with not only admitting that, but revelling in it?
posted by MysteriousMan at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2014


ignignokt: I certainly wouldn't have called poker a skill-less game. Like you said, it's about the long game, winning a lot of games over time. Those other games I referenced, Binding of Isaac and FTL, will absolutely hand you an unavoidable loss (or almost free win, at least in BoI) some of the time. However, good players will win far more often than bad ones.

Truly skill-less games or low skill games, at least in my experience, tend to cluster around:

Party games (almost certainly intentional and probably desirable).
Bad racing games with rubberband AI.
Bad fighting games.
Bad board games.
Poorly designed MMOs and pay-to-win games (where competition is all about comparing numbers and numbers don't take skill to get, only money or grind).
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ohh, like Mario Party. (Which I happen to like for other reasons.) OK, I thought it was a reiteration of this idea I've heard that deep games have to be 100% deterministic like chess.
posted by ignignokt at 3:48 PM on December 27, 2014


Top Game Design sensibilities I ignored in 2014:

Gameplay

What is gameplay? I don't know. There doesn't seem to be a hard definition. Gamers think this is the most important thing, so I've been neglecting it to great success.

I think gameplay is a combination of movement through the game world, how that feels, and killing NPCs, and how that feels. So if you're running through a level really fast and shooting things, there's lots of "gameplay" but if you're walking through a house picking things up there's less "gameplay" and therefore it isn't a game.

Player Choice

I've read a lot of End of The Year comments about the Telltale games and how people don't want to call them "games" because even though there's movement through the game world and player choices, the player choices "Don't really matter" or something. Your choices don't really matter in Grand Theft Auto V's narrative and that's a "real game" so...

Releasing on Linux

Unity allows me to make a Linux binary fairly easily but I won't make one unless asked, typically, as I have no way to verify if it works and I can't be arsed to make a Linux partition on my computer to check. I find people asking for Linux versions of retail games to be rather annoying. These are the same people talking about Player Choice and Gameplay, typically.

My Animal Crossing Village

I feel the most guilty about this because the NPCs in NiteVale were the only ones that threw me a birthday party. Our main export is Dinosaur bones, which show up every night for some reason. Our flag is the Cascadia Doug Fir flag.
posted by hellojed at 4:04 PM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


There's actually this great essay on Sirlin.net about how 100% deterministic open-information competitive games like chess tend to devolve over time into memorization (over half of pro chess games now end in draws), but admittedly he's talking about tabletop games.

For a while it seemed to me that "casual" games referred to more abstract games that don't seem to be specifically designed to drive away all but a fairly young male target demographic. Of course, I also argue occasionally that "puzzle game" is broadly speaking an unhelpful classification that would be better served as "abstract game" (e.g. Tetris), if only because the defining feature of puzzles is that they get solved.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:06 PM on December 27, 2014


One nice thing about the randomness vs. skill debate is that it feels nearly settled by many recent games, such as Binding of Isaac and FTL. Both are extremely random, but skill is also a huge factor. In fact, I'd say roguelikes in general utilize both skill and randomness to great effect.

Randomness is only tolerable in roguelikes because sessions are expected to be relatively quick and you're expected to die a lot. If you're designing any other sort of game, questions about how much randomness you want are still live and important. It sucks to have an hour or two of progress undone because of a difficulty spike caused by a string of bad die rolls.

BoI pushes against the bounds of tolerability, I think. The randomness is fine when you're still just trying to beat Mom's Heart for the first time and games take twenty minutes, but games take 45 minutes for more experienced players trying to drill down to The Chest. That makes the games where you get screwed by the RNG a real punch in the gut. Lots of players restart if they don't get good items on the first couple of floors. I resist doing that, but I can feel the temptation a lot of the time.
posted by painquale at 4:17 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Casual," the way anyone in games culture uses it, means, "girls' games." "Hardcore," likewise means, "boys' games." Seriously. Every conversation about "casual" versus "hardcore" games eventually boils down to drawing a line in the gender sand. The Sims, Animal Crossing, et al, are obsessively deep time-sinking RPGs but are considered "casual" because they're sort of marketed at girls. Arcade games and lots of shooters fit every definition of "casual" games, but people scramble to redefine the dichotomy when this is pointed out because "casual" games are implied to be bad/inferior. "Hardcore" predates the dichotomy and used to be kind of a good thing, but the well's sort of poisoned now.

There are a lot of broken dichotomies like this in games, so a list of common logical fallacies in games culture (which is basically what the article is) is neat.
posted by byanyothername at 6:07 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm also unclear on what consoles or smart phones have to do with this either, let alone whether you use a spinning platter or an SSD or a "cloud" to save your game. Is that really a thing now in the stereotyping debate now?

Yes, it really is, and has been for a long time. The intractable Console v PC shitfest has dragged smartphones kicking and screaming into the fight, with the former two taking turns pouring scorn and ridicule on the latter. Now Console and PC warriors no longer worry about who's hardcore but who's hardcorer, because both agree that smartphone/tablet games are for filthy casuals.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:15 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every conversation about "casual" versus "hardcore" games eventually boils down to drawing a line in the gender sand.

byanyothername at 6:07 PM on December 27
Well, I suppose it would if you bring it up as the sole argument and disregard everything else that has been said prior. Sorry if that comes across as cheeky, but you did basically accuse me of being a sexist once you boil me down to the end of my argument. As is true with most things all the way down to towel colours, and as with most things that cause debate, you can probably extract a gender-based argument out of it if you dig hard enough, too. This is not specific to the hardcore vs. softcore thing in the least, and certainly not to the extent where you can say a grand strategy game is hardcore... because gender stereotypes made it that way! But that seems to be precisely what you are saying, that the only salient argument I could ever come up with to say that Space Empires IV is a hardcore 4x turn-based strategy game is worthless and that the only argument worth having about it is, what, that you think I believe women don't like hardcore strategy games? That is certainly not true in my experience, and I said nothing of the sort (I said nothing of gender at all). I don't see any evidence that the game was designed out of some sexist misunderstanding, either. It is a game made for lovers of deep 4x strategy, whoever they may be.

