A Casual Revolution

Jesper Juul’s A Casual Revolution offers an excellent approach to the gaming industry’s shift toward more “casual” games like Bejeweled, Rock Band, and Wii Sports. Juul contrasts the design approach of more hardcore games with these newer casual games, revealing interesting insights about what brings so many players who detest “traditional” video games to spend hours with Farmville or The Sims.

Hypertext literature faces similar difficulties: many see it as too challenging or too time-consuming. As a hardcore gamer, I can certainly appreciate the refusal to lower one’s intellectual standards in order to make a narrative more attractive to a wider audience. But the numbers speak for themselves; companies that are embracing a casual audience are making millions of dollars, and some of the most successful games— Rock Band, Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft—are flexible hybrids that fit into both a casual and a hardcore mindset.

This possibility exists for hypertext too, if it decides that it wants to become more mainstream. However, if “serious” games are any indication, it might take us a long time to decide if that’s actually what we want.