Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 6, 2008

Secret to the “Casual”

“Casual” gamers have been referred to in a way as if they are ‘retarded’ gamers. While they are the ‘downmarket’, this also doesn’t sufficiently explain what is going on with these new gamers. Demographic stereotypes also won’t solve the issue. What is the secret to the so-called ‘casual gamer’?

On another unrelated paper, someone, with great authority, said to me, “You are writing it for casuals.”

“WHAT did you say?” I demanded.

“You wrote it for casuals…” he repeated. “Instead of using a formal tone, you novelized it. You inserted dialogue. This helps people learn the content.”

But let us take this idea further. With books, we know there are tons of ‘literature’ and elitist type books where the author is attempting to create ‘art’. However, the best sellers are made for ‘casuals’ and lack ‘serious’ literary writing. From the elitist view, these best sellers are ‘dumbed down’ for people. From the consumer’s point of view, they just want a good story to perform a job such as something to occupy them while riding a plane or on a beach. They have nothing against the ‘literary’ books except the prose is so thick, and so many obstacles of the author trying to use countless ‘symbols’, that the story is difficult to get at.

A better analogy exists for college students. You find there are two types of professors: those who focus on the students learning and others who are interested in enthroning themselves. In other words, those who are focused on users and those who are focused on themselves. This creates two wildly different teaching styles.

The user centric teacher will use games, dialogue, riddles, anything that engages the users and answer their issues correctly. This teacher gets rated highly by the students.

The teacher focused on himself/herself will teach in a boring, drawn out lecture. Such a teacher will begin the class by telling how smart he or she is, all their degrees and accomplishments, and other qualifications. This teacher is focused on how everyone else thinks of him/her. This teacher also might act, superficially, like the user centric teacher by doing dialogue, riddles, and all but it is not because he/she is focused on the user. The teacher is doing it because it was required of him/her.

What is funny is that teachers, focused on themselves, end up with worse student evaluations than the user-centric teacher. It is funny because these teachers who are focused on themselves believe they are way smarter than these idiotic user-centric teachers. And it is true that they are. But being smarter is not the same as teaching better. And for book writers, writing better is not the same as telling a better story. Publishers everywhere are choking on ever-flowing slush piles where wannabe writers display their ‘brilliance’.

Ironically, you can combine the two. Academics write many, many books. None of them are read. Why? They are so steeped in academic style as the masses don’t want to slog through that. Their content is also not what people care to know. After their ‘brilliance’ fails to create a best-selling book, they just declare that the masses are ‘idiots’ and that those best-selling books are written in a ‘casual’ style (written in a retarded way, dumbed down, for the masses).

Let’s apply this gaming. Disruption does divide the consumers in numerous parts (Undershot, Overshot, Non-Consumer), but everyone in the industry only talks about two ‘groups’: casual games versus hardcore games.

Take a standard ‘hardcore’ game. Here, we find the focus of the game was made to focus on the developer/publisher. It is the “Look at me! I am so cool!” We begin seeing long, drawn out cinematics. We see an ‘epic story’ with a overly long introduction (and these ‘epic stories’ are really garbage, but every developer thinks he/she is a creative genius). And there is a long tutorial to ‘teach’ the ‘stupid’ user of the amazement that will come from the game. With these ‘hardcore’ games, the developers strut like peacocks as if they were rockstars or movie directors. “Look at me! Look how cool our game is!” A big red flag is when the designer attempts to make the game into ‘art’. Instead of making a fun product for the consumer, they are focused on making ‘art’ which is another way of saying they want to display their ‘brilliance’.

The user focused game is very different. Since the game doesn’t attempt to be ‘art’, the industry snarls and calls them ‘non-games’. The entire game revolves not around the ‘design’ or ‘story’ but around the user and the user’s reactions. Miyamoto tests games by watching users’ faces. “I try to make people smile,” he says. Many companies do the same, but the difference is that there is a feeling that the game is the developers’ baby and everyone believes their baby is the most beautiful. They are unwilling to hack it to bits, to take it apart or take it back to the drawing board. Publishers are unwilling to do so because they have financial quarters to meet. Only a devoted user-centric company, such as Nintendo or Blizzard, are willing to delay a game significantly ‘until its done’ or even destroy the project entirely. Other companies say, “They can do that because they have the money to delay.” But both weren’t always big. In order to delay games until they are properly finished, perhaps these companies need to focus on smaller games, ones that they can financially afford to finish correctly.

The 8-bit Era is very useful as most of today’s current franchises began there and the era was a ‘Shift’ just as this cycle is. ‘Super Mario Brothers’ was not made so Miyamoto could make himself famous. It was to make a fun game that even children could play. ‘Legend of Zelda’ was not made to create high art. It was made to make Yamauchi money. And this is done by creating a different gameplay experience.

The so-called “Hardcore” games are broken games. They are obsessed about enthroning the developer/publisher. Sophisticated gamers, just like sophisticated readers, like this because they are on the same mission as the developer/publishers: the desire to make gaming more ‘sophisticated’. ‘Sophistication’ means the same as it would in the ‘literary’ sense: to make gaming into ‘high art’ (whatever ‘high art’ is. People just want to play a freaking game).

This is why the industry has gotten the concept of motion controllers all wrong. They see motion controllers as a way to make their gaming even more sophisticated. That is not how Nintendo is using it, and if Sony and Microsoft say, “Aha! Nintendo is not using motion controls ‘properly’ to create a more sophisticated game! We will show them!”, they are going to be in a for a world of hurt.

Traditional controllers have always been extensions of the console themselves. The first ‘controls’ were on the console themselves. Then, they became attached via wires. And this continued, as well as adding more buttons and sticks, until they are now wireless. But just because they are wireless doesn’t mean they have stopped being ‘extensions’ of the consoles.

What if controllers were extensions of the Human body? There is nothing more natural than the body so it would make sense, for a user centric company, to design controls not around ‘motion sensing’ but around the body’s movement. Wii Sports became such a hit, such a shock, because it showed gaming being used by people’s natural body movements. It became such a ‘killer app’ because it was entirely user-centric. Wii Sports wasn’t made so the developers can display their ‘brilliance’ or create ‘art’ in video games.

But time has a funny way of generating art. The pixel-ated ‘Super Mario Brothers’ is now considered to be highly ‘artistic’ yet it wasn’t seen that way when it came out. Even blocky ‘Tetris’ is considered to be ‘artistic’ and that game has no real ‘art’ in it! In order to make ‘artistic’ games, one needs to make classics. And to make a classic is make a user-centric game. Gaming’s libraries are full of ‘high art’ games, all of them forgotten. Every now and then, one appears on the Virtual Console where the future, of today’s users, complains about them and want the ‘non-art’ games, the user centric games, the classics, to appear.

Instead of seeing it via ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’, a better way to look at it is ‘focused on making the creator look good’ type games and ‘focused on making the users look good’ type games. People love Wii Sports because they feel as if they have become good at tennis, bowling, and baseball even if they are in a retirement home. This is why ‘hardcore’ games end up ‘broken’ in the long run while the so-called ‘casual’ games end up being seen as ‘fixed’. Mario Kart Wii is a great example of this. While reviewers growled that the game has been ‘casualized’, many Mario Kart fans realized that it had been ‘fixed’ (with, perhaps, exception to the Battle Mode) because the stupid issues have been fixed. However, not all of them. If the ‘Blue Shell’ was fixed, reviewers would probably complain the game has been dumbed down further for ‘casual’ users while players would realize it is being ‘fixed’.