And yes, I do classify basic shooters such as CoD as casual, and Sims is on the hardcore side of the spectrum, as you have to throw a lot of learning and energy into it to get anywhere in it. Games like CoD make every attempt to simplify themselves for a mass market. You can learn how to play it in minutes, and once you learn it, you can probably pick it back up a year later with no refresh and do just fine. That's, in my opinion, one of the quintessential components of what makes a game casual. That's not a bad thing, as some seem to be intimating, it's just a design mechanism, like all others.

So, you really seem to be commenting more on the elitist stereotyping that I already deliberately set my comments aside from, not an objective debate over whether game designers should intentionally create challenging and difficult to learn games for an audience that craves those kinds of games. That's, as I understand it, the point of the article---that designers shouldn't even bother with that and try to simplify the experience down so everyone can enjoy it. That the distinction is not worth having any longer, and that nobody actually targets hardcore gamers any more. I emphatically disagree with that (though within the mass market that is more true).

If it was the authors intention to say that we should make games that appeal to all genders (and presumably all types of people, too, why not, while we're at it), then that's fine, but they do not seem to be dwelling much on that at all. They spent as much time talking about the age of the gamer.
There are a lot of broken dichotomies like this in games, so a list of common logical fallacies in games culture (which is basically what the article is) is neat.
Ibid.
That I do agree with, and overall I enjoyed the article even if I did not agree with all of what was said. False dichotomies should be battled wherever they flourish. I understand what the author is driving at, that we shouldn't classify hardcore in terms of stereotypical things such as how much time is spent playing it. But to disregard the whole concept as a reaction is only going to leave us all collectively leaving a baby screaming in a puddle of discarded bathwater.
Now Console and PC warriors no longer worry about who's hardcore but who's hardcorer, because both agree that smartphone/tablet games are for filthy casuals.

Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:15 PM on December 27
Well okay, I am aware of that as well, though I wouldn't really classify a bunch of Emacs vs. Vim style trolling as important to the debate on how games should be designed. It is also, incidentally, an example of how the hardcore vs. casual debate doesn't entirely revolve around gender stereotypes, and suggests that people just look for any convenient tribal barrier and attempt to disregard what is outside of that, be it their gender or their gaming equipment (or the specific brand of equipment) or genres or sub-genres, or what country the game came from. All of these have been used in ridiculous arguments over the years, and none of them are worth paying much attention to beyond the basic meta of what happens when you put a bunch of humans in a room together and say, "Now discuss...".

As the author of the article said, "Instead of getting caught up in the babble of ill-informed internet backwash, try talking directly with other working designers. Build tools and knowledge together."

Again, I think the point of that section of the article is that the author feels game designers should not target casual or hardcore, but rather try to make hardcore games casual, and casual games deeper. I think that position is an overall negative, perhaps an overreaction, and part of the problem with mass market game design today; the money is not in hardcore games, so you constantly see the concept of hardcore being assaulted and abandoned to fringe labels and indie developers, who often do not have the money to realise their dreams.

There are exceptions, but there aren't many left.
posted by MysteriousMan at 8:07 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


It is also, incidentally, an example of how the hardcore vs. casual debate doesn't entirely revolve around gender stereotypes

Not entirely, of course, but it still does to a great deal. There's a certain demographic more likely to self-identify as the former who use a lot of gender stereotypes in describing the latter. Your understanding of hardcore v. casuals points out other sides in that false dichotomy, but I don't think you need to squint too hard to see the gendering in the discussion and treatment.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:30 PM on December 27, 2014


Certainly not difficult at all, although I will say that from personal experience (which is not insignificant) I have rarely seen the girl/boy mapping applied like that. More often than not, the conversations I see are framed around certain types of gaming or specific games in general (Diablo III players are "casuals", in the derogatory sense, to mention one example that you'll frequently find on aRPG forums for other games)—not unlike overhearing people trash-talking Starbucks customers in any other type of coffeehouse. But like I say, I'm not terribly interested in compiling all of the various snorting sounds that erupt from all of those embroiled in a perpetual and pointless No True Scotsman yelling match. To me these are just symbols being used in a larger and more comprehensive argument that has only a marginal relationship with the composition of games themselves and the patterns used to signify them.

What makes a game hardcore, what makes a gamer hardcore about a game, what sort of mechanics and designs appeal, what doesn't, etc. I feel like that whole debate is getting lost in a ritual admonishment of the trolls.

To come back to the original point: I don't think there is anything wrong with a room of game designers deciding whether or not to target a hardcore audience, and what to do to make their game appealing to that audience. Of course, using stereotypes to figure that out is awful, and many lazy designers have fallen for doing so, we should wag our fingers when we see that kind of stuff, no matter what the prejudice may be, but let's not discard the concept of hardcore games merely because it gets used as a prop in a YouTube comment moshpit between Android and PC gamers or between narrow minded men and women.
posted by MysteriousMan at 9:49 PM on December 27, 2014


"What is gameplay? I don't know."
-hellojed
"Gameplay is where you don't have something so you have to go get it."
-Porpentine
posted by RobotHero at 10:13 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Anybody up for Hanabi?

