Thursday, April 13, 2006

Soccer Moms Get into Other Games

Casual games might not seem to be an obvious area in New Media about which to ask political or ideological questions, since games like Tetris and Centipede are associated with mindless distraction rather than first-person engagement, but that is precisely what Water Cooler Games has been doing on a somewhat regular basis.

Even in the New York Times earlier this year, this broader demographic of players has been getting attention from articles such as "Just for Fun: Casual Games Thrive Online," which makes the following observation:

Casual games are popular: industry watchers say there are more than 100 million regular casual-game players, whose demographic is more representative of middle America than most gamer circles, having equal numbers of women and men and an average age above 35. Because of their popularity and ability to be played in short bursts, the games are increasingly used as lures to draw traffic to Web sites. Because of their simplicity, they are rapidly spreading onto portable devices as well.

Historically, this segment of Middle America has been a lure for political players as well, who looked for "soccer moms" during the 1990's and "security moms" during the Bush administration. Unlike multiplayer games or first-person shooters, casual gaming doesn't inspire calls for regulation from legislative bodies. In fact, incarnations of Pong, such as First-Person Shooter 3D Pong or Massively Multiplayer Online Pong inspire humor because of the obvious scrambling of game genres.

Yet WCG's Ian Bogost argues that the casual gamer may not merit the attention of the critical eye:

I don't have anything against casual games, but it's probably about time to remind ourselves that casual games do not necessarily entail innovation or experimentation. Some may think that sounds obvious, but I think the imprecise elision of casual games with expanding the gameplaying market (e.g., those mythical women 35-55) demands further scrutiny.



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