If I were to poll everyone who reads this site, I predict that 95% or more of you are pretty serious gamers. You might even call yourself casual gamers, but let me try a quick litmus test on you.
1) Which do you like more, Risk or Risk 2210?
2) Do you like the simplicity of HeroQuest or the depth of Descent?
3) Which is better, Soul Caliber or Tekken?
4) What is your favorite CCG?
5) Do you prefer pre-painted plastic miniatures or unpainted pewter?
6) Would you rather go to GenCon or Origins?
7) Old-school Basic red box or Third Edition?
If you're even able to answer any of these questions, you're not a casual gamer. You may not play games as often as I do, and you probably know someone who smells a lot worse than you, but you're not a casual gamer. You may be casual compared to the guy who has five thousand dollars invested in his Warhammer collection, but in order to be an actual casual gamer, your answers have to look something like this:
1) Is Risk like that Truth or Dare game? We played that a lot in high school.
2) Hero what now?
3) Those are video games, right?
4) What the hell does CCG stand for?
5) Do you mean like Precious Moments? I thought those were all porcelain.
6) I went to Ensenada once.
7) I have no idea what you're saying right now.
Casual gamers don't know that the biggest board game market is in Europe. They don't even know Europeans make board games. They play Parcheesi, Monopoly, and Life. And when you ask a casual gamer about card games, he thinks you mean poker or pinochle.
The ironic thing is, casual gamers are most of the market for games. You may not like Monopoly, but you have to have seen the hundred different versions of the game that are out there. In fact, for those of you who do care about Monopoly, did you even know that they're working on a version right now called Here and Now: World Edition? You can go to www.monopoly.com and vote for which cities should be on the board. In case you care, Montreal and Paris are currently beating the pants out of anything in America. For that matter, Istanbul is beating Chicago.
Most of the guys you think of as 'casual gamers' would rather choke on rat poison than play The Game of Life - and who can blame them? There's virtually no strategy, just rolling the dice and moving your car. You win if you can manage to have a lot of kids and get richer than God. And yet that game outsells anything Reiner ever created, plus every single game from Avalon Hill, plus Battlelore, Memoir 44 and C&C: Ancients put together.
Like it or not, we're outnumbered. For every gamer who can build a Magic deck, there are a hundred gamers who can beat your ass at bridge. For every gamer dad who buys a copy of Drakon to teach his kids, there are a hundred families playing Sorry. And for every video gamer who reserved a copy of Halo 3, there are a thousand drunks playing video golf in a bar somewhere and thinking they're bad-ass at it.
You know what would be awesome? If those casual gamers would join us for a game of Settlers of Catan. Or if you could hand one of those poker sharks a pre-built Magic deck and see if they could last four turns. Or if you could get those barflies playing trivia games on the big screen at Friday's to join us for a Halo LAN party.
Of course, that's not likely to happen. Anyone who has ever been to GenCon can tell you why those people don't play with us - too many of us avoid soap. I have known way too many gamers who bathe every Sunday, whether they need it or not, and all too often I meet them on Saturday. We're scary, because we're the epitome of counter-culture. Those gamers with greasy hair and cold sores mention Yu-Gi-Oh just once in a crowded restaurant, and no casual gamer within a quarter mile is going to consider learning how to play.
And then add in that we're kind of scary, even if we're clean. We use terms like 'elegant rules' and 'twenty-sided dice.' For casual gamers, a dice mechanic sounds like a guy who fixes games of craps. We can open up a game, read a twenty-page rulebook, and sit down to beat the pants off everyone at the table. We're not going to play Monopoly. We hate Monopoly, even though we love to talk about German games that involve lots of resource management (there's another term - for casual gamers, that means making sure you don't run out of paper clips).
I don't have a really good answer for how to get casual gamers to play with us. We're such big fans of games that we turn up our noses at Clue and then get all excited to play Mystery of the Abbey. We're bored by Connect Four but love to play Ingenious. There's a huge gap between the people who play games when they spend their weekends at the lake house, and those of us who schedule monthly game nights where we break out Ca$h N Gun$.
I think what we have to do is take it one casual gamer at a time, and be willing to compromise. Play Trivial Pursuit all night, and then see if anyone might be willing to learn Carcassonne. Learn how to play that ridiculous Golden Tee game, then mention that with reflexes like that, your buddy might dig Wii Sports. Don't break out games with really complicated rules, and for God's sake hide your miniatures and D&D books. Remember, these are normal people, not real gamers.
And for God's sake, wash your ass, you smelly bastard.