You have a green tw...dammit
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:00 PM on December 27, 2014


Every conversation about "casual" versus "hardcore" games eventually boils down to drawing a line in the gender sand.

You need to find some better gaming conversations. I suggest the Idle Thumbs podcast or Rock Paper Shotgun.
posted by straight at 11:14 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Video Games Hot Dog is another good podcast by game designers.
posted by painquale at 12:20 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've always thought hardcore meant that you would lose all progress if you met the failure conditions. That's talking more about the game settings themselves than the players, though. Still, what matters is the way you use the word in a sentence. It seems from the conversation that the definition of hardcore is the amount of time spent on a game, which I find sort of baffling, because you can spend a lot of time in any game, in both playing it and learning the metagame.
posted by halifix at 12:26 AM on December 28, 2014


My top 5 video game debates I ignored in 2014:
1. xbone vs. ps4
2. 720 vs. 1080
3. 30 fps vs. 60 fps
4. android vs. iOS
5. dota vs. league of legends

Re: the hardcore vs. casual tangent...
They can mean many different things in different contexts. For casual it might mean play style (short 5 minute bursts), design goals (easy to learn, hard to master), demographic (mass market or 35-50 y.o. women), platform (handheld/mobile), culture (does not engage with gamer culture, read gaming sites or reviews), brand loyalty (only plays one game or sequels), or so on. So if I wanted to talk casual games, I might be talking about old-school coin-op pinball, Pacman, Super Hexagon, Candy Crush Saga, Call of Duty, Animal Crossing, Madden, Gone Home, Chess, or World of Warcraft. Which is why I hate hardcore vs. casual - these classifications are useless. The purpose of a shorthand term like "casual" and "hardcore" is to get quickly to common ground, but evidence has shown that people have very different ideas of what these terms actually mean. Using them ends up sidetracking the conversation into a debate about what "casual" and "hardcore" means, rather than getting into the heart of whatever design problem you were trying to tackle initially.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 12:54 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems from the conversation that the definition of hardcore is the amount of time spent on a game, which I find sort of baffling, because you can spend a lot of time in any game, in both playing it and learning the metagame.
halifix at 12:26 AM on December 28
Time is often a factor, but I don't think it is a necessity, and as it is pointed out in the article, though not by name, plenty of time has been consumed playing the paragon of casual, Candy Crush Saga, too—probably in the billions of collective hours at this point. I would say the consumption of time is a common side effect of a hardcore game, but not a necessity toward its classification. To put it another way, a hardcore game might have a 500 page manual that you actually do have to reference to play the game, and so by that merit alone there is a time investment, but the time itself is not the factor that defines it, it's the fact that the game you are playing has a 500 page user manual, right? A game like Dota 2 requires many years of practice and study to become even baseline decent at playing it. Is it the years that matter? I think not, it's just that there is enough of a game in there, both by sheer knowledge to learn and mechanical agility to attain, to not be something you can download while on the toilet and figure out how to play for ten minutes.

But, you might very much like that game and end up playing it for hundreds of hours in the future. That doesn't make it hardcore, but it might make you hardcore about it; something else entirely. :)
posted by MysteriousMan at 1:10 AM on December 28, 2014


The luck / skill distinction is really, really interesting to me. I've been playing a wide range of non-video games with friends and family over the break, and am just about decided that the most fun games have enough going on to make you *feel* like your brain is in charge of things and concentrating on a skill or strategy, but in fact luck is the vast deciding factor. Phase ten, Mexican train dominoes and maybe ticket to ride all more or less fall into this category. Too much obvious reliance on luck and people get bored, but it doesn't take a whole lot of reliance on skill before things get stressful, or make it difficult to have fun without a *very* carefully balanced group of players.

The perfect game fools people into thinking they are involved in a great contest of skill or strategy, while secretly relying on luck enough to easily keep things balanced.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:56 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


You also need luck, manufactored or otherwise, to keep games interesting when somebody is clearly starting to win. Nothing so boring as see the inevitable crushing of all opposition coming in e.g. Monopoly.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:46 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]



I haven't read a lot of in depth discussion from game developers or on game sites but in terms of how the whole casual vs hardcore debate has manifested between people playing games I've played I tend to agree strongly with Aya's points about the gender component of it. At least in the on the ground everyday playing of games it sure comes up. A lot.

I've been playing computer games for over 25 years and spent a lot of time in multi player environments. There is no consenus about what a casual or hardcore game is and there is no overall consensus on what a 'casual' or 'hardcore' player of a game is either. Any perusal of a multiplayer game forum will see these discussion (fights) over and over again.

(This does seem to be changing. Slowly. But it is changing #notallgamers)

However what has been fairly consistent throughout my gaming years is that females are 'casual' gamers. Yes, as a female I can be 'hardcore' in a particular game and play 'hardcore' games but for long time daring to call myself 'hardcore' without some sort of determination by the 'boys' that it was okay was asking for trouble. Lots of gendered attacks trouble.

Male players deemed 'casual' or liking 'casual' games most definitely got (get) a gendered treatment. They are less than (real men), pussies, wuses, farmville/ hello kitty players (girls games). Getting told to 'go play Hello Kitty' or that 'Hello Kitty' is game better suited to your skills is an insult.

I could tell several stories about being considered 'hardcore' and what happened when it was discovered that I was actually a female. What is common with all of them is that a female playing a hardcore game, like a regular player and being really good at said game threw people into a tizzy. As a female it's very common to be hear some version of "Oh yeah, Ella is awesome at the game, she can even beat guys. Oh and she's female. She's hardcore." Males version is "Yeah Joe, he's hardcore, he will beat most people...." No need to qualify Joe's hardcore skills with pointing out his gender.
posted by Jalliah at 6:38 AM on December 28, 2014


2014 forced me to learn to ignore lots of things on purpose that I once ignored by accident ... or never thought I'd have or even be willing to ignore.