Here are red flags to know that your game is broken:

Does it have a tutorial? If yes, then your game is broken. The best games don’t have tutorials. ‘Super Mario Brothers’ and ‘Legend of Zelda’ had no tutorial and no tutorial ‘stage’. Mega Man did not have a ‘tutorial’ until a tutorial stage appearing in Mega Man 7 (and they wonder why the series went downhill). Tetris had no tutorial. People want to play the game, not be forced to act out a manual. If your game *has* to have a tutorial because it is too complicated, then your game is the problem. Simplify it until you don’t need a tutorial. Wii Sports doesn’t even have a tutorial. It will simply give a ‘reminder’ of how to do stuff only if you mess up.

Does it have long cinematics? If yes, then your game is likely broken. The problem with cinematics is that it takes control away from the player, and is just an excuse for the developer to show how  ‘awesome’ he/she is, how ‘artistic’, how ‘creative’, and how he really should be ‘directing movies instead of making stupid video games’. Cinematics are more about “Let’s strut our stuff” than being about the game. “But Malstrom! They add to the immersion!” In the beginning, they were a fun novelty. Now, they are a nuisance. It is better to hold ‘events’ rather than ‘cinematics’ to advance a story. An ‘event’ would be using the gameplay engine to show the changes.

Too much damn text. Video games are a visual medium. Even the wordy adventure game yielded to imagery. Role playing and adventure games get away with having text but not too much. Even they are primarily driven by images. So many games today have way too much damn text in them, especially at the beginning and is outside the already stupid tutorial and ‘cinematic intro’. If gamers want to read brilliance, they would read a book. What is interesting is that established writers, when asked to make a video game, rely much on interaction because they know that is the differentiating factor between gaming and books.

If your game isn’t fun in one minute, it is broken. No one cares about your later stages, the ‘story’, or how wonderful you think you are. Imagine reading a novel where the author spends page after agonizing page glossing over how wonderful the setting is, how descriptive the characters are, and other garbage. The reader will likely throw the book out and say the author doesn’t know how to tell a story. The same is true of game players. They will turn off your game and think you don’t know how to make games. And they won’t even care what reviews your game got. It is not unlike the original Rad Racer NES game where you have a minute to get to a ‘post’ and, if you arrive in time, you are granted another minute. Consumers will only grant you a minute or two for you to show your game is fun. If you waste that on tutorials, cinematics, wordy introductions, or on some stupid ‘build up’, the player will shut off your game. Games need to be consistently fun as well. Most players, even hardcore ones, abandon games in the middle of them despite a fun early part.

The exceptions to the above are when games are the first to do it. When cinematics, huge intros, and all were ‘brand new’, games could get away with them because they were ‘surprising’. Most of these ‘features’ are now included so the developer/publisher can ‘show off’.

What is more amazing is that while user-focused is acknowledged about being the ‘right way’, many companies who attempt that route end up back where they started, back to the “creater-focused” mindset. The ‘tutorial’ is a good example. The ‘tutorial’ is put in to ‘help’ players, to ‘ease’ them into the game, to clear up ‘misunderstandings’, to get their toes ‘wet’. Publishers think including tutorials means they are being user-focused. Actually, they are still creator-focused because the measurement of success is the user, not the creator. Users don’t demand these boring ‘tutorials’, but they are thrown in because publishers feel they are awesome if they do so, they feel like they ARE special. Again, it is creator-focused.

Birdmen, those who mistake superficial elements of the disruptor to be disruptive, really do believe they are user-focused by ‘dumbing down’ the games, but they are actually ‘creator-focused’. “Look at me! I am making ‘casual’ games! I am sooooo special!” the birdmen cluck. Yet, the companies who do have major traction with this new audience, Nintendo, Blizzard, among others, never say they are making ‘casual games’.

Iwata explained all of this in a parable of the king and the slave.

Iwata It makes me remember the story you told us before, when you came to HAL Laboratory. The story of “the King and the Slave”.
Itoi The story that it’s the King who needs to be educated, right?
Iwata Yes.
Itoi (to the staffs)
This is a good one.
All (laugh)
Iwata Seriously, it’s a good story. It’s about the relation between the creator and the customer. The king isn’t the creator. He’s the customer. The king is free to say anything about what is given to him, that it’s boring, or that he doesn’t understand it, or even decline the offer. He has the privilege of being super selfish. The slave has to think how to satisfy the king, how to make him happy.
Mr.Itoi’s point was to understand that the job of the slave is intellectual and interesting.
Itoi The same can be said about relationships, the one who makes the approach, and the other.
Iwata The initiative lies in the other.
Itoi Exactly. The one who takes action can never take the initiative. For example, when you ask someone to perform a task for you, you have to think about whether you’ll take it if it was offered to you. When you work for someone, it usually involves hard work. People work hard because you think it’s worth it, and that’s the only way people will put in their full energy into it. So you always have to think, “will I accept this job if it was offered to me?” You need that point of view.
If the creator’s not aware of that point of view, he starts to misconceive that he is the king. If the consumers don’t act as king, the creator is deprived of the opportunity to improve. When the creators don’t improve, the customers will get easily bored of what they get. And that’s the end of it.
It seems that this malignant cycle seems to be increasing. The consumers get bored very easily.
Iwata The speed of things getting out of date has become extremely fast.
Itoi If you just keep on responding to the customer’s requests, you’re not going to come up with something with quality.
What Nintendo has been doing since they came out with DS is to keep bringing something new to the kings, who were tired of games that were a mere extension of traditional and conventional ones. Plus, Nintendo made it so that the kings understood it.
It’s just amazing, what you did.
Iwata Thank you.

It is not that the user is king, it is the non-user who is really king. Malstrom is king. Other non-gamers and former-gamers are kings. The companies are the slaves. Many think it is the other way around. They think the companies are the kings and we, the consumers, are the slaves. That whatever they make, we should buy because of their ‘brilliance’. This is why I strongly dislike when gamers say, “We must buy this game to show our support.” Well, it’s not my fault someone’s game doesn’t sell

Western game developers are notorious for thinking they are the ‘king’ when their role is actually that of the ‘slave’. From Epic’s Mark Rein declaring “Next Generation doesn’t start until we say so,” to the insane budget of Grand Theft Auto 4, western developers have become ego-maniacs. And this what Next-Generation to them is all about, having an ego trip. Developers and publishers think it is “so cool!” to make a big, high budget hardcore HD game. They can get away with this for now. However, investors will come knocking. When the Wii exploded out during the launch, many, many investors called the publishers demanding, “What are you doing about the Wii!???” You can be certain that such calls forced EA to bring Wii development from Canada to more in the major studios. While they are showing the outward signs to investors that they are ‘doing something about the Wii’ (and yet making excuses that ‘core games don’t sell on the system!’), eventually investors will realize that western developers heart and passions are intertwined about their HD high budget hardcore games. Then, I suspect the hammer to fall once more on them.

It just shows how history is repeating. NES also didn’t get western developer support outside of the licensed and shovelware ‘kids games’ type junk. But the NES install base grew, and grew, and grew, until investors were so fed up with these publishers ignoring the phenomenon that they began threatening to remove company presidents. And yes, western publishers kept insisting the NES was a fad then. (So if the reader happens to be a game journalist, realize it is not so much what the developer or publisher ‘wants’ to work on, you must consider the investors’ wrath as well.)

The secret to the “Casual” is a change of mindset from being “look how awesome I am” to “look how awesome the new customer is”. Thinking that these new customers are ‘retards’, that they are ‘beneath you’,  is really thinking that ‘I am so awesome’. But how can a company who thinks ‘new customers are retards’ compete with a company that thinks ‘look how awesome these new customers are’? The latter will always run rings around the former. Also, the publisher/developer does not have any control whether his/her game is ‘high art’ or a ‘classic’. Time determines that.

