The Casual Menace

Probably one of the biggest buzzwords of the past year has most likely been “casual”.  Even if the word hasn’t specifically been used in reference to something like viewing a particular show or playing a genre of video game, it’s influence has most likely been felt in some area by most within that year.  Companies, developers, and publishers of different material seem to find it fit to make their products more accessible in some way.

Of course, the biggest example and perpetrator of this is Wii Sports.  Anyone can pick it up and play it without ever taking a glance at any instructional material of any kind.  It’s so popular that many generic users of the Wii, despite the availability of superior games such as Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3,  seem to think that Wii Sports is the only outlet of game play available on the platform.  Its influence is being felt across the medium, as evident by products such as the XBox Live Arcade SKU.  The movement hasn’t become so widespread that it has displaced traditional games altogether, but the time spent by talented developers has become utilized more to create games that grandma can play.

Other areas of consumer electronics have also seemingly fallen into this hole as of late.  Much to my dismay, I recently discovered that Apple iMovie ’08 has disbanded much of its functionality in favor of becoming more of a collection hub and a way of quickly creating clips.  More specifically, some of the advanced feature set is now gone, including all of the video effects.  Much of iLife ’08 has also seemingly followed this philosophy, favoring ease of use as opposed to a range of options or features.  Granted, you could in theory purchase software such as Final Cut which would handle any type of video edit imaginable, but pointing users who only intend to achieve an average output in this direction is in my opinion ultimately flawed because this only covers the two extreme ends of the spectrum.

There’s many other examples that I could bring up, but I only do so because I want to raise one question.  Is this really a direction that we as consumers, users, and ultimately customers, want these companies to be taking?  Personally, I have no problem with the trend, other than the fact that these companies such as Nintendo and Apple seem to be utilizing it as a replacement instead of an additional option.  This is obviously the fact with Apple, as can be seen with the differences between iLife 06 and 08.  And any look at Nintendo from any perspective can prove this as well, and additionally their influence can be even seen within Sony and Microsoft.  This line of thinking opens up a tangent related to what could be seen as the dumbing down of society, but that’s a road of thought I don’t really want to take.  Mostly because it scares me.


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