You, uhh. You should really clarify what you mean here. Because to me, ignoring something by choice is way, way worse than ignoring something by ignorance.
posted by Soultron at 6:58 AM on December 28, 2014


Guys, I wrote my previous post in a rushed and frustrated state, and that'll probably be the case here, too, because I'm pretty frustrated by the replies. Here's the salient point I have: Just because you don't see a thing doesn't mean that thing doesn't exist. I assure you, I am way nerdier about games than you are. The gendering of the "hardcore"/"casual" dichotomy is not something that I've encountered because I'm too clueless to know where to stand in the kitchen to ignore the stink. The whole house smells bad. In fact, it's really the tip of the iceberg: that same gendering underlies similar non-dichotomies like, "Narrative versus Mechanics" and "Are Games Art Because I Think You Should Shut Up And Leave." Most of the female gamers I've known (and I'm including myself) play games for the creative elements: narrative, characterization, writing, art direction, music, aesthetics, whatever. Virtually all venues for talking about games (even the "good ones," even MetaFilter) routinely love denigrating those elements, and people who enjoy them. Most of the big anti-games-as-art arguments I've seen amount to, "stay out of the treehouse." Gamergate has made a lot of this stuff apparent to fence-sitting mugwumps, which is why I'm bothering to not just shut up about it.

All I'm saying is that you can't ignore this. It's not just some accident of a chaotic universe that games deemed "casual," that creative elements in games, that games as art, or whatever, are enormously denigrated within gamer culture. See also the JRPG genre, and its drift to whipping child status within gamer culture. There are a lot of factors for its decline--games are way more expensive to produce now, the Japanese demographics are shrinking, etc.--but it'd be a mistake to brush aside the genre's mixed-gender audience, and its reluctance to pander exclusively to teenage boys in its subcultural devalutation.

Are there points you can make within these false dichotomies that aren't misogynist? I guess. But who cares? These wells have been poisoned, and even valid points made in them do nothing to really advance game design. The comparison to film way above is apt; setting these elements against one another is like choosing between having cinematography and having a script. You can't even weigh them together; they do different things, you probably want both unless you're some kind of genius.
posted by byanyothername at 9:30 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, the guy lost me a lot by referring to 'skinner box' as a 'poisoned tribal label'. Yeah, no, that's a specific and well-defined piece of criticism - that a game is designed to be addictive, not fun. Sticking it in there along with 'gamer' (an actual 'poisoned tribal label', if there is one) makes me suspect he's deliberately trying to poison the term. Maybe it's a little close to home with regard to what he designs?
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:47 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Good posts, MysteriousMan. Very spot on. I don't think we should ignore these debates at all.

#1 The correct definition of 'game'.
It's cool that we are getting an ever increasing pool of weird indie games and people pushing the medium into unknown territory. What is not cool is the polarisation between weird and basic (understandable, given the budgets) indie games and the incredibly uniform cinematic-style casual AAA-budget games. Almost gone are the games in the middle. To formulate what is lost in this middle ground between indie and AAA, we need to continue to discuss the definition of games and what that entails.

#2 Narrative and mechanics have proven to be similarly intertwined.
Yet, almost nobody seem to act on it. Most games i've played the last years are very dependant on narrative styles borrowed from other mediums like cinema and literature, Very few games let the presence of the game world and its mechanics immerse me in a story. Most game designers seem to treat story as something purely literate that has to be told explicitly. It's like playing an interactive comic book at times and i don't really want that. Movies will always be best at being movies, literature will always be best at being literature, so why do games so often try to avoid being games? Is there still some kind of stigma to this medium? Cinema have Bela Tarr and Tarkovskiy, literature have Baudrillard and Pynchon, so why doesn't the game medium allow themselves the same? (Of course it does, but i would love to see a lot more of it, is what i'm saying) Works that, even though they seem off-putting to a lot of people, truly rewards patience and immersion. The videogame-as-art discussion almost always revolves around games that hides away their game-y nature. Games that are often beautiful and emotionally or conceptually striking, yes, but often lack resemblance to an actual game. The videogames-as-art discussion should also include video games that shows us the essence of the medium. And imo that is not Journey or Flower or Heavy Rain or Dear Esther but rather perhaps Starcraft Brood War, Dark Souls, "Bullet hell"-shoot em ups, Quake, Sims, Legend of Grimrock, Civilization. Which isn't to say that I didn't truly enjoy something like Gone Home or Dear Esther, but these games are not really displaying the essence of the medium to me. And I don't think narrative and mechanics can be called intertwined when you basically remove any resemblance of mechanics from your game. I'm mostly interested in immersion, atmosphere, being inside a strange "world" etc, and only solid gameplay intertwined with beautiful art direction and vision can do that. Remove one of them from the equation and everything fails.

#5 Casual vs hardcore
This distinction has never been more important. In the 80s, almost every game was considered hardcore, and NES-difficulty is an actual term. In the 90s it was a good mix between both worlds. The last decade however, has been much more focused on the casual. The 'consolification' is not just a fantasy term conjured by bitter PC-gamers, but refers to an actual shift in the way game developers tend to create games to maximize profits before a compromising artistic vision. Convenience, unification and simplified systems before depth and freedom and artistic risk. (I need to stress that a lot of indie games are insanely good from an artistic point of view, but very often lacks deep gameplay that is required for me to immerse myself)

I would categorize hardcore games as games that are deliberately hard to get into. Games that doesn't put ease-of-use high on the list. Not because hard to get into is an inherently positive thing, but because it opens up a lot of freedom for the game developer. Sadly, higher budgets often means higher stakes which often means more casual games. And this is a problem, not because "casual games" are in any way inferior, but because it simply leads to less hardcore games for those of us who prefer that.

