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Free for All: Casual is as hardcore does and the daily gaming list

Beau Hindman
Beau Hindman|@Beau_Hindman|October 31, 2012 5:00 PM
Dragon Nest screenshot
It's always a lot of fun to compare casual players to hardcore players. We've all seen many articles and had our own discussions on the topic and it never seems to stop being entertaining. After all, how much or how intensely a player plays an MMO can help predict how that player might react to market changes or to new titles, so we can easily see how developers will always be interested in the information even when we tire of it.

For me, personally, I would rather skip the whole discussion and just talk about how I play casually. I can list hours played and titles accessed, but I think it would be a better idea to sketch out a rough but typical day or week in my household to illustrate just how someone who considers himself casual is actually quite committed. Does that mean I am hardcore in certain cases? I don't care anymore, frankly. What I care about is seeing if how I play is completely alien or if there are other players out there who love to do what I do.

Let's call it a cry for help... or at least information.

Fleck screenshot
When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is prepare breakfast. At some point during those first few hours I'll need to walk the dogs, but when exactly depends upon the season. While I eat I watch a few shows on YouTube and crack open my tablet to update myself on emails. After the food is gone and the last of the coffee is drained, I usually sit down to tweak on an article or, in this week's case, to throw out a bunch of ideas that I really liked but didn't end up using.

Notice that no gaming has gone on yet.

After the necessary job of writing, checking emails and tweaking my calendar I start to check my "daily" MMOs. This is where the "casual" part blurs into dedicated, closer-to-hardcore player behavior. I have a list of MMOs that usually hovers around a dozen or so titles, and everyday I log into each one of these games several times. The first time is to check daily login bonuses or to spin prize wheels. Daily logins and prize wheel-type deals are becoming more and more popular as casual MMOs and gaming continue to grow in popularity. In my opinion, the casual market can already boast more players than any other, and so developers are learning from each other about which systems appeal to these players. Remember that not all casual players are always casual, and even hardcore players might access a casual game or two. That bleedover is the reason why casual or "lighter" gaming has become so successful.

"As you can see, not all of those titles are considered "casual" games by a lot of other players. Titles like RuneScape and Parallel Kingdom are intense games that can be played for hours at a time."

Right now in my daily list are 11 browser-based MMOs: Battlestar Galactica Online, Die2Nite, Fleck, Forge of Empires, Glitch, Grepolis, Illyriad, Lagoonia, Parallel Kingdom, Remanum and RuneScape. As you can see, not all of those titles are considered "casual" games by a lot of other players. Titles like RuneScape and Parallel Kingdom are intense games that can be played for hours at a time. Glitch easily has some of the most dedicated players I have ever seen, yet I am able to play it only a few hours per week. Sure, there are a few titles like the wonderfully addictive Forge of Empires and Lagoonia that aren't really MMOs, but they are massively multiplayer and do boast persistent worlds... sort of. I keep them on the list because they are just fantastic.

Along the way I will play my Rise and Shiny game, the games I am covering for the other columns for Massively and other sites I work for. So, throughout the day I might play for several hours. Browser-based or mobile titles are perfect because they are accessible almost anywhere. I can always have my tablet with me and there is a laptop in every used room in this house. Yes, accessibility or the ability to access these games anywhere is a core reason why I love them. It's not everything of course -- the gameplay is still key -- but accessibility plays a huge role.

Glitch screenshot
I had to make a decision long ago that I was either going to cover as many MMOs and multiplayer titles as I could or that I was going to dedicate myself to a few titles. What I discovered over time is that, with time, a casual player can still become as dedicated as and in fact sometimes a bit more knowledgeable than a hardcore player simply because that casual player puts in all those hours but spreads them out over a longer period of time. Because the time spent passes at a glacial pace, I am able to absorb things a bit more easily and find that the content, for obvious reasons, seems to last longer. I can start a quest on Monday and not have it finished until the end of the week. Hardcore players have finished that quest, leveled a few times and moved on to bigger and better stuff within that same week. They become the players who beg for "end-game" content within a few months after release.

"I can jump into one of these games and join a random group and, most of the time, enjoy the heck out of myself."

On top of my daily list and standard gaming for articles, I've added the weekend blitz, a more serious sit-down session that is usually dedicated to one or two titles. Lately I have been obsessed with Dragon Nest, DC Universe Online and other action-based titles. I cannot play these games all the time simply because my old gamer wrists would ache at the end of the day, but to play them for a few hours on Saturday is a real pleasure and represents exactly what I love about MMO gaming. I can jump into one of these games and join a random group and, most of the time, enjoy the heck out of myself. I get to game for gaming's sake. It might seem like the daily browser-based list is part of gaming just for fun, but the list is actually more like a needed bit of gaming that I can do alongside working. The daily list adapts to the work week.

I'm curious how many people game this way, happily stuck in the gray area between hardcore and casual, enjoying games on a schedule yet also reserving time to experiment even further. For me, the daily list and the weekend gaming chunks remind me just how much I love MMO gaming and all of its flexibility.

The great widely known secret to covering games is that you simply must love gaming. It would seem obvious, but I cannot tell you how many people I know who don't seem to enjoy it. And, if you are going to write about games, you need to find a schedule and a way to game that still allows you to work. For me the daily list and the flexibility of mobile and browser MMOs allows me to enjoy myself on a realistic schedule. Are there ways you fit gaming into your life, or is gaming so much a part of your life that your life fits around it? Let me know in the comments... I want to know if I'm not the only one!

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to beau@massively.com!
Free for All: Casual is as hardcore does and the daily gaming list