The Strange Case of the Casual Gamer

The following is an annotated bibliography from Chapter 10 in


Fortugno, N. (2008). The Strange Case of the Casual Gamer. In Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience (pp. 143 – 158). Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann.


Fortugno, an award-winning designer, teacher, and President of Rebel Monkey, considers the differences between the casual and serious gamers.  Aside from the demographic differences, serious gamers tend to be younger and male whereas casual gamers tend to be older than serious gamers and female, the author looks at some of the important design differences needed in order to ensure a casual game is successful.  Fortugno compares game interface (mouse click versus arrow keys) and feedback (response for doing just about everything compared to only when the player character dies).  He closes by noting that, even back when this was authored in 2007, the casual game market can no longer be ignored as a fad.

Selected Quotes:

  • “questions of physical interface, core mechanics, and overall interactive design stem first from who the player is and what they desire from a game” (p. 144).
  • “the primacy of audience in the design process makes casual games a unique challenge in the game industry, because rather than designing a game for an audience reared on a particular set of game experiences, you must design a game for everyone” (p. 144)
  • “Across multiple platforms, casual games have been a gateway for non-gamers to engage in digital play” (p. 144).
  • “One clear point is that casual gamers came to games first as internet [sic] users.  They did not think about the computer as a game-playing device as much as a Web-surfing device” (p. 147).
  • “Interface design and regular game feedback is another area where casual games have traditionally strived for simplicity and clarity” (p. 154).
  • “Thought balloons of character desires, glowing squares to mark next moves, and (as in the case of Plantasia) warnings and announcements flashed over the main game stage make it impossible for the player to ignore what is going on.  Casual games use these dramatic techniques to ensure that the player does not miss a vital piece of information” (p. 155).
  • “very few successful casual games allow players to navigate their way through different game screens by their own whim” (p. 155).
  • “casual game design must first consider the least experienced players, and create systems and mechanics that are universally accepted.  Mechanics must be intuitive.  Interfaces must be clear.  Achievement is prized over struggle.  Above all, designers must create games that challenge players without confusing or frustrating them, by using the devices, styles, and interactive languages in which the players are fluent to come up with new manifestations of play and fun” (p. 158).

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