Some things (on top of my head) that i look for in a "hardcore" game:
- Less HUD / interface in my face. Preferably no minimap or explicit pointers (One obvious exception is complex strategy games)
- Less filler content (Ubisoft is notorious for creating thousands of meaningless side quests with almost no impact on anything whatsoever)
- Much higher stakes (it hurts a lot more to fail)
- The expectation that i have played games before, meaning that they can skip long and meaningless tutorials
- No "Press X to .." blinking in the middle of the screen. I want to play the game myself, not being told how to play the game.
- No quick time events and an absolute minimum of cutscenes (preferably none, let the game tell the story via art, characters, gameplay, world design, rewards etc)
- No autosave, no fast travel etc.
- Often (but not always) more obscure rules, putting the burden on me to dive into the game and exploring it
- Often (but not necessarily) higher difficulty
- Several ways of succeeding
- Complex systems that can take years to master
- A general disregard for "ease-of-entry" (to a certain degree)
- Less streamlining, more freedom, more ways to fail, more ways to succeed

To me a hardcore game is all about immersion. The feeling that the game dev isn't insulting my intelligence and that the game takes me on some kind of journey. A game is hardcore to me when it dares to be exclusive and even alienating at times. A game where i can truly fail and it's all on me. I'm a fan of hardcore games not because i love difficulty, but because they make me feel like i'm exploring something new, that i'm treading on a new path that demand a lot from me, and are equally rewarding if i put in the effort. Games that puts a low priority on convenience (which gives the game developers a lot more freedom to creating something genuine and interesting).

One particular example: Dark Souls 1, as mentioned above, which is everything that is good about gaming. Even disregarding the difficulty (and macho posturing), it is a beautiful game that perfectly breaks almost every rule. It's like the developers lived in a cave for the last decade and i mean that in the best possible way. It is sensible and carefully elaborated, deep, vague, emotional at times and it is a perfect example where narrative is almost exclusively told via level design, game mechanics, atmosphere and coherency. It can feel hostile and even deeply annoying at times, but the end result is oh so immersive and just plain fun! While we definitely don't need a wave of Dark Souls clones, the game stands as a perfect contrast to what is wrong with a lot of casual AAA-gaming and should really be mentioned more often in these kinds of discussions I think. It is a definition of a game with capital G, because it isn't automatically winnable, you have to immerse yourself to beat it, which isn't something i can say for the vast majority of games i've played the last years.

Also, i really like this metafilter comment regarding the two main gaming lineages: http://www.metafilter.com/143859/You-probably-should-play-all-of-these#5787600
It isn't exactly hardcore vs casual, but it seems to point to something that a lot of us feel lack from gaming, and don't have the words to fully communicate.
posted by hypertekst at 11:32 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, the guy lost me a lot by referring to 'skinner box' as a 'poisoned tribal label'. Yeah, no, that's a specific and well-defined piece of criticism - that a game is designed to be addictive, not fun.

Daniel Cook is a freemium game developer. I agree with a lot of stuff he says but he has blinders on when the discussion veers into phone game territory.
posted by zixyer at 2:05 PM on December 28, 2014


I like narrative games just fine, even though I'm more about "game games" so I think any dispute about what is better in a grand sense is stupid. But it's worth thinking about because those objectives can come in conflict either directly or because developer time is limited - I think in a lot of situations you *do* want to try to pick your focus and stick to it. The game I've spent the most hours with in the past few years is Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, an open source roguelike. Knowing that development follows a de facto guideline that game mechanics take precedence over "flavor" (but that if somebody wants to volunteer their time to add atmospheric touches that's cool too) means I know development will continue in the direction of the fairly stripped-down skill-intensive (interestingly roguelikes are about skill in *managing* randomness) gameplay I want from that particular game. And on the other hand the developer of a very narrative-oriented adventure or IF game probably wants to make sure to avoid overly difficult puzzles that might keep players from completing the narrative. I think this axis is very important in design, important for figuring out what *you* want to make or play, but it's just absurd and entitled to get all het up about what kind of games "they" should be making.

The dichotomy that I really don't get is "casual" vs. "hardcore." I am exceedingly casual in my interest in games as a hobby. I haven't had a "gaming pc" or a real graphics card in a decade, and I don't really spend that much time playing games. When I do I mostly play very complex skill/strategy oriented things, sometimes arcade action or fighting games but heavily leaning toward turn-based. I don't like first-person shooters. Am I casual or hardcore? Your grandparents don't own a computer but they play chess and bridge and Scrabble, which are very much games of skill. Are they casual or hardcore? My god, who even cares?
posted by atoxyl at 4:23 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, casual vs. hardcore isn't as much of a mystery as I'm pretending it is. I think it's clear there are a few different definitions of "hardcore" - it can be about the amount of time and energy you put into games, it can be about liking "hardcore" violent games, it can be about being very serious about multiplayer competition, or it can be about where you stand on the gameplay vs. narrative/flavor thing. How these have evolved over time and what it has to do with "gamers" and their self-definition is an interesting question.

