Soderman's chapter on Gender and Casual Games draws an interesting parallel between the changes and "improvements" made to traditional video games and femininity. These changes have made games "fun, quick to access, easy to learn, and require no previous special video game skills, expertise, or regular time commitment to play" (Casual Games Market Report 2007). The changes were made possible by improved capabilities of gaming hardware and software; where there once as a wall blocking a gamer's intentions from being transmitted into the game, now a player's every move can be instantly transmitted through controllers such as the Wii.
These "casual games", in sum, are "video games developed for the mass consumer, even those who would not normally regard themselves as a “gamer.” The trend towards mass consumption has heightened the tension between hard core gamers and casual ones. The tension is caused by the changing types of hardware (such as abandoning old, complicated controllers for new, simpler ones) as well as a trend towards simpler graphics and animation. Fewer skills are needed to be mastered, since companies are aiming for mass-use and easy-adaptation. Soderman connects the "dumbing down" of video games to feminizing the culture--but he doesn't give the simple controllers the credit they deserve!
Consumers who would have never picked up a complicated controller now rush to stores to buy new Wii software... Games for the Wii can even include personal training workouts and active sports such as tennis and golf. The games created for the "casual gamers" are drastically different than those developed for hard core gamers. In a sense, I think a "new niche" has been created--or at least a new market of consumers for the "same old" game developers (pg 5).
The new niche is literally removing the barrier between the player and the screen. We no longer need to understand controllers to express our thoughts and intentions, but instead perform the same physical motion we would have when actually put in the situation. An interesting analysis of the presence of a "sixth sense" (the controller) triggers the emotional areas of the brain-- he concluded that "the player's emotional investment in a game, their level of immersion, and enjoyment, may all be considerably enhanced if gameplay comprises dynamic and meaningful physical actions" (Shinkle 2008, 912). So in reality, though hard core gamers may be upset, game developers and hardware production companies have molded together the findings of emotional psychology and video gaming.
Shinkle, E. (2008). Video games, emotion and the six senses. Media, Culture & Society. 30, 907-915.
Soderman, B. Chapter 2: Killing Time, Gender and Casual Games.