Tanya X. Short
I'm Tanya Short, and I'm the creative director of Kitfox Games. I'm turning 32 soon, and I'm based in Montreal, Canada. I've played videogames almost all my life, and I've been working in them on and off since 2003. So I'm in my 12th year, really.
So this is a weird question to ask first, but I've been toying with the idea of interviewing my mom for the site, who believes she is not a gamer despite easily logging way more hours per week playing than me, and she has strong opinions about what videogames are and aren't. And so, given that you're a person who's played games your whole life, how do you explain what you do to your parents, and do they think that they're gamers? Like, what do they make of you spending your time this way?
[Laughs.] Well, for the first 10 years or so I was playing games, my mom was a little bit worried. But she reads a lot of books, and I think I was playing a Final Fantasy game or something, like Final Fantasy VII or VIII, and she said, "Tanya, these are kind of like books, right? You're getting a story out of this." And once I was like, "Yeah, kinda, mom," she was like "Okay, I guess I can't really disapprove, since I'm reading all the time."
But the way I usually explain my job is I'm like a director of a movie but for a game. "Game designer" is probably the hardest job to explain of all the jobs on a game project. It was easier when I was a level designer, because then I could actually explain that I was designing the world and placing the objects that make up the world, and that's kind of easier to imagine than creating game mechanics. But, I mean, usually if people play games they can get it? My mother-in-law plays a lot of games; they're mostly casual games or puzzle games or hidden object games, but she plays a lot of them, and so when I say "somebody has to design how many points you get for that," or "what happens when you poke that at the wrong time" or whatever, that's pretty easy for her.
Do you think the same is true for the audience of games? Do they understand what a game designer does? Do they need to?
I think most don't. I think most still have the impression that a game designer just comes up with ideas all day and that's it. [Laughs.]
And I don't think that's true of all people who play games. I think more and more it's to our benefit to educate our audience because -- I don't know, kind of like in film, how it is helpful for directors that their fans know how much money goes into films, and it helps them to know what the process is so that when something goes wrong it doesn't just seem to come out of nowhere. So personally I think it's great when people who play games, or even people who don't, have a better idea of what's going on in our industry and what our production processes are. I think it can only help us.
Yeah, that was the thing you said you wanted to talk about, talking about there being a need for more transparency of production practices, ideally also financials --
-- but you said that Hollywood's box office sales culture has its pros and cons. I would agree with you; I think the thing that stupefies me the most is that that is reported as news.
Yeah, it's strange. But I mean at the same time, I had this moment when we just started Kitfox and I was doing market research for the first time, because I'm not a marketer, usually, but with Kitfox I have to be, because we're a small team. And knew our first game would come out on mobile first, so I was researching the App Store and the Google Play store, and realizing how much those transparent, top-grossing games drive that industry. The fact that they basically have those box-office sales equivalents means that everybody on mobile is striving very hard to emulate. It's almost impossible not to be influenced by it because everyone's constantly talking about "who are the top-grossing, why are they the top-grossing, what is it that makes them the top-grossing?" And that becomes a very depressing conversation when you realize that it's been the same game for three years now. [Laughs.]
What game is that, then?
Clash of Clans has been at the top of the top-grossing charts for years.
So do you think people are -- are we focusing on the wrong things, here?
Well, I mean, that's easy to say, except that Steam also has best-selling games. They have a list like that, but the culture is super different, and I think that the culture is passed down from Valve through their development relations team, in a very, very different way than the Apple or Google development relations team, which -- I, I don't know, I get the sense they don't really care about games very much. [Laughs.]
Who, Apple, or Google?
Apple and Google, they --
Are you suggesting Apple and Google have other things they're also focused on? [Laughs.]
You know, they were never originally a game development company, so they feel like they have more important things to do.
But on the other hand, neither was Nintendo or Sony or Microsoft.
Yeah, you know what? That's true.
I'm not trying to disprove your point, but I'm just like, that's interesting, though.
Well, I mean, Nintendo, they were making trading cards, it's close. [Laughs.]