Let me tell you about the greatest “Casual” Writer of all time. To be ‘high art’ was to demand plays to take place in three days in play-time (because that is what the Greeks did). Tragedy and Comedy were separate, distinct, different forms. There could be no cross-over. Robert Greene, the esteemed, most professional, and most ‘artistic’ writer of his time, complained about this casual writer being… Well, I will let him speak for himself:

“…there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you…

This ‘casual’ writer broke the Greek traditions because they didn’t make sense to the viewers, wrote to make money, and combined Tragedy and Comedy in the same play. This meant tragic plays were full of comedic moments and comedy plays were full of tragic moments. Who was this ‘casual’ writer who ‘destroyed’ his industry?


Today’s ‘casuals’ are tomorrow’s classics.


  1. Informative and right too the point.

    I think some independent artists I know should read this. (Also, of course game developers and publishers)

    The part about “if your game isn’t fun in one minute, it is broken” really was spot on to me. I’ve played so many games that I had to give a chance. “Just play through the bad parts to get to the juicy center.” But I always expected the game to be fun right away and many time was disappointed (none of these games are considered classics.)

  2. @liquidninja

    I totally agree. I can think of a good number of people who absolutely need to read this.

    And yes, there are tons of games that have upset me because their good components are buried under garbage.

    I actually just finished a play-through of Sonic CD. I was trying to figure out what used to make Sonic so fun, and then at one point I remembered this article. Sonic used to be well-built because it made players feel like they kick ass. But now, especially with recent, story-driven Sonics, the fancy cut-scenes seem to be telling me that SEGA kicks ass, and the game’s control, presentation, and camera keep me from feeling like I kick ass.

  3. Have you been lurking on NeoGAF and reading that thread about whether western developers really love the Wii?

    Because part of this post seemd to be an answer to that. I wondered what your take on this subject would be as I was reading that thread.

    Being someone who rarely – if at all – plays Western developed games, I really have no sympathy for them. It’s not by choice that I don’t play Western made games by the way, it’s just all the games I find myself interested in playing usually end up having been made by Eastern developers and publishers, like Capcom and Square-Enix, along with Nintendo. I think the one truly Western developed and published game I own is Guitar Hero II and III for my PS2. (And I’m planning to buy Guitar Hero World Tour for Wii). And The Sims for my PC. ;)

    Most Western developers, however, simply don’t make games I’m interested in playing. (Especially because I’m just not a FPS fan).

  4. Wow, spot on! I’ve tried so many games, really trying to like them, but many times failing. Indeed, it’s all about the first few minutes. If it’s fun right from the beginning, I’ll keep playing, otherwise I’ll just quit. I grew up with NES games and older PC games and I always go back and play those on emulators. It shows you how those games were all about instant fun and no introductions and tutorials. I have also played my fair share of FPS and “cinematic” games, but not any more. Classic 2D games are the ones I keep coming back for.

  5. Not everybody likes the same types of games. Some people are interested in games that take a while to learn, or that require some outside explanation. Is Poker broken because it isn’t fun in one minute?

    And what on Earth are you doing listing Legend of Zelda in the ‘casual’ games? The first one is genuinely impossible or absolutely tedious unless somebody (or a guide) tells you what bush to burn or what mountain to bomb.

  6. @Chris Prokop

    Funny. I played the first Zelda when I was 9 years old (back in the late 80s) and didn’t find it tedious or boring at all. And I was able to finish it without use of a guide either.

    Just running around and exploring and testing to see if I could do something was what made it fun – and why I still love the series to this day.

  7. A lot of good points, but your view of what makes a good game is horribly narrow. Tutorials, cutscenes and text are not bad in and of themselves. It’s how they are used or rather abused that breaks games (MGS4).

    I typically like your analysis, but this time you came off as a Nintendo fanboy and the haters are already jumping all over it.

  8. Hahaha, that punchline at the end was great. So true. Thanks for the great read.

  9. I recently bought Zelda Twilight Princess for the GameCube and I have been playing it for some time and I really love that game. Even if it had all of the red flags you mentioned: it has a tutorial(s), cinematics and lot of texts, except that the game is very fun between a minute of gameplay. Maybe what it sets it apart from the others is that all those “red flags” are intrinsecated in the game and not apart from it.

    Great post as always ^^

  10. Maybe I over analyse the game too much since my User Interface Class but… the Blue Shell is not broken :P I know it’s has nothing to do with what are you saying, but the only things can hurt the first place are Red Shells, Thunders, POWs, you can add the Blooper AND the Blue Shell (Sometimes, when everyone is too close, the Bullet Bill and the Star, but that rarely). But, the ones who goes in the middle (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, you name it) have to evade: Thunders, POWs, Red Shells, Bullet Bills, Stars, guys with Golden Mushroom (They are practicaly human/turtle/ghosts/mushrooms bullets with wheels), Racers Armored with three green shells, three red shells, Thunder Clouds, people with Thunder Clouds and ALL the garbage the first place leave behind. And the last places have the problem is too difficult for them grab an Item because the item boxes take a while for respawn.

    The problem is the first place itself; since it’s the price itself, lose it hurt. A ton.

  11. Note: Check out the latest episode of Bonus Round (re: Nintendo & E3) for great “casual = retarded” meme talk.

    Seriously, it was kinda surreal seeing some of the various articles
    about that meme line-of-thinking being stated out loud.


  13. Kingdom Hearts has all of those points, sold 8 millions (both games). FFVIII sold 6 millions and had all these read flags ( I didn’t include 7 has it was a novelty for the time), FFX 6.6 millions, FFXII, 5.2. Even FFX-2 sold 3 millions. I could go on and on but it would be a waste of time. Is there a place for these fun games (in my book), in the new world.

    I look at the sales of games like Mario Party 8 and I’m scared (4,86 millions). I like games where the controls are harder to learn and where I’m awarded by a cinematic every now and then. I know the Wii will have RPGs, but I wonder if they will make the controls so “intuative” that it will feel like a sport games rather than a role playing game. Time will tell I guess, e3 is some days away, the future of video gaming will be unveiled there.

  14. Your issue seems to be not with games as art, or even with the issue of ‘casual’ vs ‘hardcore’ players as the title suggests. Your problem instead seems to be with the advent of games too complicated and self-indulgent for their own good, which is not necessarily an unfair position.

    Your conclusion that “Today’s ‘casuals’ are tomorrow’s classics” does not make much sense, however. The Metal Gear Solid series, for example, has long been a staple of the ‘hardcore’ gaming diet, and might be fairly accused of perpetrating many of the crimes you list: eg, complex game mechanics, tutorials, an over-reliance on text, long cinematic sequences etc. But the series’ strong critical and commercial performance would surely rank it as a ‘classic’ franchise.

    You make other confusing claims. Eg: “A big red flag is when the designer attempts to make the game into ‘art’. Instead of making a fun product for the consumer, they are focused on making ‘art’ which is another way of saying they want to display their ‘brilliance’.” It’s fine to condemn self-indulgent egos, but there is nothing wrong with an artist (in any medium) attempting to take their work seriously, to treat it with integrity and respect, and to create something that is meaningful and transcendental.

    Likewise, your claim that ‘Even blocky ‘Tetris’ is considered to be ‘artistic’ and that game has no real ‘art’ in it!’ is downright nonsensical. What does it mean to say Tetris has “no real art in it”? Even the narrowest conception of ‘art’ must concede that Tetris at least has *pictures* and *music* in it.

    Simplistic texts in any media– games, literature, whatever– can happily stand next to complex ones on the shelf of great art. Some works benefit from simplicity, others of complexity. I, too, am suspicious of over-complexity, but no moreso than I am of over-simplicity.

    Games *are* art. Don’t attack those artists who recognise this.

