2020 was the year of the casual gamer

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Unlike most other forms of entertainment, video games haven’t been hit as hard this year. Sure, big live events like E3 and EVO have been canceled, but gambling is an activity enjoyed by most at home. This means that the majority of big releases – like Eternal destiny, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Final Fantasy VII remake – were able to continue as planned. But unlike in previous years, they and their ilk did not lead the conversation in 2020. With the closure of sports halls and live theaters, many people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves “gamers” have turned on. to the media for entertainment and comfort. And the games they played weren’t always the action-packed AAA headlines.

One of the best-selling titles of the year was Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was released in March. It is sold 26 million copies, making it the second best-selling Switch game of all time, surpassing franchise stalwarts like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It even ranks among the best-selling titles on any system, period, hitting the top 30 just 9 months after its release.

It was certainly a great timing for the cute island building game, as it came out just as many parts of the United States were being locked down. People needed a way to pass the time, and the Animal Crossing series has always offered a lot to do in its softly colored, slow-paced world. Critics praised the new installment for being a heartwarming cover in these troubled times.

Kris Naudus / Nintendo

However, to simply say that it came out during the Perfect Window is to ignore the changes Nintendo made to the series that contributed to its fame: The presence of the share button on the Switch made it easy for gamers to take pictures. screenshots and disseminate them on social networks. media, and a more streamlined friend code system made it easier to visit friends and strangers.

New Horizons Still would have sold well even without a pandemic, but these new features have given it more visibility and made it easier for Animal Crossing devotees to spread the word. And they did, with the game pervading social media for its first month or so, inspiring countless parodies, branded ads and ultimately, a talk show with famous guests like Sting, Elijah Wood and T-Pain.

Another title that caught the attention of celebrities this year was the 2018 title of Innersloth, Among us. The two-year-old game exploded over the summer for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its superficial resemblance to another popular title, fall guys. But it was also cheap to play, $ 5 (or less) for the PC version and free on mobile, and it was super easy to set up games with friends or complete strangers.

The relatively straightforward gameplay has made it a favorite with casual gamers, as it’s mostly point-and-click, the hardest part being the mind games you play with your fellow crew members. I’ve met a few people who don’t even care about the larger goal of trying to unmask the impostor; they just love being in space, doing their chores and seeing how all the drama unfolds. It’s a fun game to watch, as evidenced by the 430,000 people who watched Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar take on several top Twitch streamers in October.

Fall guys: ultimate knockout was also one of those titles where players didn’t particularly care about winning, although in this case it was because the game was super hard to beat. Players were pitted against 59 other contestants in a series of physical game show challenges that were often ridiculous and extremely unpredictable – many die-hard gamers found the title’s inconsistent controls to be a hindrance, but many more simply got in the way. lost in madness. The ability to get back into the game soon after the loss made each loss less tragic and, thanks to the spectator mode, this was another of those games where it was fun to just hang out just to see how things ended.

The social aspect of the game has definitely come to the fore this year. Streaming has been a big part of the media for a few years now, with people feeling an affinity for their favorite players and forming communities on YouTube, Twitch and Discord. But big multiplayer games have played their part as well, and many casual gamers have turned to them not as a way to enjoy the game itself, but as a place where they can play with their friends.

The two Minecraft and Fortnite served as great hangouts in the past, but 2020 has seen a huge increase in Roblox players, an online platform where children can create their own spaces – and their own games – to play. The biggest draw was that it was free to download, which meant that any kid with a device could access it, and parents were happy to let them do that because it was less violent than Fortnite and encouraged their child’s creativity. The game gained enough cachet this year that Lil Nas X even hosted a virtual concert there last month, releasing their new single “Holiday”.

For adults, socializing in 2020 meant a lot of virtual happy hours, which got tired pretty quickly. To try to structure these events a bit more, many people have invested in one or more Jackbox Party Packs. Each pack contains a number of games, such as trivia and drawing activities, which could be shown on a Zoom feed. Unlike many other titles, gamers didn’t need to own the game itself or even a console – gamers participated through their phones, entering the session’s unique four-character code into a web browser. Jackbox even has a spectator mode, allowing people to vote on certain rounds even if they didn’t want to be a full-fledged player – the ultimate in casual gaming.

Jackbox Games

Jackbox Games

None of this is to say that mainstream or “hardcore” games will fade or even disappear – this month’s biggest story has been the bug launch. Cyberpunk 2077, on the one hand, but just that the idea of ​​what we call mainstream has broadened this year. Many people, deprived of their usual entertainment, decided to try the game for the first time, while many others used it as a way to socialize with those they couldn’t see in person. Of course, some might go back to their usual hobbies when things start to open up. But for some people, their gambling habits have become essential and will likely stick around for months or even years to come. No matter where we all end up, 2020 was the year these people were all more than casual; they were just players.

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