Going back to DCSS I will note that despite being something of an unforgiving grognard game the people running the IRC channel put up a login message endorsing #stopgamergate, and it has one of more adult communities of any game I've played - I mean if you go to the official site, not the 4chan thread. I think this has to do with a lot of people... actually being adults who happen to care deeply about a niche variety of videogame and volunteer their time to make it as good as possible.
posted by atoxyl at 4:36 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am exceedingly casual in my interest in games as a hobby. I haven't had a "gaming pc" or a real graphics card in a decade, and I don't really spend that much time playing games. [...] Am I casual or hardcore?

Casual.

Your grandparents don't own a computer but they play chess and bridge and Scrabble, which are very much games of skill. Are they casual or hardcore?

They aren't video gamers so the question is meaningless.

My god, who even cares?

Hardcore gamers.

I mean, I don't care about instant replay in baseball or whatever meaningless basketball gobeltygook people babble on about but sports fans seem to care and I don't mind that they do.
posted by Justinian at 5:00 PM on December 28, 2014


subject_verb_remainder: "xbone vs. ps4"

Because obviously Wii U, right?
posted by RobotHero at 5:41 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some things (on top of my head) that i look for in a "hardcore" game:

Woo! Second Life is the most Hardcore game ever! Minimal if any guides, incredibly high cost of entry, you make your narrative structure, by and large you're left on your own to fend like wolves, you have to work to get a minimap on your screen and you're doomed if you can't find the advanced menu, and if you manage to fail it's going to hurt. People have lost offline livelihoods in Second Life - total high stakes. The rules are totally obscure and change from sim to sim. Girlfriend (advanced) mode is playing as a child avatar or a Furry, where you get the bonus of being randomly banned from different places for no particular reason. The totally awesome randomness mechanic of everyone else being an actual person (except for the bots).

I've played everything from WoW in Raids to JPRGs (X-2 multiple times despite having gotten everything but completed Blue Dress Spheres) to tablet Adventure games to Candy Crush and Farmville types to Strategy Games (my fav is the Fall from Heaven Mod for Civ V) and I'm starting on some first person games, though I find the controls confusing as I'm coming from a third person background (damn you Skyrim!!!!!).

I wouldn't call myself a gamer where any men I didn't know could hear me, much less a hardcore gamer, despite easily spending 30+ hours a week gaming and having done so since I was in my teens on pretty much every medium available. I also limit where I call myself a geek. Male gamers and male geeks have made it painfully clear to me over the years that I am not of their tribe because of my gender, and given we're starting on year three of Anita Sarkeesian getting death and bomb threats (totally high stakes) because she's analyzing the games she's played since she was five (although, of course, she's not a "real" gamer, just like I'm not a "real" gamer) I think the message is fairly clear.

I know I've just lived my life, but it would be nice if people stopped doubting those of us who are women not-really-gamers when we talk about our experiences.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:15 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Re: luck vs skill. There's nothing wrong with luck in a game as long as the player can do something meaningful to affect the outcome. For example, in hearthstone, there's a creature that hits a random target for 8 damage at the end of the turn. A lot of beginners will just toss it out as soon as they can cast it, it hits a small creature then gets killed by the opponent, a waste of a turn, basically. A smarter player will try and manipulate the board and wait to cast it until either there are only good targets, or his opponent doesn't have any way to kill it immediately. Hearthstone has a lot of randomness, but a smart player can tilt the odds in his favor with smart decision making and a lot of game knowledge.

In alien: isolation, there is a lot of luck in how the creature moves around, but the game gives the players a lot of tools to modify the environment and force the enemies to go where you want.

Luck prevents games from being predictable and also increases 'realism', because the real world is rarely deterministic in practice.
posted by empath at 9:52 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's not coincidental that (with the possible exception of "realism") everything on his list is stuff I've seen someone try to use to define what is and is not a "real" game. (And I've seen "realism" used to try to define good graphics.)

Some of these things are worth discussing but not worth pitting against one another.
posted by RobotHero at 10:37 PM on December 28, 2014


If I had to try to define the casual vs. hardcore dichotomy, it would have to do with a willingness to invest in the experience; either time, money, effort, focus, or whatever. Casual gamers having a low willingness to invest, and hardcore gamers having a high willingness. It aligns with the popular definition partially, but not perfectly; for example, I'd call Nethack a 'hardcore' game (requiring a very high investment of everything but money to have any success) while many military-type shooters would only quality if one plays the online multiplayer competitively. The single player doesn't usually require enough skill to qualify.

I think self-identification as casual or hardcore is actually rather poisonous, at least when handled with inadequate self-awareness. I consider it particularly unfortunate when people think of themselves as casuals (or not gamers at all) and are unwilling to commit ahead of time, and have their quality of experience suffer because of it. Bad freemium games live on this, taking large sums of money from people who've been hooked into bad games because they weren't willing to spend small sums of money up front to get games that were designed with player experience first in mind. This sucks, because people end up spending the money and the time (and possibly even the effort), but get a reduced quality-of-experienced. Most freemium games (basically all of the single-player ones) are poisoned experiences; they have to be, or else the player wouldn't want to spend money.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:54 PM on December 28, 2014


I found the article timely (or maybe timeless?), as the release of Elite: Dangerous has prompted a lot of hand-wringing about whether or not there is "enough game" as well as 'randomness vs. skill/fun', 'narrative vs. mechanics' and "casual vs. hardcore.' And the desirable level of realism.

The author's older columns are also good reads. Although I'm not sure what "map on to" really means and he says it a lot. "How does randomness map onto noise?" sounds sort of like a Zen koan.