  15. @Vince20100
    All you just mentioned (hard controls and tons of cinematics) are precisally what is making those games becoming more and more a niche. Those are obstacles that doesn’t let other type of gamers have fun because they have to battle with the annoying controls and the long and boring cinemas.

    Epic games, like RPG’s won’t dissapear, They will convert to the new values. I think is about time that the cinematic era must end. It lasted too much and it didn’t help the industry very much.

  16. @Pongo Pete
    Videogames are not art. They are entertainment. They had “artistic” values but that’s completly different. People started to confuse the 2 concepts since the 32 bit era and its just plain absurd.

  17. Plays were created as entertainment, so they are also not Art, sorry Shakey.

  18. Oh and so was music, sorry mozart!

  19. @Bob
    What a load of rubbish. Videogames are as much art as films and music, which you may also consider “entertainment”. They contain artwork, albeit in non-traditional mediums, and sound, which is in itself considered an artistic medium. These alone mean that videogames should be “art”.

    If a play can entertain, can it then not be art? Something can be seen as entertainment as well as art. They are not opposing concepts and there is nothing wrong with the concept that a medium can be called “art” – it’s what we should be *striving* for.

  20. Re: Cinema Games, etc.

    I think what some are missing in defending Cinema type games is that some people just do not have the time to PLAY such long games.

    I like some Cinema type games myself. As I said before I would like to play FFXIII when it comes out. In fact, I’m right in the middle of still playing FFXII. I loved and played both Kingdom Hearts games. (Even if the controls for KH 1 pretty much sucked to the point that I can’t go back and play it anymore after having played the much better to control KH 2).

    But because of the type of job I have (I work remotely), and because I don’t have kids, I have TIME to devote to long RPG and some Cinema type games. Many people however, such as my best friend who owned both an NES and and SNES when we were kids, stopped playing games when she got older because she didn’t have time for them. She’s married now and has family comitments.

    But because of my Wii (and DS) she has started getting back into playing games again. A quick game of Mario Kart is something she has time in her life for, whereas I know she’d never have time for something like Final Fantasy.

    One of the thing Video Games are competing for is people’s leisure time. People are busy and have sh*t to do. As someone above said, Epic Cinema-type games won’t disappear, they just wont be the only driving forces anymore in the industry, that left behind people who don’t have time in their lives to devote to them.

  21. *coff coff*

  22. Now that’s great, GAF vs. Malstrom!

    Seriously though, I’d be pleased if, for once, you, Sean, took the time to answer to GAF. You wouldn’t do that often when you were a GAF member, so, please, just once.

  23. @Berutoron
    I don’t think that would be very productive but it might be entertaining so I say, “go for it malstrom!”

    I think this guy said it best:
    Kilrogg – “But GAF, being what it is, is comprised of LOTS of hardcore, precisely the kind Malstrom likes to bully in an extreme way. The kind of hardcore that complain about Diablo 3’s art direction to the point that they feel the need to DEMAND it to change via a petition to Blizzard. So, it’s no surprise he’s not welcome here, saved by a few of us.”

  24. @Pongo Pete

    I believe you’re confusing stuff. The thing Malstrom said are harsh, but, after thinking a bit, he’s using User Interface Theory almost without noting; Because “User Interface Theory” is plain and simple “Common Sense”, the most uncommon of all senses by the way.

    Let check the Red Flags:

    Does it have a tutorial? If yes, then your game is broken.

    And it’s broken. A good interface has to be intuitive. If the interface is that complex you need a guide for that, then it’s broken.

    But the problem in that statement goes there’s some good interfaces which needs tutorials! Photoshop need a tutorial, 3D Studio need a tutorial. But that are programs you have to invest a ton of time for learn to do something about it. The game are something has to entertain you, not “complicate your life for nothing”. Photoshop does its work just fine after learn a bit about it, and still you have a ton of another stuff to learn alone. Same goes with some upmarket games like Fire Emblem. They actually made a whole story just for introduce the game mechanics, but, guess what; after explain me a bit about it, they leave me at my will the rest of the chapter. But that are upmarket games, they are made in mind for people with time. If you actually wants to do a game for people who doesn’t have enough time (Like Games for Mobile Telephones), a tutorial is a way for tell to you the interface is way broken.

    Does it have long cinematics?

    Do I actually care about this? Even in the PSX era, when all the people talk about the cool cinematics, other people get bored thanks to the cinematics.

    Unlike Malstrom (Or his statement in this article, by the way), I do not believe the Cinematics are for show how cool the developer is: it’s for hide their lack of talent (Which can be confused by the developer of “been cool”, in this context I can be agree with Malstrom). Since they don’t know how make a decent script, they make up with cinematics. And since they can’t think in a decent story, again, they make up with cinematics.

    But that my position about it. Cinematics are going againt the Control Sense of the User. What am I saying? The User has to be IN CONTROL of the program. If the program suddenly does something you don’t want and you can’t stop it, you lose that control. That the cinematics does. Do you believe they don’t? So, why It’s that common hear, after the introduction of Final Fantasy X, “I can finally play!”?

    Too much damn text.

    It’s a way to say: This is not a game, it’s a movie (In this case, a book ^^!). The control sense of the user again. But this one is tricky: I do not believe Super Paper Mario had a ton of text, but some people yes, so, you have to find the exact amount for them.

    If your game isn’t fun in one minute, it is broken.

    The most important one. I stoped playing Sunshine because find the Blue Coins are way too annoying and I’m a Mario fan (I ussually defend this game a ton because it’s not at bad people said, but I can`t forget this point). That why the Fire Emblem Tutorial Stages are short. They tell to you “You can do that!”, you try it and “Hey!, It’s works!”. While other games not only introduce the game mechanics, they also introduce the world. You maybe “wants” but if the game don’t let to you do something in a couple of minutes your “wants” will become “What a waste!”.

    You can bypass all the other Red Flags if they are well do it and if you are an upmarket user (And have a ton of time for use in games) but this one is that important that only a hardcore gamers can bypass it.

    If you see, he isn’t saying something that problematic. The problem goes with us, the gamers from cinematic era, who lose it our very common sense. It’s like D&D 4 Edition vs 3.5 Edition: The 4 Edition is more lined and less confusing. It’s easier to learn, so, an interested non-consumer can enter easily to D&D. But the 3.5 players start to fell like a Hardcore Gamers, because they believe they lose the freedom of 3.5 with 4, and they don’t use common sense, the one who works for think how made the customer life easier, not more complex.

    And, please, please, please… don’t use Metal Gear Series as an example of “Classic”: Final Fantasy VII is a classic (I know Aerith dies in the game even before know who the heck she is!) but I’m sure I will not know anything of Metal Gear is wasn’t thanks to Smash Brawl (Showtime!). In fact, Metal Gear is not a classic; Was made it as a classic just because the hardcore need a classic. The point about classics are simple: We don’t decide which is classic or not: Time does it. If you’re right and MGS4 survive this year, I’ll eat my words (With mayonaise), but I’m totally sure I’ll still watch Fan Arts of Rosalina as a biker for the time being. ^^!

  25. What’s the point in responding to people who would already have their angers and queries (often rhetorical, many don’t WANT answers, they want to attack) if they took a chill pill and read some stuff he’s already written? Everyone is just taking small snippets and foaming at the mouth when they’re not listening to what is actually being said.

    Not that I’m saying people SHOULDN’T, because it’s frankly hilarious to watch people behave exactly as expected.

