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The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
(Please note that even i talk in an assertive way, it doesn’t mean this is the ultimate truth about the casual gamer psychology, but only an opinion)
Casual Games = Immediate Progress = Immediate Feedback
That would be the equation. Casual players are impatient. They want to be congratulated with a high frequency, even for the slightest click of the mouse. Reward them with visual FX, achievements, points, badges, a nice sound or melody, a text between exclamations to tell them how cool is the object they have recently achieved… do whatever it takes.
And between each of these ‘boasting right’ moments, you should be able to grab their attention gently ushering them to progress throughout the game. Don’t let them fall behind because you didn’t give them proper feedback each lapse of time. The “nothing happens” moments must be avoided at all costs. If for example you want the player to go back 5 screens to get a necessary object, you better find a way to make her trip back interesting, and the same goes when she moves forward again the 5 same screens after having picked up the object.
Additionally, remind her during the trip how important is what she’s doing for the welfare of the character she’s roleplaying, otherwise she’ll forget the purpose of the action you prompt her to perform game design-wise.
Casual gamers are almost like fishes (please understand this within the context, not as something derogatory), as in some casual genres they tend to forget WHY they are doing WHATthey are doing, so a game designer must plan each game situation with that in mind.
A list of things to think about:
- Give meaning and purpose to player’s actions.
- Give rewards to reinforce the meaningfulness of the player’s actions and congratulate him for having performed them properly.
- Avoid idle moments when the player could dangerously miss the frequency of feedback and feels she’s a “nobody”, “unimportant for the world” or could forget why it’s so vital she must continue progressing within the game.
- Tied with the one above, casual gamers, in the end, are looking for some love, fullfilment and even tenderness, qualities that our fast-paced and goal-oriented society scarcely provides.
You must guide players, like a child expects from a father. When you see they’ve already learned the “invisible” game mechanics you’ve set up though, then provide them some hints, but don’t tell them the whole story.
Let them feel the sense of achievement of discovering by their own what you conveniently hid from them.