In my opinion, the Pokémon series was always a game series for hardcore gamers. With type advantages, and the stats of various Pokémon to memorize and manipulate, it always seemed daunting to take my experience as a casual gamer into the Pokémon world. However, when comparing my experience playing Pokémon X to the characteristics of casual games found in Jesper Juul’s, “What is Casual,” I found it extremely difficult to clearly classify Pokémon X as a casual or hardcore game.
The first characteristic of a casual game is fiction. The cover of Pokémon X immediately clues the player into the game’s fictional setting. Taking place in a world populated by colorful cartoonish animals known as Pokémon, the game quite obviously satisfies this requirement.
It should be noted however, that Pokémon X contains some fictions more closely associated with hardcore videogames. Throughout the game, the player must battle the villainous Team Flare, a group of thugs who commit various crimes in an attempt to take over the world. This effort culminates in the activation of an “ultimate weapon” which has the power to kill all the Pokémon in the world (see video below). The inherent dangers of these plot points and setting provide an experience more characteristic of a hardcore game rather than a casual game.
Like the blurred aspects of Pokémon X’s fiction, the usability of the game also does not clearly classify it as a casual or hardcore game. The majority of Pokémon X’s controls are easy to use and understand. To move the protagonist, the player pushes the arrows of the control pad and there is a button for performing actions and another for canceling actions. However, Pokémon X also relies on a turn-based combat system that could be confusing to novice players. The turn-based combat relies more on the manipulation of stats (as the fastest Pokémon attacks first) and the player’s careful planning rather than a free-for-all combat system which allows the player to simply push buttons until their opponent is subdued.
The Pokémon series has many long-term fans, yet still attracts new players. The inability of Pokémon X to be clearly classified as a casual or hardcore game could explain the universal appeal of these games. Even if we take into account Juul’s remaining three aspects of casual games, the classification is still foggy as some aspects (interruptibility) push the game towards becoming a casual game, while others (difficulty/punishment and juiciness) are more reminiscent of hardcore games. These blurred lines suggest that Pokémon X is a much more complex game than it might appear, or that Juul’s classifications are not as clear and universal as they seem.
Juul, Jesper. “What Is Casual.” A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2010. 25-63. Print.