And 720p vs. 1080p was, like, the War of 1812. Now it's 4K vs. DSR vs. ultrawidescreen vs. Occulus vs. Rift.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:22 AM on December 29, 2014


Going back to DCSS I will note that despite being something of an unforgiving grognard game the people running the IRC channel put up a login message endorsing #stopgamergate, and it has one of more adult communities of any game I've played

This is because roguelike gamers and "hardcore" gamers are actually two different communities. Classic roguelike players are most likely to be attracted to difficulty due to being used to it by playing other roguelikes, like Rogue and Nethack. They're usually older and have a good perspective. I would be surprised if any Gamergater is over the age of 30 that isn't in fact trolling them or pandering. Most "hardcore" gamers would either look down their noses at Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (bad graphics ewww) or give up after getting their ass handed to them by an ogre for the 17th time. "He keep killin me dis sucks les ply Call of Duty."
posted by JHarris at 10:21 AM on December 29, 2014


Hardcore gamers = socially awkward teenage boys.
Hardcore games = games that socially awkward teenage boys like to play.

I'm not sure there's much more to consider about the term.
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


For example:
Casual gamers having a low willingness to invest, and hardcore gamers having a high willingness.

You obviously have never met anyone who was heavily into Candy Crush Saga.
posted by empath at 10:27 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


snuffleupagus: "Although I'm not sure what "map on to" really means and he says it a lot. "How does randomness map onto noise?" sounds sort of like a Zen koan. "

It kind of does. It seems so broad. Randomness in general. The concept of randomness?

I could see a meaning for this if he were to say "How does a certain implementation of randomness map onto noise?" By which I mean if you have random noise, when you sample any particular point of that noise then all possible values are equally likely. But that's often not the most suitable kind of randomness, depending on how you're using it. So you're going to explore ways of transforming noise into some other pattern of randomness.

At which point certain values are more or less likely than others, and going back to the intersection of randomness and skill, a player can learn to play to that pattern of randomness.
posted by RobotHero at 10:46 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Most of the female gamers I've known (and I'm including myself) play games for the creative elements: narrative, characterization, writing, art direction, music, aesthetics, whatever. Virtually all venues for talking about games (even the "good ones," even MetaFilter) routinely love denigrating those elements, and people who enjoy them.

You need some better venues for talking about games. I suggest the Idle Thumbs podcast and forums. They are strongly interested in all the things you're calling "creative elements" without the silly idea that they are gendered. They also love good game mechanics and love to praise games that integrate them well. They also realize that integrating creative elements with good game mechanics is a really, really hard problem and suggest games might do well to just focus first on doing the creative part well first (particularly when it comes to writing and narrative), and maybe then worry about the integration problem.
posted by straight at 11:00 AM on December 29, 2014


I would categorize hardcore games as games that are deliberately hard to get into.

Your definition of "hardcore" is idiosyncratic (as are most usages of the word in game discussions). The stuff that you lump under that category is very interesting and worth discussion and would probably be better served without the useless "casual/hardcore" jargon that means so many different things to different people.
posted by straight at 11:04 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


"map on to"

It's a math/programming thing. A mapping is a correspondence between some set and some other set. So for example, a loot table is a mapping from some items to numbers, which are chosen by a random number generator.

I'm not sure 'how does randomness map onto noise?' makes very much sense, though.
posted by empath at 11:13 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that one I really wish he had linked to one of his other things so we'd know for sure what he's talking about.



Also at the end, he says
Teachers that spread these memes: Consider teaching modern game design tools. Cull disproved dogma.
Except how often is it that students are coming into a class as blank-slates and the teacher fills them with "casual games are like this, and hardcore games are like this" rather than them coming in with certain preconceptions and the teacher discusses it to get them seeing past those preconceptions?
posted by RobotHero at 2:28 PM on December 29, 2014


What teacher is capable of teaching computer graphics but is so myopic to be incapable of saying, "Oh yeah, sometimes a cartoon style is more appropriate to the game."

What teacher teaching game design is going to say, "Randomness or skill. It's necessary to pick one and throw out the other. Centuries of history playing card games, dice games, obviously we ignore all that."


Yeah, if this is what your teachers are like, you should probably find another school.
posted by RobotHero at 2:39 PM on December 29, 2014


empath: You obviously have never met anyone who was heavily into Candy Crush Saga.

Ah, but here's the thing; I don't consider someone who spends hundreds of hours in a game (and probably some money) to be a true casual gamer. They're willing to make the investment! The problem is that they're making their investment of time and/or money poorly because they don't want to self-identify as a gamer, which they might have to do (in their minds) if they were to buy a gaming console or install steam or something.

I don't blame them for that, given the recent issues surrounding the word, but it's a pity because if they would just be willing to admit that they like gaming and are willing to invest significant time and money into it, they could do much better than a cynically designed money-extracting freemium game.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2014


You seem to be implying there's a lack of phone games that are themselves hardcore. I disagree with you.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2014


But if you don't mean to imply that, and you don't think someone needs to own special hardware in order to be a Gamer, then I think you would do well to realize how the language you're using is so easily construed in that direction, and seek alternatives--up to, and including, an alternative to the label "Gamer".
posted by LogicalDash at 3:53 PM on December 29, 2014


Oh, there are good phone and tablet games for the serious gamer (a better word that hardcore, I think). But there aren't very many (it's a poor interface for most game types), you don't really see the best deals there, and you miss out on the huge backlog of good games produced before tablet and phone gaming was a thing. So it's usually best to look beyond it, if you can afford to.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:56 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is because roguelike gamers and "hardcore" gamers are actually two different communities... Most "hardcore" gamers would either look down their noses at Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (bad graphics ewww) or give up after getting their ass handed to them by an ogre for the 17th time. "He keep killin me dis sucks les ply Call of Duty."

