The Casual Suspects

Take a trip to Happy Street where your soul will be sucked in by these cute little creatures.

I’ll admit when I was younger, most of my free hours or days would be spent catching Pokémon, grinding in dungeons, and studying Street Fighter frame data and strategies. It’s not like this made me an anti-social hermit; quite the opposite.

Gaming with friends was me being social. It gave me the opportunity to share my habits with the people who mattered to me back then. In fact, I still believe the conversations I had with people about game tactics and secrets expanded my thinking and developed my communication skills. It was a way for me to grow up and learn by still enjoying my hobbies.

Over the last five years, however, my gaming lifestyle (or routine) has changed significantly. Gone are the sleepless nights trying to farm items or level up; those nights were spent finishing my college papers. Don’t judge me, I graduated!

King of Fighters on iOS. Fighting games on the go? Sure why not.

There were no more discussions about frame data and mix up strategies; those discussions with peers transformed into vicious verbal complaints about our professors who gave us undeserving marks despite the fact all the time and effort ACTUALLY put into our projects while others can get away with better grades for less work inpu…err… where was I? Oh right.

Life happened. Gaming was still a hobby but it was no longer part of my daily routine. I either had the time to play or I didn’t. My consoles collected dust, but I still had my portable systems to keep me entertained. The long sessions became short bursts while commuting and the eagerness to play disappeared. That was the college phase.
Gran Turi- I mean Asphalt 7 looking beautiful on the iPad.
Fast forward a couple years and now I'm working fulltime. I have access to all the home consoles and portable systems, but I've become victim to the mobile phone gaming bug. Forget about Sonic The Hedgehog 4, I enjoy the mini sessions of Sonic Jump.  Who needs the Unreal Engine on consoles when I've got Infinity Blade available to me? And my go to game right now? Happy Street. This charming little game is a time suck. If I'm on the bus, I'm playing Happy Street to progress my little town. When I'm on my lunch break, I open up Happy Street to see how much money I've accumulated. It's a repetitive process; something I typically dislike in games. But damn is it ever addicting in this one.

Have I become what us gamers define as a casual gamer? I believe I fit the criteria. I'm playing games that are easy to pick up, and deemed “kiddy” by the gaming community, transforming myself into an iOS gamer; someone relying on games to be available on the mobile device they use. Mobile games are scoffed at for not having the beautiful graphics, the depth, or for not using the traditional control methods. Is this really a terrible thing? Of course not.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy works really well on one screen.
The technology of mobile phones is advancing quickly so graphics is really a non-issue (do games really have to look amazing to be considered great?). Not having traditional controls is understandable, but most of the time developers take advantage of the hardware they are developing for. There are also many games that have a bit of depth to them and require tons of patience and strategy.

Just because I no longer grind for levels or enter tournaments, doesn't mean I've lost my touch. Touch is now an important aspect to the games I play! Besides, I can most likely find a mobile alternative to many console games.

It's really simple. I can't invest as much time with video games as I have before. My life just isn't suited for it anymore. I've got responsibilities that I need to focus my energy and attention on and all the free time I have has to be spent wisely. I'm not striking gaming out of my life, either. The "casual" games are just a better fit for my lifestyle. Pick up, play for ten minutes, come back to it when I find time. No stories to remember and no data to study; just games that complement me with the occasional console offering on the backburner and it feels damn good to just kick back, relax, and play.

At the end of the day it’s no longer my life, but my escape.