Having worked on a number of casual games over the past few years, I’m struck by how quickly casual games evolve. In particular, it’s interesting to see how the Hidden Object genre appears to be evolving towards the traditional Adventure game.
This post has been partly inspired by a discussion thread over at the Adventure Gamers forums in which I get a sense that some adventure fans are worried by this trend.
Although these “adventure light” games are evolving from a different starting point and within a very different market environment, this evolution is not independent of the influence of the adventure genre. How can it be when adventures are regularly released into the casual market and HOG developers are clearly looking towards adventures as ways of giving their audience something new.
Like in many other areas of gaming, story and character are becoming increasingly important. At one time story was more a theme that linked the HO screens together, but now we are seeing more complex mysteries that form the structure for the gameplay.
While I believe that these games will evolve very close to adventures, they will also cater for the specific needs of the casual audience and will therefore always have differences. Differences that may be subtle, but for some adventure purists they will probably be enough to prevent them being true adventures in their eyes.
But what then? Will the evolution stop? I very much doubt it. We will likely see the casual market leave the adventure trailing in its wake, just like adventures have been so many times in the past.
While the huge value of sites like Adventure Gamers cannot be denied, there are times when I feel these places have held back the evolution of the genre like some kind of genre purity monitor. I hasten to add that this is not intentional policy on the part of such sites, but the weight of mass influence from the forum membership.
While there is a way to go before hidden object games have the richness of adventures in many respects, we’re not that far off and we may very well find that it’s one of the most varied areas to work in the realm of story driven games.