First, a few disclaimers:
1. Apart from not being a huge fan of First Person shooters, I have nothing against the Call of duty franchise.
2. I have nothing against "Casual" games. I've downloaded Tetris on my PS3, as well as several PS Minis, including angry Birds (Won't run on my Samsung Moment).
3. Not being a fan of First Person Shooters, I haven't played any since the original Doom, so all the information I have about Call of duty is either from articles or people I know who play and enjoy the games themselves. Consequently, my knowledge is limited. Feel free to correct me in the comments if I made a mistake.
I've seen quite a few people calling installments in the Call of duty franchise "Casual" games, usually intended as a pejorative. The question then: is Call of duty really a casual game? Or are people just calling it Casual because they don't like it for some reason? In order to answer that question, first we have to define the term "Casual Game," at least for the purposes of this article. So, what are the traits common to the vast majority, if not all, casual games?
First, the gameplay is usually very simple. Look at all the games on Pogo. they can usually be played with nothing more than a mouse. Android and iPhone games can be played with just the touchscreen. So, if you have surgeon's fingers, you could play Bubble Blast on your EVO with only one hand. Click and drag, or touch and swipe. Every casual game is simple.
There's also a time factor involved. Casual games allow for gameplay in short bursts. You can play a game of solitaire on an Android or iPhone while you're waiting for the microwave to heat your lunch. You can play Angry Birds while you're riding in a car, or on a bus. Casual games can be played for just a few minutes at a time.
You can either finish quickly or play continuously. A lot of casual games have a final stage, which can be reached quickly. Bubble Blast 2 has 100 levels, each level can be finished in just a few seconds, if you know how, if not, a level can take all day. Angry Birds levels don't take very much longer. Alternatively, they allow for continuous gameplay without saving. Android games like NinJump and Yoo Ninja require you to start at the beginning every time you play, but the object isn't to reach the end, it's to go as high or as far as possible without getting killed.
Appeal to a much wider audience than ames with more depth and complexity like Grand Theft Auto, or Grand Turismo, or the Assassin's Creed franchise. This is why they're called "Casual" games. They're played by people who aren't into these more complex games. Pogo subscribers probably outnumber Assassin's Creed players 10 to 1. That's not to disparage Assassin's Creed, just stating that casual games appeal to a much wider audience specifically because they're much simpler and easier to pick up and play than a game like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, or Killzone 3, or even Little Big Planet for that matter. This wide audience isn't just people we would normally regard as "Gamers." they're soccer moms playing Angry Birds at soccer practice. They're office managers playing Phlinx when they should be working. They're bankers playing Bubble Blast while riding in the back of a cab. They're housewives (if such a thing exists anymore) playing Boggle Bash while dinner is in the oven. Casual gamers are a very diverse group.
I think that's an adequate definition of a Casual game. Simple, short burst gameplay, the ability to finish quickly or play continuously, and appeal to a very wide, very diverse demographic. So, now, we look at Call of Duty and determine if that definition fits.
First the simplicity. One of the things people like about Call of duty is the fact that it can be picked up and played easily. Does this fit Call of Duty? A case could be made both ways. With Angry Birds and Tetris there's only one button used on the controller, along with the left stick. Call of Duty requires both sticks and and all the buttons on the controller. On the other hand, first time players are usually only a few seconds figuring out the controller and sorting out what's going on in the game. Based on the complexity of the controls relative to games widely recognized as casual, I'm going to say no. Call of Duty is not simple enough to be casual.
Can the game be played in short bursts? Again, a case could be made both ways. It depends on what the player is doing. Multiplayer games can vary in length from less than a minute to probably an hour or more. It's also probably very difficult to play while you're eating, given the fast pace. At the same time, a time limit can be imposed making matches as short or as long as the player wants. So it's probably possible to blow through a quick Free-For-All while waiting for the oven to preheat. Let's call this one a toss up due to the variable length of the games.
Can you finish quickly or play continuously? That depends on your definition of "finish quickly." From what I've heard of the campaign, it's possible to start after lunch and finish by dinner. If you only play the multiplayer, then it's possible to do both: finish one game quickly, then play continuously by starting a new one, rinse, repeat. I know people who do this. I'll add the multiplayer to the yes column.
Finally we have appeal to a wide array of people. I'm not sure this is true. Do soccer moms and middle managers play this game? We all know that core gamers play it. Based on the demographics watching the gameplay videos on YouTube, kids play it. At least, they play it when their sisters aren't playing Hanna Montana. On the other hand, Black Ops sold 25 million copies. That can't just be hardcore gamers, unless there are a lot more of you than I thought. Of course if that were true, there would be a lot more people reading the articles on this site. I'm going to say yes to wide appeal, based on the sales numbers.
So, in the end we have a no, a maybe, and one and a half Yes's. Does that mean that Call of Duty is a Casual game? Again, a case could be made both ways. I'm going to say it depends on the person playing it. There are hardcore Call of duty players, as well as Casual Call of Duty players. Just like the top ten spots on the Tetris leader boards are dominated by hardcore Tetris players. Meanwhile, casual Tetris players, like me, are in ten thousandth place. I think the best way to describe it is either a Casual game with hardcore players, or a hardcore game with casual players. Hard for me to say which from the outside of the Call of Duty community. I think the best answer is Call of Duty is a Hardcore game with Casual Players. this is based on the complexity of the controls and the length of the campaign.
Do you agree? Do you think I'm a total moron? Do you have something to add or coorect? Let me know in the comments.