Weeeell, see what I wrote about different definitions of "hardcore gaming" - and the other arguments going on about it in this thread. I certainly think that back in the days of DOOM and Quake "hardcore" meant you were staying up all night playing DOOM and Quake - games which at the time were on the cutting edge of hardware investment, realistic graphical violence, and competitive intensity. But now some of the most aggressive, competitive (and toxic) gaming subcultures belong to things like League of Legends, which will run on a pretty old laptop, and if the "fuck you newb bitch you suck" guys wouldn't self-define as hardcore I don't know who would. Or dedicated fighting game people - they play fairly niche games with limited graphics, but they're super serious and hypercompetitive about it and I couldn't possibly call them "casual." Call of Duty specifically is actually something of a touchstone for disdain from certain gamer-er-than-thou types because of its mainstream bro-appeal and rail-narrative single-player mode.

Roguelikes are kind of a different thing, I agree (as someone who plays more roguelikes than anything else) but I see them as having roots in tabletop RPG/wargaming culture, plus early internet/Usenet/sysadmin cultures, all of which definitely have their share of bitter and exclusionary types. And like I said, 4chan actually likes DCSS - though they aren't that good at it I don't think - and supraroguelike stuff like Dwarf Fortress. But I fully agree that its an older, more mature crowd involved in general. I think it probably helps that they encourage cooperation over competition between players, that they are good games to play "casually" - as in intermittently while socializing or attending to other responsibilities - and that one of the foremost virtues of a good roguelike player is patience.
posted by atoxyl at 4:40 PM on December 29, 2014


Roguelikes are kind of a different thing, I agree (as someone who plays more roguelikes than anything else) but I see them as having roots in tabletop RPG/wargaming culture, plus early internet/Usenet/sysadmin cultures, all of which definitely have their share of bitter and exclusionary types.

All cultures have their own share of bitter and exclusionary types, so that's rhetorically null. Any other meaning basically resolves down to bad people are bad. The "exclusionary types" of "hardcore gaming" don't intersect well with those of the other groups mentioned. Perhaps they might if the age ranges were closer, but they still aren't.

And like I said, 4chan actually likes DCSS - though they aren't that good at it I don't think

This is one of those cases where you can't say "4chan" and mean the same thing to all people. 4chan has multiple boards of varying degrees of evil. The toxicity of places like /b/ and /v/ is what most people mean, but /tg/ (traditional games) is relatively enlightened. /tg/'s community wiki 1d4chan doesn't even have a page for Gamergate. I don't go to the site myself (I hoard my sanity points zealously), but my understanding from secondary sources is that roguelikes and Dwarf Fortress are more liked by /tg/ than /v/.
posted by JHarris at 6:06 PM on December 29, 2014


I'm finding the "this must be a game that sucks because the graphics suck" kind of bemusing. Phone and tablet graphics are a thousand times better than the original 8-bit graphics of early video games, and I believe Final Fantasy 3(6) is 24-bit and the story is layered and the game complicated and fun.

Plus, Candy Crush and Soda Crush are fun games. I have about six of them on my phone in addition to a couple simple breeding games, two very good tower defense games, and one RPG. My tablet is mostly adventure games with one or two strategy games, and the adventure games graphics are better than my video game origin story, Final Fantasy 7 (I don't really consider Die Pyramid and the other Commodore 64 games to be my gateway in - it took JRPGs for that).

I am a gamer in terms of the hobbies I prefer, but I wouldn't call myself that in public mostly because I was bored of the "If you're a true gamer you'd be able to name ten things from some obscure console game" which was old when it was the "you're not a real geek because you prefer Vampire to Warhammer - Warhammer means you REALLY INVESTED" debate when women started being more visible at gaming conventions.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:06 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think Vampire LARPs were the first nerdy environments I ever encountered with a lot of women, often more than men.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:45 PM on December 29, 2014


But there aren't very many (it's a poor interface for most game types)

Bluetooth controller.

As for the quantity, there are ports of old Final Fantasies and lightning fast PlayStation emulators for Android--playing retro games on modern machines is always going to involve emulators of some degree of officialdom, unless you really meant to specify that serious gamers play games on their original hardware only, at which point

I don't really have the energy to peel back the rest of the layers for you. My position is that you should avoid categorizing players in general, and if you must, do so in the way that's most specific to the quality that actually interests you. If you can't operationalize that quality into something the player does or wants to do, you're slacking as a game designer.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:42 PM on December 29, 2014


The problem is that they're making their investment of time and/or money poorly because they don't want to self-identify as a gamer, which they might have to do (in their minds) if they were to buy a gaming console or install steam or something.

No, I don't think it's the case. They just play the games they like to play. I spent about a month on a CCS binge, and it's actually a pretty solid, well designed game, before the grind sets in. I have an XBox One, and have tried to get my girlfriend to play various games, and so far, there's basically only 3 she's gotten into: Peggle, Minecraft, and the Telltale games. She's not anti-gaming -- she's definitely spent more time on minecraft than I have-- she just doesn't like games where it's just 30 hours of murdering people. People have different tastes, and that's okay. And I don't think at all that something like Grand Theft Auto is more 'hardcore' than Peggle, or Madden Football. Peggle's challenges, I think, for example are actually much harder than the vast majority of GTA. Hell, most people play GTA in a kind of casual mode, just running around blowing shit up for no reason.
posted by empath at 6:42 AM on December 30, 2014


I think Vampire LARPs were the first nerdy environments I ever encountered with a lot of women, often more than men.

Yeah, that was my first experience with something being insulted and considered less than because women liked it.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:10 AM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


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