North East Connected

Why “casual gamers” have fallen – and why gamers need to be rewarded

Until fairly recently, “casual gamers” – as they are known – were the predominant type of person on the gaming scene. For these people, gaming was a recreational activity only. There was no intention of winning any cash or other sort of reward when sitting down to play a game either in front of a console or in an arcade or other similar environment – and the main goal was relaxation and enjoyment either alone or with others.

However, subtle shifts in economic and social trends have led to gamers changing their priorities. Now, a complicated tapestry of rewards ranging from loot boxes to online casino payouts are available for people who game on the web. Why has this happened?

Fall of casual gaming

Anybody who first cut their gaming teeth back in the 1970s and 1980s will remember all too well the days of arcade games such as pinball machines. These environments were, if you take a rose-tinted view of them at least, “pure”. There was no requirement to get financial value out of them. Perhaps the only form of mainstream reward-based gaming to reach many British towns was the slot machine at the local pub, although even then this was often a group activity rather than a solitary one. Now, though, the gaming landscape is way more reward-focused. Casino games can be played online at sites like, while even some gaming arcades offer physical prizes.

Economic changes

Why has this change happened, and why is reward-focused gaming? The obvious reason is because of changes at the intersection between the economy and society. These days, the concept of “value for money” is much stronger than it was before. In an age where many different brand options are available thanks to competition between providers in almost every sector, consumers now choose to think in terms of what value they will derive from spending a certain sum of money.

The idea of building your wealth, perhaps through working hard and then being rewarded with the ability to purchase assets, is much more common now. Gaming rewards are of course on a much smaller scale. However, they come from the same root: this idea that work ought to be rewarded, and that basic enjoyment or fun is – for better or worse – not an end in itself.

Shaped demand

The idea of modern gamers wanting to be rewarded is not necessarily a bad thing for game producers. In fact, in some ways game producers have been at the forefront of shaping the demand for rewards on the part of gamers. A reward, from the game producer’s perspective, has financial value. In the case of casinos, the possible reward of a payout has to be paid for by the consumer in the form of an initial stake. This model of paying up first in order to receive a reward later is mimicked across the gaming landscape. The phenomenon of loot boxes, for example, are a prime example. These boxes, which are virtual, are presented to gamers who reach a certain level, and often contain “prizes” which carry some sort of in-game value.

Time and shame

The final potential reason for the mass-scale shift away from casual, non-value-based gaming to a reward-based model has to do with the culture of work. Working hours in many western nations are creeping up slowly but surely, and with it there is an increasing feeling that time not spent working is time wasted. It is certainly feeding into ideas about how best to spend time, and with greater attention being given to mental health, a need for escapism and reward in a busy culture can be beneficial.

Rewards have become an integral part of the gaming landscape in a way that many people who enjoyed gaming in previous decades might no longer recognise. The reasons for this are complex: from changes in the culture of work to the rise of certain incentives to get value for money and build wealth, society really has made its mark on the world of gaming.

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