What Is a “Casual Game?” Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #46 Talks to Nick Fortugno, Creator of “Diner Dash”

Famed game design­er Nick joins your hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt to con­sid­er fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about the activ­i­ty of gam­ing (Nick calls games “arbi­trary lim­its on mean­ing­less goals”) and what con­sti­tutes a casu­al game: Is it one that’s easy (maybe not easy to win, but at least you don’t die), one meant to be played in short bursts, or maybe one with a cer­tain kind of art style, or just about any game that runs on a phone? Nick­’s most famous cre­ation is the casu­al Din­er Dash, which can be very stress­ful. Vast­ly dif­fer­ent games from very hard but very short action games and very involved but sooth­ing strat­e­gy games get lumped under this one label.

Our con­ver­sa­tion touch­es on every­thing from cross­words to Super Meat Boy, plus the rela­tion between psy­chol­o­gy and game design, whether casu­al games real­ly play less than hard­core gamers, the stig­ma of an activ­i­ty that was for mar­ket­ing rea­sons at one point brand­ed as being just for ado­les­cent boys, and even heuris­tics for beat­ing slot machines.

Some sources we looked at include:

Just so you don’t have to write them down, our rec­om­men­da­tions at the end were:

You can fol­low Nick @nickfortugno.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.