  26. @Berutoron

    He did. Once. When they mess up with his Billion Dolar Cat (Appart of the other things. But I’m still laughing about that part ^^U). It’s in the old news page. Was hilarious. I’ll want to read something like this again, but Malstrom has to decide it’s good or not. (Ok, I’ll love to read something like that again, BUT, I believe it’s a waste of time for him. Let them him has his vacation at least…)

  27. […] Article here […]

  28. Shouldn’t be better inserting a reference to your article “Theory of Cycles” ?
    I think the arguments are tied.

  29. Who cares about GAF?

    All they can do is make stupid gifs of you and use Internet meme of the day. They act like they have sway and push within the industry, but this generation shamed them in attack mode.

    They’re embarrassed that they’ve spent so long building these postcounts and pretending like they run the industry only to have themselves rendered irrelevant, like the 40-year-old grandma’s-basement-living manchildren they are.

  30. @GinnyN

    Some of Malstrom’s points are sensible ones, if rather obvious– yes, games should be entertaining at all times, and I’ve long held the conviction that poorly-integrated tutorial modes are invasive and lazy. These are fine points, if poorly-articulated.

    What I object to is the article’s repeated excursions into confused quasi-philosophical sneering: for example, the attack on the concept of game developers as artists, or the flimsy distinction between ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’ demographics.

    You say:

    ‘please, please, please… don’t use Metal Gear Series as an example of “Classic”: Final Fantasy VII is a classic’

    I think most sources of repute– eg GameRankings ( will assert the original Metal Gear Solid, at least, as a classic game. It performed extremely well both commercially and critically, exerted tremendous influence on other game developers, and remains a firm fan favourite. If you would rather use Final Fantasy VII as an example of a classic, it demonstrates my argument equally well: this is a ‘classic’ game positively ridden with cut scenes, text, complicated menus etc.

  31. spot on points sir. The only thing I have an issue with is how you put blame on the broken games to that of the developers ego. Most developers would want to make a great game but have to follow the guidelines of those who are funding them. They have to put the movies and text and in game manuals because producers and chairmen think that is what will earn them money.

    As for the art, I must say choose your words lightly, Art in itself has been under attack and ripped apart for the same reason. Im an artist, an “Old skool” artist who would rather work with a pencil than a CPU. But I would also have to stand next to someone who would put a giant black square on a sheet of paper and proclaim that as art.

    Art and entertainment are as beauty, it exists only in ones eye. My sense of art is different from others.

    Our problem is that we are all trying to push video games as something other than a “Game.” Chess is a game without cinemas and awesome music and HD graphics but its still enjoyed the world over and has for years. Its enjoyed because its fun to play (to some) Teams like Blizzard and Nintendo still seek to create fun Games and add anything else later to help draw in those who lok for them. This is the practice all developers should follow but at the same time its up to the consumer to understand what they are looking for in a game. Only then will we see a peacful balance in this field.

    BUT, it is a business, and at the end of the day money is the only thing sought from a business. We should speak with our dollars, and become the “Kings” again.

  32. spot on points sir. The only thing I have an issue with is how you put blame on the broken games to that of the developers ego. Most developers would want to make a great game but have to follow the guidelines of those who are funding them. They have to put the movies and text and in game manuals because producers and chairmen think that is what will earn them money.

    As for the art, I must say choose your words lightly, Art in itself has been under attack and ripped apart for the same reason. Im an artist, an “Old skool” artist who would rather work with a pencil than a CPU. But I would also have to stand next to someone who would put a giant black square on a sheet of paper and proclaim that as art.

    Art and entertainment are as beauty, it exists only in ones eye. My sense of art is different from others.

    As for a game being a classic, I agree. Time is the only one who would declare a classic. I can piss my name in the snow and call it a classic for all I care, but it wouldnt make it so in the eyes of history. Final Fantasy 7 is still not a “Classic” in the sense that its still around. Its a classic in many peoples eyes for various reasons. could be the first game they might hve played, could be the first disc game they played, first real RPG they tried ect. ect. After 20 years of its release and its hard to find (not just the original copy of the game either) and still can be played by anyone and enjoyed through out then yeah, I guess it would be a classic. But now, games like that and MGS4 are just games.

    sides, it would be like saying a song that came out in the late 90s is a classic and should be right up with elvis or the ramones. Classic to whom?

    Our problem is that we are all trying to push video games as something other than a “Game.” Chess is a game without cinemas and awesome music and HD graphics but its still enjoyed the world over and has for years. Its enjoyed because its fun to play (to some) Teams like Blizzard and Nintendo still seek to create fun Games and add anything else later to help draw in those who lok for them. This is the practice all developers should follow but at the same time its up to the consumer to understand what they are looking for in a game. Only then will we see a peacful balance in this field.

    BUT, it is a business, and at the end of the day money is the only thing sought from a business. We should speak with our dollars, and become the “Kings” again.

  33. @Pongo Pete

    Critics? Seriously? you mean the people who drew lines and swords against the Wii and DS beginning in 2004? They people suddenly “concerned” with shovelware on the Wii despite PS1 and Ps2 being the undisputed lords of it?

    Critical score means little if anything. MGS4 could just as well be critically REVILED in about 5 or 6 years, just like those awful CD-Rom games the Sega CD and 3DO had that the critics pumped up because they were moving gaming “forward”.

    And if you are talking commercially, well, chew on this. MGS4 will sell the least out of the whole series, meaning it will be at its least relevancy since the first. Time declares the classics, not the reviewers. The reviewers decalred Microcosm a Classic. The critics declared Turok a classic series. Where are they now?

  34. @Pongo Pete

    You don’t get the point. Jeff in some way. The point is the following: I do not care what actually critics said about a game. The Time said it. I’m totally sure if the critics were the one who decides which is classic or not, the NES never succed in the market in first place. FFVII was the ones of the firsts games which made the Cinematic Era and a classic. But it’s because touch people hearts, not because critics say it.

    I already tell to you: If Metal Gear Solid 4 is still here after the end of the year, I’ll eat my words (with mayonaise). But, for the looks of the Fan Arts in DeviantArt, I don’t think so…

    And, about Art… the games has a function: If you know were your work is, you can made art with that. But you have to respect the function first. Been an artist and been humble it’s something that do not go appart: if your beautiful designed game is not fun, it’s not art, it’s a waste.

    Malstrom is doing his job pretty darn well: He makes up choose sides, we’re not indifferent to his job. He make us think about it. And, as a future developer, he’s make me open my eyes.

  35. @Jeff and Ginny

    ‘Critics? Seriously?’

    ‘I do not care what actually critics said about a game. ‘

    I understand that critical reaction is not the only mark of a ‘classic’ game. (I certainly do not put enough faith in games journalism to trust critical reaction.) Though the term ‘classic’ is a subjective one, I personally would argue that the first Metal Gear Solid meets the criteria: tremendous acclaim, commercial success, lasting popularity, influence etc.

    But it doesn’t matter if you don’t think MGS1 is a classic. That’s not the point of the example. The point is that all sorts of classics– Ginny suggests Final Fantasy VII– are actually highly complex games that violate many of the rules Malstrom sets in the article.

  36. 32 comments! hehe! way to go sean!

    This may be your most “controversial” post so far because it really touched a lot of gamers sensibilities (including me) not with analysts-nonsense but with real, actual subjects. And that’s great!

    Keep up the good work!

  37. I just wanted to point out that Sean is right in those flags, but the flags are a problem only if those factors get in the way of the fun.

    Take Super Mario Galaxy, for instance. Yes, it’s quite intuitive, but it still has “tutorials” – you just don’t really notice them because they’re included within the gameplay itself. You learn by doing things, like catching the rabbits teaches you the basic controls.

    Take Twilight Princess as another example – it has cutscenes. The cutscenes are short, sweet, and serve mostly to explain to the player just what happened between two gameplay points. The storyline gives the gameplay purpose, and the cutscenes advance the story.

