Gaming, both as a term and an industry, has seen a seismic shift in definition in recent years. Once seen as a niche area, often stereotyped and disdained, gaming has evolved into a massive cultural phenomenon that is enjoyed by a staggeringly diverse audience.
Consequentially, there has been a split in the gaming culture among gamers; there are those who consider themselves “real” or “hardcore” gamers, who have been gaming on consoles and PC for years. On the other hand are the new crop of “casual” gamers, who are simply looking for a few minutes of breezy fun. This split has been accelerated by the behemoths of mobile gaming, including games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Candy Crush, and Clash of Clans.
While many gamers dismiss – even attack – this newer subculture, I think these games, and the people who play them, are an important part of the gaming industry, and are even advantageous to gaming on the whole. I’m aware that this is a controversial opinion, so I’m going to try to explain this position with a game that has seen massive success, particularly in India – Clash of Clans.
Why Clash of Clans
Clash of Clans, or CoC as it’s popularly called, epitomizes the ‘freemium’, social gaming model. It offers you the choice of dropping in and ‘playing’ for a couple of minutes, thanks to a clean interface and great visuals, or investing long periods in building up your territory, helping fellow ‘clanmates’ that you build up through social media, and waging war on enemy turf. Basically, if you’re a casual gamer with a couple minutes to spare every few hours, CoC has got you hook, line and sinker. From there on, the lure of incremental rewards, provided you keep grinding, ensures players stay back to build up their clans and grow the playerbase steadily.
So how does a game that apparently caters to the widest gaming demographic compare with bigger, fancier games? Simply put, it doesn’t. And asking that question is a mistake many hardcore gamers make when attempting to deride Clash of Clans and its kind. At its core, CoC is not intended to provide a gaming experience, as much as a carrot-on-a-stick system of rewards. But it can be a gateway. CoC is a cash cow, sure, but it’s the hamburger before the nice, juicy steak that is PC and console gaming. And there’s a bunch of reasons why this transition is very much a possibility.
Clash of Clans represents a base-building strategy game stripped down to the bare essentials. The resources involved, fold and elixir, are used to build your base, construct defences, and train your troops. These troops are then sent out to battle other settlements to gain more resources, thus building up your base into a formidable fortress to fend off other clans’ attacks. Sound familiar? CoC follows a tried-and-tested formula that takes elements from several turn-based and real-time strategy games, such as Age of Empires and Commands and Conquer, and removes the bells and whistles to provide a beginner-friendly game. So while CoC players might only have a simplistic understanding of the genre, they’ve grown accustomed to, even mastered, that form of gameplay. The next step then, is to make the crossover into hardcore gaming with the skills they’ve acquired from CoC. With, hopefully , some help, which brings me to my next point
Sense of Community
Us hardcore gamers need to encourage these casual players to explore the incredible world of gaming that we’ve grown to love. Too many of us have quite the dismissive attitude when it comes to these gamers, which might discourage them from really getting into the games we play. Too often do we troll gamers who might be new to a game or even a genre, blaming them for “dumbed-down” games. Instead, helping casual gamers through that start will give them a foothold in the gaming culture, and then they’ll figure out the better games for themselves. And once they’re in, they simply won’t leave (trust me).
Once we get them started, the massive CoC player base could actually have a huge impact on the industry. Owing to the social base of the game, there is a serious, established community behind CoC, evident by Facebook pages such as Lost Phoenix Clash of Clans, and Youtubers such as PlayClashOfClans and Godson.
Although Supercell doesn’t release official figures, the number of CoC players are expected to be in the hundreds of millions. If even a tenth of these players are intrigued enough by CoC’s core mechanics, there is a good possibility of them wanting to explore more traditional games, as I explained before.
As I’ve hopefully made clear, Clash of Clans players are far from an unimportant part of the gaming community. These are millions of players that can, and should, be welcomed into the gaming culture, and encouraged to be even more expansive and active members.
But this is just the start. As with CoC, there are several more games and attached casual gamers who could, one day, be a part of this evolving and growing phenomenon that is gaming, a medium of entertainment that truly embodies the values of modern day culture by mixing science and art into one thing. Let’s make sure we’re there to show them the way.