I've seen the term "casual" used to describe games at times, and have seen people refer themselves or others as "casual gamers."

What exactly is a "casual" game? Is there any real difference between them and regular games? If so, what makes a game "casual?"


Time investment is the main criteria. If a game can be rewarding to players who only pop in every so often and only for short time periods, it is casual. "Hardcore" games are those which require either a lot of time investment into skill (possibly from playing other similar games) or time investment into game sessions in order to enjoy the experience.

An FPS is "hardcore" in that a player must spend time learning and mastering the FPS controls. Games like Baldur's Gate are hardcore in that they require extensive time playing and exploring the story to properly enjoy. FarmVille is "casual" as anyone can pick up the core game in minutes and only require a few minutes per day to enjoy (though some people can certainly spend way more time playing and mastering the game).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note the difference between "time investment" and "time wasting" via grinding... \$\endgroup\$ – Tobias Kienzler Jul 11 '13 at 8:50

I think the wikipedia article on casual games answers the question pretty well as to what casual games are.

It should be noted that people who describe themselves as "casual gamers" don't necessarily play casual games. "Casual" can describe their dedication to games or the amount of time spent playing them. The games they play could easily be the same games someone who describes themselves as a "hardcore" gamer plays. In this sense, they use the term "casual" to tell you it's not something they're really serious about.

However, it's likely that statistics relating to gamers may have a category of "casual gamers", that would identify a group of people who play casual games.

Just be aware of the context these terms are used in and they should be easy enough to distinguish.


"Casual games" are targeted at a wider audience than other (often considered more "hardcore") games are.

Typically this is accomplished by having simpler game mechanics and controls that are easier to pick up and understand for people who might otherwise not play very many games, and by being much easier to pick up and play for brief periods of time (such as while travelling on a bus).

Early casual games were primarily played through web browsers (via Flash portals). While such games are still around, the rise of the smartphone platform has allowed many casual games to migrate to those devices.


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