Call me Casual. No seriously, call me a Casual. My favorite game is The Sims 3 which, according to my steam counter, I have played for an embarrassing number of hours.My second favorite game is Fire Emblem…on easy mode. I am definitively not a "Core" gamer nor am I even close to being a Hardcore gamer. Credentials out of the way, there is something very serious we all need to talk about. We need to not be afraid of the casual gamer label, even if it is used as an insult.
First things first, what is a Casual gamer? This is something that has been argued endlessly on the internet. Urban Dictionary divvies up the gamer classes into three main ones, Casual, Core, and Hardcore. The Casuals are generally non-competitive who “don’t place their gaming as a first priority.” Core gamers dabble, probably play a large variety of games, but are not as dedicated as the Hardcore gamers. Hardcore gamers are the ones who go nuts when gaming doesn’t go their way and are incredibly dedicated to their specific games, often putting “two or three hours” a day into gaming. In my opinion, Urban Dictionary couldn’t be more wrong.
You see, a couple of years ago there was a discussion going around the YouTube Sims community as to whether or not Sims players were Casuals. Headed by a channel called Optimus in a video titled ‘EA is Ruining The Sims,’ he argues that Sims players by and large are Casuals. Deligracy, a popular YouTube Simmer, got super offended and shot back in a video titled "Is EA Really Ruining The Sims?". Since she poured hours into The Sims, to the point it had become her life, how could she be considered a Casual? Optimus of course replied in a video titled "Responding to Deligracy's Video on "EA Is Ruining The Sims", insisting she was a huge Casual. Optimus claimed this because he felt her arguments to the contrary were almost nonsensical.
I won’t go over the whole exchange, the videos are super long and go over a lot of details on what makes EA a bad company overall, but a few things stuck out to me. The first being that Deligracy had no idea how games are made. Optimus took a lot of pot shots at The Sims 4 for being a lazy entry into the series. It took five years to make and, though the graphics were arguably improved, the gameplay suffered immensely. Deligracy thought the game had been made from scratch, hence the long production time, not knowing many assets were recycled from previous games. Her fundamental misunderstanding of how games are made is important and a common feature of casual gamers.
The Sims 4 base game is pretty much unplayable and at launch was $60 in the USA. This is a huge sum of money for something that committed heinous acts such as removing one of the most important features in The Sims franchise, the pool (how else will you murder your sims?). EA then tried to slip it into an expansion pack. Fortunately, the players complained loudly enough that the pools were patched in for free, but this was not the only core feature missing from the base game. To even make the gameplay interesting, EA threw wave after wave of expansions at the players ranging in price from $10-$40 each. Currently to play the game to its fullest you must shell out over $500, unless you wait for a sale which I believe reduces it to a measly $300. (Editor's note: The Sims 4 base game was free on PS Plus in February 2020) In any other gaming community this would be unacceptable. I'm sure you remember the loot boxes fiasco from a couple of years ago, right?
If one is paying full price for a game one expects a full experience, unless you are a Simmer. Every few months another expansion comes out and they don’t even wait for sales to purchase it. And, as if on cue, a few days after release comes the complaints. Despite hating The Sims 4, the Simmers keep bending over and taking the financial abuse, raw and without lube, from EA. This is the first sign of a Casual. They have no understanding of how the industry works. The Sims 4 is super cheap to make, so cheap in fact that EA has severely reduced the staff working on the game. Half-hearted, half-finished , half-assed expansions are shitted onto the market and, despite bitching and moaning that each new release is worse than the last, the Simmers still shell out the big bucks to play these scraps of content. At this point, this game exists merely to print money for EA and Simmers fall for it every time.
The second sign of a Casual is they have no gaming rig to speak of or, more accurately, they blame games for the weakness of their rigs. The Sims 3 and all its expansions retail at $60 on steam during the sales. But, because of how ambitious the game was, it is poorly optimized and cannot run on mid to low end computers. Being married to a Core gamer, I have access to a PC that can handle the specs and I play that game ad nauseum. However, even I recognize its shortcomings. The game should not be this bad, but like Fallout and Skyrim, the open world aspect is super janky. However, unlike the Fallout and Skyrim communities that have a modder sub- community made up of Core and Hardcore fans that know how to make those game function, the Simmers don’t know how to do that. I put on several mods to make the game more fun, but I must be careful. Too many mods and The Sims 3 lags worse than if it was being played on a regular old laptop. Yes, people do play The Sims on regular laptops. Let’s be clear, the problem is not that they have a bad computer. Some people simply can’t afford a good rig, but the fact that they blame the game for the shortcomings of their PCs is a huge issue with Simmers. No one calls The Witcher 3 a bad game because it cannot run on their low-end computers, but that is exactly what The Sims community does when a Sims game falters on their low end rigs.
The absolute worst part of The Sims community, the part that makes them super cringy, is that they demand to be called Hardcore gamers because they take the Urban Dictionary definition to heart. Let’s make one thing clear, two to three hours of gaming a day is nothing. That would be like calling someone who just watches Marvel movies a cinephile. Hardcore gaming is not defined by the amount of time you put into it. It is defined by the attitude you put toward your gaming. Hardcore gamers are competitive, they sink hundreds of hours into their games to try to make it to the big leagues. They learn the ins and out of their games down to the minute details in order to win. And in doing so, Hardcore gamers become incredibly skilled.
In their quest to prove playing games make gamers more prone to violence, psychologists accidentally proved that games actually have a lot of real-world applications. Gamers have better reflexes, better puzzling solving skills, and a keen understanding of game mechanics. Most of these skills are developed through harder and more complex games and this is the most important distinction between a Casual, Core and Hardcore Gamer. Casual gamers will usually seek out games with the lowest bar of entry, the ones that need little to no skill to play.
