Way before I ventured into the strange world of hardcore gaming, I was a dedicated practitioner of casual games. I’ve never given them up completely, and now while I’ve been sick for three months, sometimes, a casual game is all my brain can handle. Hidden Object Games (HOGs), Match-3, Solitaire, Time Management, I like ’em all. I have a much lower expectation of them than I do hardcore games because one, they’re churned out like processed meat at a rapid pace, and, two, they’re much less expensive than hardcore games. I am a member of BigFishGames.com, and a Standard Edition (SE) game is $6.99, whereas a Collector’s Edition (CE) is $13.99. In addition, the expectations are different when I play a casual game than when I play a hardcore one. I play casual games just to relax, so I’m not as critical about them as I am with hardcore games. That being said, there are several tropes in casual games that are way past their expiration date, and I would like to make some suggestions as to how to make them better. Most of my suggestions are for HOGs, but some of them apply across the board. I’ll indicate which games are the worst offenders for each trope I’m going to dissect.
Let’s start at the beginning. Literally. When I start up a HOG, I know I’m going to be greeted with a cutscene. Here’s a weird fact about when I play casual games–I play them with the sound off. It’s weird because I always play with the sound on with hardcore games, but I play with the sound muted for casual games. Why? First of all, the sound is jacked up in comparison to how loud it should be. Additionally, many of them have music that plays throughout the whole game, and I don’t want that in my ear the whole time I’m playing. Secondly, voice acting in casual games is usually atrocious, and I’d rather read the text than hear them speak. Anyway, the fact that I can’t fiddle with the settings before the cutscene starts is irritating to me. I would sit through the cutscene and read the text if that were an option, but because it isn’t, I simply skip the cutscene instead.
By the way, there are some things in casual games that will make it a no-go before I even get started. Oh! One of the best things about casual games and using a client service like BGF is that every game has a free demo. It used to be an hour, regardless, but now it’s more like a set amount of story/scenes that a developer wants you to see. I’m fine with that, but it seems as if more and more games are creating their games for that hour point and end on a cliff hanger, which is understandable, but somewhat irritating. Anyway, my top egregious sins are: One, not allowing for windowed mode. There is no excuse for this. None. Two, not being able to mute the music. Again, there’s no excuse for it. I have a hunch that the developers of casual games are not as experienced or knowledgeable as are hardcore developers, but it can’t be that difficult to code window mode or muting the sound. Not being able to skip cutscenes is also a non-starter for me. Basically, if I’m not in control of my gaming experience, I’ll tap out. I’m not as strict about resolution settings because that doesn’t matter as much to me, but sound and window? Yeah.
Here are some of my micro annoyances with casual games. One, making it so I have to continually press a button to mute the sound–especially if you have to do each aspect separately. I don’t even like sliders, but they’re better than having to repeatedly press a button. I wish more games had a ‘mute all’ button, but that doesn’t seem to be a thing. Another is once I’ve fixed all the settings to my liking, as the game continues, it ignores what I’ve done and reverts to previous settings. If a game does that (say with cutscenes and sound), I instantly stop playing. Another weird thing many HOGs do is that you can change the difficulty in the settings, but if you do it before they specifically ask you to select your difficulty, they’ll still ask you, even if you change the difficulty. In addition, some games will change your whole computer’s resolution when you choose window mode, and that’s another game stopper for me. Obviously.