[Originally posted on 1Up.com]
I don't know anyone that I would really call a casual gamer... well ok, my sister and brother-in-law I guess, they play FIFA and Super Monkey Ball on my old Game Cube, and pretty much nothing else. That's pretty casual I guess... but other wise I know of no one that has a DS for Brain Age, plays BeJeweled on their office PC, or bought a PSTwo to play Singstar. I do however know many Semi-casual gamers - or what I would refer to as casual-hardcore, because really they aren't very casual at all: A guy who plays F1 to death on his PS3 (and nothing else!); one that buys every WWII game known to man (if it's for the PS2); one that bought a PS2 and a PSP but only played Ratchet & Clank games on them and then tossed them aside; another who bought a GBA for Advance Wars 2 and Fire Emblem; and yet another guy who only uses his Wii for Virtual Console games.
For a long time now, I've been baffled by this behavior. I just can't understand how you could play these fairly hard-core games, but nothing else. Playing intensely for a few weeks and then leaving the system unused for months at a time for no apparent reason. Until this morning when it dawned on me...
I was going through the mornings usual assortment of promotional emails in my inbox: iTunes, Amazon, along with several other multi-media retailers and venues, quickly skimming over the CD:s, movies, books and concert tickets on offer, thinking: It's funny, I used to be so into music - both buying the latest albums on day-of-release and hunting down concert-tickets. The same goes for movies - keeping up to date with what was coming out and fantasizing about what upcoming movies would be like and debating with friends about the great movies we had ideas for that - strangely - no-one was making... but now, now I hardly ever listen to music, buying maybe one album a year at most and when it comes to movies, I tend to just see a few at the cinema ever year, and they are usually the sure-fire blockbuster Hollywood productions and the odd niche title that I know appeals to me (most recently I saw the re-release of Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbour Totoro, one I highly recommend).
So I realized that I was actually exhibiting the same behavior as these so called casual-hardcore gamers, but as pertains to other media. My incomprehension of their gaming habits drained away. My primary interest lies in games and so that is my focal point, there just isn't time or energy to spend on other media more than in short-concentrated instances. Others are more focused on other things: the PS3 owner bought it for his passion for movies; the guy who loves killing Nazis on this PS2 loves spending time with his kids even more; and the Ratchet & Clank fan's Playstations may be covered by a thick layer of dust, but his massive record collection is rummaged through daily as he picks out records for his radio and club DJ:ing gigs.
So just because you don't pour all your time into an interest doesn't mean you can only enjoy the mainstream and light aspects of that media. None of this is of course news, just me being a bit narrow-minded. And the big console manufacturers are clearly not blind to the matter either even if they are going about it in quite different ways. Nintendo is trying to appeal to casual- and non-gamers by providing a friendly and relatively cheap alternative for those that play sporadically, this has worked in bringing in a couple of people I know who's gaming habits are very price-sensitive. While on the other end of the spectrum we have Sony, who's current handheld and home consoles both hold a higher price-point than the competition, but offer several alternative uses that have enticed many to buy them without the intention of dedicating much time to gaming.
Talk as we might about how gaming is maturing, reaching new audiences as pertains to age, gender, geographic location, but what it really means is that it diversifies to appeal to many different kinds of gaming wants and needs. Just like other media has done. So enjoy gaming, no matter how much or how little and no matter how hard- or softcore - to each his (and her) own.