    “Too much damn text”, of course, is entirely subjective, and each game calls for a different amount of text. Super Paper Mario has a lot of text, while Wii Sports has very little. Both work well, because Super Paper Mario’s text actually works with the game, and the balance is just right for that game.

    Obviously, if a game isn’t fun in the first minute or so, people will often be turned off. This, by the way, would have to be why a lot of RPG games start your character off very strong – that way, you actually enjoy the early parts where you get the feel for the game.

    A good example of multiple flags still working well is Final Fantasy X – it has cinematics, but with the exception of a couple of key plot points, they’re fairly short, and just serve to fit the story together neatly. It also does have a “tutorial” process, but again, it’s well-included in the game. The first few battles, your hand is held so that you can learn how each action works, but it’s still part of the game, and still works naturally.

    The problem comes when one of those “flags” sticks out like a sore thumb. Metal Gear Solid 4 is probably a very strong example – it sold exceptionally well at launch, but it’s decaying quickly. This is probably due to excessive cutscenes. As I haven’t played the game, myself, I can’t comment any further than that.

  38. @Pongo Pete

    My rules for know is a game it’s a classic is go to DeviantArt and watch the amount of recent fan arts. Of course, that don’t work with Wii Sports for example. But some games never get old.

    I never played Final Fantasy VII in my life and I’ll never do it, the fans has already ruined the game for me.

    But, on Malstrom point, the problem here you are confusing “classic” with Malstrom point. We are talking about a PSX Game, a game who technically introduced the concept we are already sick about it. When he said today casuals are tomorrow classic is just because “Casuals Games” like Wii Sports are introducing new values, the ones which comes with the rules. That why they going to be classic (most likely), for the same things FFVII are!

    But there’s a difference: The Article is about “Casual” Games (And we’re talking by the correct definition of “Casual” which means, fast to play and have fun games), while FFVII is a upmarket game, which is asking for you a ton of dedication. While Casual Games is just play and have fun! And play and have fun is that the people wants now.

  39. Wait, so you’re saying that the games that I love to play more than the ones you like to play are broken? o_0

  40. Oh, BTW, cinematics and story don’t ake away from the control of the user all of the time, just look at the Half-Life series. :P

  41. Well, that was very negative. While it does have some good points (king and slaves), it’s also full of ironies. This article reads like it’s written kind of like a dull dry professor, to be honest. However, here’s a major irony.

    “Demographic stereotypes also won’t solve the issue.”
    “You find there are two types of professors:”

    Plus there’s the arguement hardcore game developers are trying to make themselves look great, and it reads like you’re doing the same. Another thing, you don’t really seem to accept that some people really enjoy a good story in a game. It’s what made Earthbound so quirky and fun, and the story combined with great cutscenes are what really differentiate the MGS franchise from other games on the market. The games also play very well and can make you think more than your average title. Parts of this article really just feel like you’re slapping Kojima in the face for telling a great story. Just because you don’t like cutscenes, that doesn’t mean that everybody else agrees with you. Heck, I’m in the minority of this one, but I also enjoyed a little game called Killer7.

    Overall, your article just screams “games should be this way”. Not everybody has the exact same definition of a fun game. Plus games can be fun in different ways.

    So, in the end, I guess I didn’t enjoy this article as much as your previous work. Oh well, I guess I’m in the minority on this one looking at the other comments.

  42. Some here keep talking about FFVII and MGS1 as Cinema Games that are either classics or not.

    I would say that they are classics, but there’s the thing: both games came out _Over 10 Years Ago_. When the “Cinema Game” era was born.

    In fact, I’d argue that FFVII and MGS1 were two of the top games that actually _jump started_ the cinema game era.

    When FFVII and MGS1 came out they were *new* and *different*.

    Now, however? A game attempting to be cinematic isn’t anything new. Seriously, everyone knows FFXIII is going to have “cinematic” cutscene – the only question left is how long they’re going to be.

    What’s new about MGS4 having a cinematic story and cut scenes? The MGS series has *always* had them – all that happened in MGS4 is that graphically the cutscens are better looking than the ones in MGS1, 2, and 3.

    It’s the Toy Story vs Finding Nemo comparison. Whether you prefer the story told in Toy Story over Finding Nemo, or vice versa, Tory Story is viewed as the bigger classic in Pixar’s library, not only because it was the first one out, but because it was also the one that was so *different* than what had come from the animation genre before it.

    Even if the animation in Finding Nemo is crisper and cleaner than the animation found in the first Toy Story.

  43. @Aiden

    He said “Long Cinematics” not “Cinematics”. And he said “too much text” not “text”. Find the right amount is the problem ^^!

  44. Eh, I’d say that the cutscenes became much more dynamic in MGS4 than they were in the original MGS. The voice acting is also better, and they can be more emotional as well. Though yes, there are many games that are trying to be as cinematic as other games, but not all of them pull it off as well.

    It really seems like most people here haven’t played MGS4 though. The presentation in that game alone (not just in graphical detail) is far above what was in the first few games. I would say they’re much more “convincing”.

  45. @Matt

    You right, he sound a bit angry and a bit out-of-character. But he said it once before. I guess now it’s the time for his vacations.

    What I did is go and walk a bit thinking about his statements. Then you find the strong points. Seriously, think about it. Find your own responses will be better than just take what Malstrom said literally.

  46. Matt – that’s not an irony at all. There are two types of professors. That’s not a stereotype, and that’s not a demographic. A demographic would be something like “asian professors” or “maths professors”. “Student-focused” and “self-focused” are traits, not demographics.

    But other than that, I find it hilarious that you completely ignore the entire point of his post in order to pick nits with components. He never said that a good story in a game is a bad thing, just that it’s bad when it becomes the *focus* of the game. A game’s purpose, first and foremost, is to be fun. Story, and other things related to that, are peripheral at best – they serve to enable the “fun”, but are not, in-and-of themselves, fun.

    If you actually find the story an important part of “fun”, then perhaps you should be watching movies, rather than playing games. Indeed, I believe I heard that some people are just watching the MGS4 cutscenes as a movie (as in, just download the cutscenes and watch them, rather than playing the game).

    Gameplay is king within the realm of game design (as opposed to the consumer who is king in game creation) – all other elements of game design are subservient to gameplay. If a game doesn’t place gameplay as king in its design, then it will inevitably flop. This is essentially the whole point of malstrom’s article – that gameplay is king in game design, and consumer is king in game creation. Break either of those rules, and you’ll almost certainly have a flop.

  47. The point of the article seems to be all over the place. While at the beginning he really sets it as that there are two types of game developers, hardcore and casual. The hardcore developers are all broken because of a few people from Epic (“Next Gen starts when we say so” Epic :p) and probably Igataki (Mr. “Tekken sucks, Devil May Cry sucks, Ninja Gaiden rules”). He doesn’t directly say that, but he basically generalizes that those who develop for the hardcore are elitist and think they’re the ones calling the shots. For a few people, that’s true, but that the same time, publishers are in it for the money, as is everyone else, so they pretty much have to go where the money is.

    This ties into the king and slave story, which was spot on. However, many of the developers he talked about are actually finding success in the HD systems (thanks to the 360 being a software monster). Apparently that’s wrong though…or something. Anyway, they go where the money is.

    For the whole “fun factor”. Well, I do find a good story entertaining. However, an example with MGS4, with it’s apparent terribly long cutscenes that I guess since I enjoy I should be watching movies, is that I also very much enjoy the gameplay. Konami didn’t forget about it at all, it’s very much enjoyable. Moreso than games without a story like, oh, Boom Blox. Perhaps that’s a poor example because I enjoy both games, but I enjoy the gameplay in both, but the story only adds to the expierence for me. The same must go for the millions of people that have bought the game as well.

