theorycast.50 :: Jesper Juul and The Casual Revolution [video game theory]


In this 50th episode of theorycast, I caught up with Jesper Juul, a video game theorist at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. He just spoke at the University at Buffalo as part of the Visual Studies Speakers Series. In this videocast, I chat with him to learn more about video game as media, theory, as well as its pragmatic applications.

As a ludologist, Jasper published Half-Real (MIT Press, Dec 2005), which Eric Zimmerman reviewed as how it “tackles key issues in games, from rules and structure to aesthetics and fiction to the complexities of player experience”.

Jesper recently announced that he will be releasing a new book entitled “The Casual Revolution” in Summer 2009. It’ll be all about the recently popularity of casual games, which Jesper defines through our interview as “easy and quick to play, easy and quick to produce”.

If First Person Shooters (FPS) and Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games are considered complex gaming because of their high learning curves, largely free online games such as Zuma and Desktop Tower Defense would be considered casual gaming.

While video games have always been diverse as cultural media, casual games show us that simple games that cost less can be as satisfying as high-end Hollywood-equivalent games such as Gears of War 2.

This makes me wonder if casual games, especially the ones that we download on our iPhones or play on our web browsers, are like the long tail of video gaming, where small markets are enough to sustain unique niches. I could be wrong since casual game can be played in more places by more people, due to their relative accessibility in terms of vicinity, time and cost.

I’d love it if someone knows of any statistics comparing the adoption of casual games (tons here) versus high-end video games. For all we know, the numbers might be fairly similar.