Hardcore and casual are somewhat contentious terms for types of gamers, as the emerging and evolving video game community tries to form a more cohesive identity. Regardless of what terms are eventually used to describe gamers, or how the gaming community continues to morph and change, Nintendo continues to try to bridge that gap. (See what I did there: bridging the gap + a picture of a bridge = a cheese factor of 100.)
As reported on the MTV Multiplayer Blog earlier this week, Nintendo tried to explain their hopes for a new type of game experience – “bridge games.” According to Nintendo, “Bridge games let video game novices and veterans play and have fun together.” Their current examples of this type of experience are the smash hit Wii Sports and the soon to be released Mario Kart on Wii. This is quite different from a previous idea that novice gamers will eventually cross over to become a more hardcore player. The idea of a game as a bridge implies that not just people with different game experience levels, but gamers of completely different skill levels will be able to have fun playing the same game without one person being excluded.
The idea of bridge games really rang true for me last night. I had a few friends over, and Wii was just nonchalantly sitting next to the TV, seeking companionship. So of course we obliged. Two of my friends could be easily split into the “hardcore” and “novice” categories, and they had no trouble at all playing some Wii Play, Elebits, or even Brawl. Most of these types of bridge games are quite simplistic and easy to get into, perhaps with the exception of Brawl.
The bridge game concept was also recently explored on a brand-spanking new videogame blog, Cruise Elroy. The author, Dan, focuses especially on the question of whether or not Nintendo needs to make its traditionally hardcore games (e.g. Metroid Prime 3) more friendly to the casual segment. He thinks this might not be necessary, using the nice analogy that “if there are bridge games, there has to be something on each side to connect.” In other words, the bridge games can’t exist on their own, and the occasional Mario Kart might fill this gap nicely.
Personally, I think Super Mario Galaxy partially fits into the bridge game category, with its surprisingly enjoyable co-op mode, although it’s a whole different breed compared to Wii Sports.
What other bridge games can you think of that allow players of different skill levels to play together? Do existing franchises even need to be converted into bridge games?