Not Casual vs. Not Hardcore

Most of the discussion on casual and hardcore games paints a mutually exclusive picture. But casual and hardcore aren’t two ends of the same spectrum: the opposite of a casual feature is not a hardcore feature.

There are, however, things that interfere or reduce a game’s ability to be played in a casual or hardcore manner. Why define what casual/hardcore aren’t instead of what they are? Because, for example, having simple controls says nothing about a game’s ability to be played casual or hardcore (it’s useful for both), but complex controls make it difficult to be played casually. This is all relative, of course, and heavily dependent on pre-existing knowledge. Driving a manual transmission is a pretty complicated UI affair, but once you know it the experience is largely transparent and becomes a non-factor.

Things that reduce casual play:

  • Complex unfamiliar controls
  • Multiple channels of audio-visual stimulus
  • Steep (but not high) learning curve
  • Long start up to start play times
  • Long minimum play sessions
  • Inability for players of different skill levels to play together or against each other

Things that reduce hardcore play:

  • Lack of product depth
  • Lack of replayability

There’s probably a few I’m missing; I was surprised I couldn’t come up with more for the hardcore list.

How a game is played over it’s life cycle likely has an impact too. A game with a steep learning curve and complex controls would prevent it from being played casually, but once past that (and assuming no other barriers) you could conceivably play it in a casual manner. That may be particularly valuable if the product no longer has the same hold on the consumer’s attention as it did when they first got it.

August 01 2008 04:08 pm | Game Design

3 Responses to “Not Casual vs. Not Hardcore”

  1. Robin on 04 Mar 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Hey Kevin,

    Nice blog you are running here. I must confess that I am a “gamer”, I was a child of the Pong generation after all. There are games like Call of Duty 4, the online version, which I was obsessively addicted to, and still play competitively. There’s other games like one that slipped through the cracks called “Mount & Blade” that have flaws, but are amazing in concept, scope and offer a ton of replayability.

    I would say that in cases like mine they have grabbed enough of my attention to actually reduce the amount of spending I would normally make on other games. Well that and a photography habit…

  2. Robin on 04 Mar 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    Hey I forgot to mention you are getting “404” errors on your Most Viewed links…

  3. KG on 06 Mar 2009 at 5:57 pm #


    Glad you like the blog. It’s been my intent to cover more game design subjects, but my photography posts seem to have overwhelmed everything else. Perhaps I’ll revisit that again soon…

    Haven’t been able to figure out the missing page problem yet, but thanks for the heads up. Probably just need to install the latest version WordPress.

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