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As time goes on, the idea of a 'gamer' becomes increasingly unravelled, and has arguably served as an obstacle over the years. With that in mind, I appreciate there's going to be some frustrating usage of terminology in this blog - casual vs. hardcore, and so on - but that's exactly the point of the anecdotes I've written below: This is about a sub-section of my friends who, unlike me, have little ongoing backdrop in games, yet still have plenty of experiences involving games. For example...
1. Actually, all my non-gamer friends ARE gamers
It's just they don't perceive themselves as such. I spend around 2 - 5 hours each day playing games, in a stubborn and well-defined capacity. My consumption happens almost exclusively in front of a huge TV, while sat on a super-comfy chair (THRONE OF GAMES), in a controlled bubble of applied laziness. It's the best.
I imagine that my non-gamer friends clock in a similar amount of time on aggregate, except it's bitty and sporadic - killing time during a commute, say, rather than an explicit, lengthy session as part an ongoing appreciation. 'Gaming' just isn't any part of their self-identity. This is the downside of much of our media having put forth such an anaemic stereotype over the decades. We're essentially now all gamers, but it's still far from cordial to talk about the topic.
As roundly proven by Peggle, there's an unflinching demon with hands made of joypad superglue, lurking within everyone
2. They can adopt 'hardcore' traits in a wink
As I mentioned at the outset of this blog, the terms 'casual' and 'hardcore' aren't the most coherent of categorisations. But one of the more common delineations that's been used over the years is that of session length: Casual gamers are intermittent grazers, while hardcore users game with greater stamina and intensity, and other words that sound like excerpts from an unfortunate dating profile.
If my experience is anything to go by, 'casual' gamers can become just as engrossed in a game, as any long-standing enthusiast. Maybe they've got an even greater pent-up appetite, sometimes? It's just that their entry points are wildly different.
Because I live centrally in the city, my flat is basically an honorary A&E ward for any drunken stragglers in my circle of friends. One Friday at 1am, a friend turns up at my flat, only mildly drunk, but looking for distraction. I'm too sleepy to be conversant, so park her in front of the console version of Peggle. Even though the controls essentially involve just one button and one analogue stick, and feature no time pressure, this complex alien device is still a struggle for her. Takes around half an hour for her to settle in, while I sit back onto the couch, drifting into a snooze.
Seven hours later, I wake up, and she's still sat there, playing Peggle. Nearly completed the main 'story' mode, in fact. Sat in the exact same position, it's only frustration and adrenaline keeping her awake, wired as hell. That kind of thing hasn't happened to me since I was 21, sitting down to Zelda: Ocarina Of Time on the N64.
On a similar note: The cliched (and hopefully fast-fading) image of an angry gamer is that of a morbidly-engrossed teenage boy hopped up on radioactive sugar-gruel, but I've seen plenty of wrath from other demographics trying to get their heads around 'what all this Call Of Duty stuff is about'.
I once enlisted the help of a non-gamer friend, a supposedly stable and mature creative type, to design a kickass decal for one of my Forza cars. This is what they came up with. Thanks.
3. They're all quietly terrified of freemium
One of the most intriguing connections between all of my non-gamer friends is they're all deeply cynical about freemium, even though they've no idea of what freemium really *actually* is, or that it exists at all as a concept. "All this free stuff is trying to rip me off", one friend will mutter, as they prod away at their latest match-3 micro-obsession. "Everything's just becoming drugs and gambling, really," another friend will harumph.
This isn't my fault! It's not as if I've been indoctrinating them. I'm barely allowed to about the most interesting aspects of Minecraft, say, without their souls glazing over. So it's not like I've ever been able to mention freemium, let alone try to describe what it actually represents. I'm not allowed to steer their tastes - most of my recommendations are 'crap', apparently - yet alone sabotage them.
I sometimes read articles about market difficulties stemming from user expectations of content having rocketed so high, while their expectation of having to spend money has plummeted in the opposite direction. I'd go one further and suggest that it's not just that people 'expect everything for free', that they've also been trained to be apprehensive of it.
Well, that's what my non-gamer friends reckon, anyway.
How about yours?