My name is Jake Siegel and I am a game abandoner. I can’t quite pinpoint where it began, although I suspect it had something to with the nature of how games were acquired in the olden days. Every weekend or so, as my father would pilot his fire-engine-red Izuzu Trooper through the quiet streets of Willmette, IL with my brother and I in the backseat, he would turn to us as we approached the golden blue beacon that was Blockbuster Video.
“I was thinking we’d stop and rent and a couple of games, what do you say?” He would warmly suggest.
“Yes, yes, yes,” my brother and I would chant, practically foaming at the mouth.
He would then slam on the gas and blow right by the video rental store at seventy miles per hour, cackling maniacally as if shattering his children’s dreams were the most enjoyable feeling in the world. Every so often, the threat was real. We’d pull into the Blockbuster parking lot, praying to the rental gods that the game we wanted was in its snug white box on the shelf. Or, more dramatically, lost in a stack of returns behind the cashier, waiting to be found. For those who have never experienced renting a videogame (or system if you were really lucky!) from Blockbuster, I have to tell you that few memories in my childhood contained that particular brand of excitement.
My brother and I, of course, had some old favorites: Todd’s Adventures in Slimeworld, Bonanza Bros, Bulls vs. Lakers, you know, all the classics. On the likely chance that all of them were already rented out by some happy kid who’s father wasn’t a sociopath, we would take chances on titles like the Ecco the Dolphin series (SO HARD) or Robocop Vs. Terminator (immediately deemed too violent and returned).
I guess what I’m saying is that as a kid, when it came to videogames, The Lord would giveth, and the Lord would taketh away. The cold hard fact was that my love for a particular game had no effect on Blockbuster’s business model. Game after game, all were returned in a single week’s time, often vanishing forever from my life. Couple that with an (English teacher) mother who’s opinion of videogames is in line with my opinion of Donald Trump, and what you get is a kid who never really had a chance to beat a game. Hell, before my brother and I could even insert the bulky cartridge into the top of the Sega Genesis, we would usually have to spend at least fifteen minutes scouring one of the four hiding spots my parents would use to stash the controllers.
“Casul,” as defined by the Urban Dictionary, is a “Deliberate misspelling of the word “casual”, which refers to a casual gamer. It is used by some fans of the extremely challenging Dark Souls to mock those who have not yet put in the hours necessary to master the game, or even those who dare rely on walkthrough guides or Let’s Play videos.”
The term has grown to be less specific now, applying to any and all who lack the will and determination to 100% a game. Even my last article on Ark: Survival Evolved came under fire from a few under-bridge dwellers, accusing me and my group of “30-something gamers” of being nothing more than a bunch of sleepy casuals. To which I answer: what is casual?
I love videogames. I play almost everything, even if it is for a mere hour or two. I even wasted ten years of my life trying to bootcamp a four year old iMac so I could feast on everything Steam had to offer (well, anything that actually booted up). And while it may sound like I’m beginning to launch an aggressive self-defense campaign, I assure you I’m not. I’m confident in who I am as a gamer, and typically know the types of games that will captivate me for hours. And to be perfectly honest, there are not many. I liken it to walking through a museum and lingering on a piece of art, some longer than others, before moving on to see what else is out there. Can one be dedicated to the enjoyment of art without obsessing over it? Are our habits of consumption shaped by our upbringing? I propose that they are. To the layman, who’s understanding of videogames begins and ends with the buxom woman blasting an M4 in the Call of Duty commercial interrupting their football game, I would probably be considered “hardcore.” To my roommate, who’s beaten Bloodborne so many times that Brain Suckers jumping over fences are his lullaby, I am less so. If it is indeed all relative, than perhaps we as gamers can learn to appreciate the manner in which others enjoy a game. We can learn as much from the player who’s boiled down The Elder Scrolls Online to a series of math equations as we can from the player who sits and watches a sunrise in the rocky deserts of Firewatch. With games becoming increasingly more social, and communities reaching wider and wider audiences, I think that day is not too far off. Until then, you better GIT GUD, YOU FILTHY CASUL.