I think they started off, I thought they had, like, love hotels also. I mean, they have a whole other --
Really? I thought they were originally collectible cards or something.
I think they also did cards at some point, too, but at some point, maybe it was later? They also expanded, or they also were involved with, it's like part of their lore that's been buried through the years that. But, yeah, cards, I'll give you that, but the same is true of Microsoft and Sony, for sure.
It's just weird that when they decided to make consoles, suddenly their whole business had to shift to prioritize games. Whereas Apple and Google, they still don't see their phones as consoles, so, I don't know, it's hard to say exactly why it is, but I know that even as the market on Steam gets saturated with lots and lots more developers, I still don't think it'll be driven by the top sales charts, that's just not how that ecosystem works.
And to your point, too, something I've been thinking a lot about is how and why have games gotten so devalued? Like, the perception of them. And even what we're talking about here, "what is the top-selling game," it's not like you go on Amazon to look for a pair of slippers. You're just like "well, what are most people getting?" It's not really the same experience, and I don't even think you would do that with movies or books. It all depends on who you are.
Oh, you totally do that with movies or books. I mean, I don't --
Maybe, maybe I don't. [Laughs.] But I think it implies that...well, I guess it is true for any medium.
I mean, if you were a slipper enthusiast, if you--
I am! [Laughs.]
-- if you loved slippers, you'd at least know what the most popular slipper is, even if you think you're better than that, right?
Well, I don't know that I am better than that.
But I think this gets to an issue on my side of the aisle, which is game criticism, and what do people actually want from it? What is reasonable to expect from it? What do you think is lacking from game criticism right now to make it more useful?
That's pretty hard. I feel like we're on the right track. I feel like for many years, games criticism kind of floundered, but sites like Kill Screen and Offworld, now, there's a lot of really great criticism going on, and I think it's interesting to see new critics like yourself both looking at new games that are coming out but also realizing there's this huge back-catalog of games that have all sorts of layers that no critic ever really explored. So it's fun watching the dialogues kind of grow.
I think a sense of history is also kind of missing. I mean, I don't have answers to these questions, I'm also just trying to figure them out.
I guess I feel like there's an overwhelming sense of personal nostalgia instead of a historically-accurate archiving sense. I don't know, there's that thing that came out this week where maybe archiving will be even harder. But it's famously difficult to actually get a sense of the real history of videogames and not have it be tainted by everyone shouting about Mario and Sonic and whatever.
And there are some studios doing interesting things with rights management, like one I'm a big fan of is Night Dive Studios and they're responsible for basically negotiating and handling the rights for older games so they can get either remade or resold.
For me, I'm much more interested in that versus, say, an HD remake. But all that stuff is so subjective, and everyone has such strong opinions and ideas of the way that things should be done that I feel like some of the stuff is seldom explored or they just set it down, like what we're seeing right now, it's just like, "No, just leave it alone," that's the story you're talking about, right?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I don't know. To your previous point, I just tweeted this morning how I'm obsessed with new IP.
I think I retweeted it.
I just get so aggravated seeing how people cling to old IPs and are just obsessed with old IPs and I understand that impulse but I feel like our culture is just becoming this rock tumbler of IPs and I feel like it's really difficult -- and this is part of the transparency of business and production as well, but -- I know that it's a business risk. I know as a business developer of a studio that's trying to be profitable with a game that costs over a couple hundred thousand dollars, it would be a lot easier if I had a known IP, for sure. But I think it's really important to me and to Kitfox that it is new and that we're trying to invest in the future rather than withdraw from the past.
I get the feeling that no one really wants to be first, and I feel like a lot of stuff is unfairly shoved onto the "indie space," which is like, "OK, you guys do the new stuff." And what I noted and I also tweeted about is that very little of the things I saw written about The Order or Bloodborne noted the fact that, holy shit, there's a new IP. [Laughs.]
Yeah! And I thought that was really clever of them, it's really clever and really great that they get to simultaneously withdraw from a previous IP while also making a new one. And I think a lot of studios wouldn't even have bothered with the second step, but it's really clever of them.