    So yes, obviously the gameplay has to be good. However, just because story is placed just as high as gameplay, that doesn’t guarentee that the game will play like crap. A game can have a great story and great gameplay. Other elements can be placed as high on the priority list as gameplay, it’s just that they can’t go too overboard. If they did, then no or very little attention would be put to the gameplay, and that would likely create problems. However, there’s nothing wrong with gameplay still being at the top, with other elements matching it creating a game that’s more than just gameplay.

    Yes, I realize that I just went off on a weird tangent there. I apologize :p

  48. @Matt

    Not, “Hardcore and casual” developers. Are “Ego driven (A.K.A: hardcore) and user driven” developers. Not every casual game is an user driven software either. There’s a ton of Ego Driven Developers who does Casuals (Retarded in their mind) Games just for the moment. But, because they believe the users are retarded, they do the games they do.

  49. Well, I suppose I don’t have a ton of knowledge of those who don’t come out and brag about everything in their games, so naturally it’s hard to come by.

    I will say though that most casual games are shovelware…at least on the Wii. I don’t quite know if that’s the developer’s fault, or if it’s the publisher telling them to rush out something so they can put it on store shelves. I don’t know if it’s because they feel they’re audience is “retarded”, but rather because they don’t really have a choice in the matter.

  50. @Matt

    The Developer is do it the game: They do have choices. No matter if it’s actually limited, they do have choices.

    I read a ton of times “developers” with are angry with the “publisher” just because they tell to them made a “Casual” Game. And they are angry because they don’t study for make “Casual” games, it’s because they want to do “Hardcore” games. See? Ego Driven Developers. If they were user centric they will do the best thing they can, just because a happy user will buy. The problem is the mentality of the Developers theirselfs: They want to do that kind of game, while anothers wants just deliver fun to the people. The first ones are Ego Driven while the latter are User Driven.

    I have a Fanzine with two chapters (The third one in construction). When I do the story, I always think in how fun the story is. When, I present the fanzine to someone, this one ussually smiles. I suddenly realise that after a while (Just a moment ago), I feel better with the smile of the people than the “Artistic” values of the fanzine. I wonder how many developers feels that.

  51. Well, some people are just going to be that way. However, even some of the developers that want to make a fun game can’t. They could be told to do something else, or be given a tiny budget, or be given a short timeline to finish the game. Bad games aren’t always a result of Ego Driven Developers. Granted for many they really want to make hardcore games, because they, most likely, were hardcore gamers themselves when they got into the industry. They may want to make people smile…but not with a game they can’t find entertaining themsef.

    Imagine you wanted to work on something like Metroid or even Mario, but you’re stuck working on a liscensed property because nobody will accept your game designs. This is essentially what was the case with High Voltage Software up until a few months ago. They worked on ports and games based on cartoons to make money, and then they took a gamble showing a game that was rejected by many publishers because of the platform. This was The Conduit, a game they intend to finish without a publisher, because they have enough money saved up and they don’t want anyone to interfere, but because it was given so much exposure they can get it published when need be.

    People want to make fun games. Maybe I have too much faith in people to think that so many just want to be famous :p It’s just that they want to make games they think are fun too.

  52. Spot on. Ego is the enemy.

  53. An excellent article, Malstrom. But surely, if the investors were actually tired of low quality efforts from western developers, then they would have been culled by now?

  54. I am a Nintendo guy, but holy shit, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much effort put into something so poorly thought out. All of you who actually take this seriously, I feel sorry for you and maybe in the next life you won’t draw the genetic short straw.

  55. “The pixel-ated ‘Super Mario Brothers’ is now considered to be highly ‘artistic’ yet it wasn’t seen that way when it came out.”
    This art is riding the wave or young people learning about the geometry limiting cubism movements which tried to capture certain things and feeling with limited means. Our games back then did exactly that. The game play and the execution is not broken. What I mean by this is it is not trying to fool you as if it was realistic. Most games that age will age because people see flaws in the graphics that break the realism. Cg artist know this and video game artist are fooling themselves right now or at least the players. I think most artist know that these graphics will age also.
    Also the High art game libraries you motioned are more like old volumes of nascar races or a star trekkes library of star trek. The game libraries are the depths of bad scifi mostly. These people are the fans of these movies tape etc. They are not seen as high art even though they try to thumb their nose up at every one. It’s like a life long farmer getting a painting from the louvre and only liking it because of how much it cost.
    Does it have long cinematics? Very very true the CG should be there to get me hype or let me see what is not displayed. It is something used to intro the level in a cool way. Best cinematics NG2 short and shocking, mega man 2’s opening, maybe the end game story. Or how about strider on the NES where your beamed to the planet? Then it’s all game play after wards with some text here and there maybe.
    If your game isn’t fun in one minute, it is broken. Very true hardly any game can past the arcade test these days. What is funny is this is exactly what sells Wii play and sports.
    What is funny is lots of stuff you speak about and point out in today’s games are not necessary for a game. You also say that there is an exception if it is the first but hold up is that not a gimmick? In away the graphics are a gimmick, violence gimmick, story, gimmick. If the game is fun I don’t really need a story to play a good game…. Because it is a game not a bed time story. Games are about skill and challenge. To make a great game you have to be a skilled gamer. This use to be the case with most developers until WOW factor of graphics forced fans out of the process of creation.
    The whole king and slave thing works so perfectly to expose how companies are trying to become king. They believe ads and constant hype will do this. It works for kings who are new to being a king(gaming consumers) or even the hardcore who are being used because they just hate another company. What is funny the older gamers and the moms and dads playing this system that are called casual are the one that are truly aware that they are king because they did not get into gaming till it showed them something they wanted to play. Right now lots of companies are riding off of a indie movie moment almost the whole buying to show support is being milked way too much. Your point about falsely making games suck on the Wii just so that they can keep their HD budgets is very true when you look at it. Hell artist loves it. We all knew the money was there but the HD thing really pays the bills. Yet the hammer will fall but right now everyone is happy selling GTA4s to the hardcore that are feed what to like by way of hype. I’ve never seen the hardcore get milked so far though. Few had neo-geos but the HD stuff is outrageous and people believe they are getting a deal lots of the time. Crazy stuff indeed.
    The Shakespeare thing is such a cool way to end this post also. Man I have to ask why you are not writing for someone but I know why because you would not fit into the hype machine. To everyone saying why they don’t get the Wii they are just saying they don’t value fun. Also most movies are only watched a few times games can be played for a life time. So it comes down to how do you want to be remembered is what developers should ask themselves.
    @Bob video games are only art if people accept them to be art. Officially this movement has not happened and it has not investment yet. What I mean is it has not been weaved into the story that is art history. All it will take is for some artist to use the the human interaction with the inanimate forms and pictures to envoke life into the work directly. All higher forms of art do this the human viewer brings he art out of an otherwise ordinary object. If maelstrom keeps writing like this he will write it’s manifesto for this next movement. The tools are there it’s only going to take someone to bring it to a college and make it respected. HAHA the malstorm movement would sound pretty sweet in a art history book wouldn’t it LOL.
    Always like reading and posting thoughts here thanks for the blog man.
    This post was more for the 3rd parties not a SONY or MS they are not true powerhouses that can move console off of their own steady stream of titles. They are the life blood of the industry and the sooner they realize what needs to be done you will get more choice and niches can truly be supported.