Simmers like to argue that there is skill needed in playing The Sims but let’s not kid ourselves here. Sure, there are some players who have a knack for architecture and can build amazing structures, but on the whole the game is so easy to pick up most players skip the tutorial entirely. Your ability to build a house does not reflect how well you play the game because, frankly, there’s no wrong or right way to play The Sims. Do you want to play a straight game where your Sims grow up, get a job, get married and die rich surrounded by family? You’ve won! Want to play a game where you get every Sim in town into the pool and delete the ladders? You’ve won! Want to lock all the Sims in your basement and have them paint portraits of our glorious leader and raise his kids until they die? You’ve won! Get the idea? This game is so casual I’ve opened it, played two minutes, then left it for hours if not weeks, mid-pool killing with no repercussions.(Editor's note: Slaya's husband has developed a fear of swimming in their family pool) There’s no other game I’ve played that’s let me pause mid anything that hasn’t lost me some sort of progression. For example, I once took a break from Final Fantasy IV mid-dungeon and when I returned a week later, I could not remember where I was on the map. I quit, never to return. I love The Sims 3, but I am not ashamed to admit this game is baby mode for gamers.
While I am not embarrassed to admit my place in the gaming hierarchy, Simmers, especially YouTube Simmers, bristle at being called Casual. They insist they’re Hardcore gamers simply because they poured their life into the game. And, because they film themselves playing and building for hours on end, they wield a lot of power in the gaming world. EA often uses YouTube Simmers for free advertising, giving them advance copies of DLC to shill on their channels. They’ve flown them out to the studio to playtest new expansions. EA even gave them a platform once to change what they disliked in The Sims 4. Yes, EA gave the Simmers a chance to voice their displeasure and were completely open to changing a few aspects of the game. So, what did the Simmers do with this power? Did they lay into the company for its shoddy practices and for reducing their beloved game into a cash cow? Did they try to get simple features added like more trait slots for Sims that would immensely help gameplay? Did they plead for a color wheel and extra textures to make building more customizable? Or, did their spokesperson bitch about the lack of a simple white shelf? If you said white shelf bitching, pat yourself on the back. For what it's worth, the white shelf was soon added to the game as a freebie.
This may seem dumb but it’s indicative a bigger problem in the gaming community; Casuals have power to change things and ruin the experience for others. When Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was released in 2019 an article came out from Forbes by Dave Thier titled ‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Needs to Respect its Players and Add an Easy Mode.’ In it, Thier argues that Sekiro is too hard and has too high a bar of entry. This article was quickly followed up by a second article titled ‘No, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Absolutely Does Not Need an Easy Mode’ by Erik Kain. Kain counters Thier with the old adage, ‘git gud, scrub.’ That is, an easy mode would destroy the experience for the dedicated fans. Not all games are created for everyone. The sad part is this is not the first time these two authors have had this argument. In 2016 Thier wrote an op-ed piece centered around Doom 2016 titled ‘Why We Need Video Game Reviewers to Suck at Games.’ To sum it up, he had difficulty playing the reboot of the beloved classic. Kain replied ‘No, Video Game Reviewers Definitely Shouldn’t “Suck” At Playing Games.’ Basically, Thier sucks at games and refuses to admit it. Yet he’s the one reviewing these games, the one who gets to decide if a game deserves awards or even recognition. And the worst part is, companies listen to people like him and ruin the experience for fans of their games.
A part of it is people get upset when they pay full price for a game they end up not enjoying. But that’s entirely the players fault. You don’t buy movies or books you know you won’t enjoy. If you think you might enjoy them but are unsure, you’ll wait till the books and movies show up in the bargain bin or check them out of the library. In the same fashion gaming sales happen all the time. You don’t need to play a game upon release “just because.” Your ability to enjoy the game will still be there. You can wait until the reviews are out to determine if you’ll even want the game and because everything has a spoiler warning on it, there’s no need to worry about ruining the game by reading reviews. Don’t demand the game be changed to justify you spending full price.
Casuals need to be called out whenever they stray from their lane. Not every game is for everyone. We don’t put big explosions into arthouse films just because the masses love Transformers and we shouldn’t make games easier just because it’s not accessible to everyone. Same goes in the opposite direction. I don’t want The Sims 3 to be a fast-paced shooter, although there is a mod where you can add realistic violence, just because FPS games are popular. My love of the game stems from the fact that it’s so easy. Personally, I get vertigo when I play first person shooters. The Sims point and click interface is incredibly calming to me and I would forever loathe the person who takes that from me. I’m not going to touch something like as difficult as Dark Souls because I get anxiety when I have to outrun the clock in the pixelated Final Fantasy VI despite having ten minutes to do something that takes five at most. I know my gaming comfort zone and I will never stray far from it.
I don’t see Casual as an insult, but so many bristle at the term. Because of definitions like Urban Dictionary’s, Casual has taken on the meaning of “not a true gamer.” That is so far from the truth. A true gamer is someone who enjoys games, period. If you don’t enjoy a game, then don’t play it. These terms, Casual, Core, and Hardcore are there to differentiate between games one will enjoy and games one won’t. It’s more akin to a rating system then anything else. It’s not something to be insulted by. Heck, I could make the argument that by these metrics being a Hardcore gamer is just as insulting as being a Casual. Who hasn’t made fun of those players who play League of Legends and nothing else? Instead people think it means you’re somehow special if you’re Hardcore. News flash, you’re not. If a game is not fun for you then don’t play it. Don’t force yourself to trudge through something just for some arbitrary title. Keep to what you like and don’t ruin the experience for others. Git gud scrub, or stay in your lane.