I can remember my sisters and I coming down the stairs of my childhood home one Christmas morning, pleasantly surprised by a new Wii console hooked up to the living room TV. It was shiny and white, and after months of playing at friends’ houses, we could now play within the walls of our own home. It had not been an easy feat; my parents didn’t want anything competing with Braves games or golf tournaments for use of the TV, and felt like we spent enough time already playing our Nintendo DSs. I remember making the argument that the Wii would force us to play together, instead of apart – that while creaming my sisters at Mario Kart, I would also be bonding with them. They bought the argument, and more than ten years later we are the proud owners of an Xbox, Wii U, and Switch, with who knows how many DSs on the side.
I appreciated Jesper Juul’s analysis of the “casual gamer.” I suppose I have been grouped into that label, whether or not I ever wanted to. I used to have conversations with friends at school, most of them boys, about a common game we all played; I remember being judged for playing it on a Wii instead of a PlayStation. “What’s the big deal,” I thought, “if I’m playing the same exact game as you?” Nevertheless, there was a stigma against players of the Wii: that they were all “casual gamers,” mostly girls, who weren’t skilled or committed enough to play the Xbox or PlayStation.
Juul finds that “casual games often become very difficult during the playing of a game, but they do not force the player to replay large parts of the game.” This has been mostly true for me and the games I have been drawn to. Games like Zelda and Mario Galaxy scared me, because they seemed to require knowledge and skill I didn’t possess. What frustrates me now, looking back, is that I definitely would have been able to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to play both of those games, and more. The fact was that my peers who played those games were so emotionally invested in them and held themselves in such high esteem as players that I felt inadequate. Maybe I would have enjoyed Halo, for example, if I had been allowed to view it from a casual gamer’s perspective.
Instead, I became emotionally invested in casual games, the most important being Animal Crossing. I cried when the credits were rolling at a certain part of the game because I thought it was over. I ran to my mom when a rude mole came up out of the ground and yelled at me for not saving my game.
I played that same game this past summer as a twenty-one-year-old returned missionary. Why? Because, despite as “casual” as the game may be, it has stuck with me and still makes me happy to this day.
1. Juul, Jesper. “What is Casual?” A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players. 2010.