  56. To answer the neo gaf guys yes people like different games and that is the problem certain types of games cause the rest of the industry to copy rather than expand. RPGs are just copied, stories changed. FPS new guns and play modes are just changed with new CG for both. Even casual gaming is doing this. Yes this may be your form of chess but it is a problem. ONCE the king has a chess game then why would want another? The developer has to bring something new to the game not just change the peaces details. What SEAN is posting is not elitism yet it is realizing a problem. He is not posting this because he is smarter or what not he is posting this because this is something he sees. Yet some people cannot believe their own eyes. So believe what you will but the ones that understand these problems will have a rags to riches story to tell. At the current rate only big business can make the game you need and want. The industry is limiting itself whenever something is limited to using something in excess to amaze people. I mean lots of people like to see huge balls of tinfoil just because someone took the time to do it. What is funny is the advancement in tech seems to be more important than the actually design and game. A good game will hook you when you first play it. If I didn’t have my FPS fix in past games then I can see how Halo would be your fix or how MGS would be better for you. If you take Nintendo out of the equation and look at why the Dreamcast died and was forgotten before the Saturn gave us more but no one cared because it cost too much. Then just imagine SONY without %50 of the 3rd party? It’s not a pretty sight. So will a hardcore gamer be forced to buy a game so that more lucas arts situation do not happen? This is not an article for gamers who just want to play it’s more for people with in these companies. It’s like if you prejudge an idea based on it’s failure. Both ways are viable for certain companies and certain gamers.
    Every game does not have to sell millions but the budget must be feasible for a break out hit. If you can produce a few 200k sellers then your whole portfolio will be way bigger and your fan base as a company will grow and maybe those guys will try your other games based off their love for a niche game. This isn’t really possible on the HD consoles is it? If it’s not hyped beyond reality it will not be good on a HD console. Rarely does a non hype game do well on a HD console. One poster from Neo gaf even says you need lots of different games on a system for it to be successful. This is why we are harping on certain games. The noise from them are so loud in the hardcore’s ears that that’s all they want and as a developer that’s all you can think to make. Also most of the post on neo gaf are designed to derail Sean post without a true counter. There is a lot of speed reading going on also… and fanboy service. I mean Sean just posted a large body of text and all they got out of it was “Complex, ‘hardcore’ games may take it too far sometimes, but over-simplified, ‘casual’ games should be judged just as harshly.” The problem is the hardcore will shrink more and more. It’s like star wars eventually it will become so big to the hardcore that it will collapse. What is the funniest was when someone posted “Is it Kojima’s “LOOK AT HOW GENIUS I AM” -swan song? No.” I mean he put himself as one of his biggest inspirations WTF? Inspirations are outside influences so unless he has a clone then I would say that is ego.
    Also notice how most of the neo gaf comments against seans post simply put out made up “problems” with his writing acting as if they just cannot understand what is being said. LOL he uses quotes because you are using the word in ways that are veiled. So he just runs with it. Example: the internet hardcore are not a true representation of the hardcore because they do not represent the hardcore as a whole. Thus they are given the “hardcore” name. Then the grand daddy thing LOL man these guys have a problem with listening and conversation. Also movies are not truly seen as high art yet. An organization with lots of money treats them like high art. Then you have to look at how many movies are not made because of the lack of foreseeable profits. There is room for malstrom’s views and the “hardcore” view. Time will prove one or the other to be right though. Opinions change every day without people knowing it. Also too this post was made to show that games are terribly limited and actually broken for a large mass of hardcore gamers. For the graduating to occur from Wii to HD don’t the hardcore developer what works and why? So far I didn’t see lots of hardcores joining the rank of hardcore HD gaming it seems to be the same.

    This would be a better conversation in person than on the net. It always is.

  57. @Pongo Pete

    You can break it down as ‘Hardcore’ meaning ‘games that developers think are fun to make’ versus ‘Casual’ meaning ‘games that developers don’t think are fun to make’. The reason why they don’t think they are fun is they not only do not want to play them, they don’t think they are pushing the definition of gaming ‘ART’, whatever the hell that means.

    ‘Hardcore’ is about the developer, being a peacock, and saying, “I kick ass”. But in order to get games to work for the so-called casuals is to have THE NEW PLAYERS say, “I kick ass.”

    This mental behavior, this ego-mania, has really trapped the industry into a bubble. Hilariously, they see ‘new gamers’ as a ‘threat’. A threat to what? A threat to their imaginary ‘art’?

    For all this talk about ‘casual gamers’, I have yet to find anyone in the industry talk about them with respect, with genuine appreciation for the new things they will add to how we perceive games. They refer to ‘casual gamers’ as if they were all retards, as if they all drank out of a straw, and the industry sees them as a real estate developer sees swamp land, as something to cultivate to ‘get rich’ rather than genuinely respond to the jobs they want done.

    You’re not going to succeed in a market when you think the customers are idiots. Remember, they are the king, you are the slave. Not the other way around.


    Art comes from something that endures through time. The Game Industry is only a few decades old and it is still not clear what, if any, of the current and past games will still be played when we are in the grave. All we can do now is speculate.

    Considering games as ‘art’ is still extremely pre-mature. I can say Shakespeare is art because he has been read for centuries, will likely continue to be read for centuries, and finds audiences in fresh new generations. I can consider Mozart and Beethoven also to be ‘art’ as their music endures.

    But gaming? It is still way too early to tell. Most likely, it appears that most games will end up being generational fads in the sense that your parents LOVED a certain type of music that you HATE. Such music dies with that generation and doesn’t endure. That cannot be art.

    With gaming’s original generation still living, it is way, way premature to say any games are ‘art’. There is still no real proof of its endurance… yet.

    So we might as well just make fun products and let ‘art’ attend to itself. It always does.


    I am not and have never been a GAF member. And I did respond to them previously. Unfortunately, last time there was no discussion about the articles or anything. They could only focus on myself. When I went on sabbatical, they instantly all fell silent because ad-hominem fails once the person leaves the room.

    Anyone who is interested in discussion would post in my comments section or email me. But they are not interested in discussion. There are also many forums and blogs (with their own comments section) that have spoken, criticized, praised, or whatever something that I have said. I cannot respond to all of them.

    I have an email address and comments section for anyone who wants to discuss something with me. When someone doesn’t use either of them, the intention is anything but discussion.

    There is also a business saying of “don’t argue with idiots.” The reason why is because during the discussion, people cannot tell the difference.


    Let me ask you a question: Have you heard anyone in the game industry (not counting PopCap, WildTangent, etc.) talk of ‘casual gamers’ as intelligent, sophisticated customers? I never do. All I hear is that they are referred to as ‘retarded’ people, so ‘unsophisticated’, that while they see ‘hardcore’ gaming as ‘steaks’ and ‘feasts’, they find ‘casual’ gaming as appetizing as drinking food through a straw.

    They don’t respect the new gamer.

    How can you win in a market where you hold the customer in contempt? You can’t. And that is what is holding them back. They need to take major humble pills and realize they are in the games business, not the art business.


    The point of this post was to isolate the barrier that is preventing many in the industry to engage this market. The answer is that the industry is too ego-wrapped in trying to make itself look good, to make itself look ‘artistic’, than to focus on its customers.

    @Nathan Whincup,

    Something like the Wii hasn’t even been out for two years. Most games have a two year development cycle. Give it a couple more years.

    Right now, there is much *talk* and chatter about how ‘casual games’ are growing ‘so fast’. If the talkers don’t actually come with results for all their bluster, higher-ups are not going to be happy.

    I can see Ubisoft try to squirm their way out of this by trying to depict the kids market as ‘casual market’. But kids have always been the meat and potatoes core of the industry. I have yet to see a major company, excluding Nintendo and a few others, have major traction with the new market.

    @8-bit hack

    This post didn’t require any effort. Check out my main articles for when I do put in the effort.

  58. Thank you for your answer, Sean.

    Sadly, you’re right, I can’t really argue with you on this one, and that’s the kind of answer I expected, actually.

    So yeah…

  59. […] Maelstrom, Secret to the “Casual” Long but interesting comparison between effective teaching and the rise of casual gaming—hardcore […]


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