Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Casual Gaming Revolultion

Dance Dance Revolution is a rhythm game available for most computer game consoles. It comes with a dance mat arrayed with squares that you step on in time to music. It's what's known as a casual game. That is a game that is played by people who play video games infrequently or non competitively. In resent years this type of game has been disparaged by “real gamers”. The fear has been that game development companies would begin focusing on casual games which cost less to develop but cans sell as many units as 'hard core' games, thus leaving hard core gamers with fewer of the types of games they like to play. The verdict is still out on weather or not this will happen but the impact of this category of game and gamer is now without dispute. Witness the success of the Nintendo Wii. I got to witness this phenomenon first hand this holiday season.

When my family gathered for our annual Christmas celebration I brought what I knew would be a special treat. You see in resent years we have adopted the tradition of playing some type of game at Christmas, besides all the other festivities we engage in. Computer games where strictly of the menu however because they don't appeal to most people. I believed Dance Dance Revolution would be viewed favorably even though it is a computer game because it is based around a concept everyone could understand 'dancing'. This was not a plan to turn anyone who wasn't interested into a video gamer, it was a plan to have fun. I waited until well after dinner before springing my trap – I mean setting up the game.

First my daughter who is an experienced Dance Dance Revolution player played. Others quickly grasped the concept and wanted to give it a try. Some people required a little coaxing but once they gave it a try they became big fans. There were a few people who would not play but they were of the type that refused to do anything that they thought might be embracing. My mother who has never played a video game in her life danced her heart out. My father who hasn't play a video game sense the early days of the ATARI 2600 cut a rug and most agreed this was our best Christmas party ever.

This experience has led me to make some easy observations and draw some inescapable conclusions. Casual games encourage friendly competition and comradery. Players cheer each other on rather than try and best each other. All though some people find they are more competitive than they thought. Casual games are also challenging but have very simple rules so you can learn to play them in a few minutes just by watching. Remember when playing games meant board games and every member of the family played, well casual games bring that fun back and then some.

I believe video games will soon achieve the same cultural significance as movies. Movies come in a wide range of genres which appeal to people with diverse interests, almost everyone likes movies. Similarly video games have different genres and these are continually expanding. Soon nearly everyone will claim to like some type of game and hard core gamers will not be left behind they will be viewed the same way movie buffs are viewed today, respectfully, instead of people with a strange habit. I feel more accepted already.

I don't know if Dance Dance Revolution will make an appearance again next year but something like it might. I'll let you know how it goes.