On the other hand, Mortal Kombat is coming out next week, so. Although, it looks fun and cool and it's familiar and nostalgia.
Something else you wanted to talk about, which maybe is similar, is you just want to see fewer copycat game designs.
Yeah, I think like you said, nobody wants to be first.
[Laughs.] Is that true? Do you feel like there's also copycat game design across the entire --
Oh yeah, definitely! Everywhere. Everywhere you look. And it's not because anybody's a bad person, and it's not because people aren't creative. It's almost like we've forgotten what creativity means. I don't know, when I was in high school, and I didn't even know that I really wanted to be a game designer yet, but I still had this little journal of game design ideas, they were mostly this one [existing] game, but with this character I made up. And I didn't think about it that way at the time, it was just kind of just natural. It was almost like game-design fanfic? And I think that that's really common as a first step, that you're inspired by something so strongly that it's almost impossible to remember what life was like before it. It takes a lot of self-discipline and critical thinking and really, really questioning what you're doing to figure out whether what you're working on is actually a new idea or whether it's kind of an homage and that's the extent of it.
And there are worthwhile things to get out of being inspired by something else, and taking a new direction, or making homage -- I'm not saying that there's anything inherently wrong with that. I just mean people sometimes do it unintentionally. They think they're making something grand and new and wonderful, when in reality they never would have made that game five years ago.
Or even could have.
What do you think is the last grand revelatory game that you played? Objectively speaking, what was the last time you were like, "Holy shit, I've never seen something like this before. This is amazing."
I mean, that happens -- I get one of those like every week. But--
[Laughs.] I should talk to you more often.
-- but there's tons of great new games coming out, and people tend not to care unless they either make a lot of money, win a lot of awards, or somebody they really like is championing it. It's hard. Like, if you go on itch.io, you'll find a ton of cool new stuff. And even something from a few years ago that was a really, really simple little experience, it was called Hugpunx. It's by Meritt Kopas and I think she made it a couple years ago, and it's the simplest little game, but I just love it so much. It had been a while since I'd had any experience like that, and I can't think of what game I would compare it to, because it's the length of a song and the tagline of the game is "get hugged," and you just run around hugging people and cats and it's just awesome.
The only thing that makes me think of, and I'm going to check it out immediately after is there was a PlayStation One game called Chulip --
Aww, I never got to play that one!
I think it's on digital now.
You should check it out.
Yeah, that's the kissing game, right?
[Laughs.] It's a kissing RPG.
Yes! I remember I picked it up in the store and almost bought it, but I put it down and I never saw it again.
I can never tell if people take it as a knock or if they get their backs up against the wall when you're like, "Oh, this thing reminds me of that other thing."
You know what I mean? Do you feel like people in games are especially or more allergic to that?
No, I think any creator -- I'm also part of a short fiction writing group. I write short fiction every month, and it's difficult the first few times to hear and realize, "Oh, this is influenced by this other thing. I thought that I was working in a vacuum, but this does remind me of this other thing if I actually think about it." And it's hard, because that's kind of the first impulse anyone will have, even with a completely new game. Your first impulse is to relate it to something else, to put it in your constellation of meaning. Making relationships between art is healthy, but it makes it even harder to recognize if you're actually creating something new or not.
But I guess rather than being obsessed with whether or not your idea is new, I guess I just wish I talked to more creators who said that they pulled their game idea or their core concept from a passion that wasn't a different video game. You know what I mean? I don't mean to brag or anything, but part of why I'm really happy with Moon Hunters is that the primary inspiration wasn't in a game, it was in my own interest in mythology and occult lore and pre-Biblical cults and things. And that interest makes me much more confident in Moon Hunters and why I think that it'll be a cool, unique game. Whereas a previous game, Shattered Planet, I mean, it was a great little game, but my original inspiration was point-blank, the first few turns of Civilization. It was going through the darkness, curiosity, and it turned out to be a super different game, it's nothing like the first few turns of Civilization at all. I don't think anybody would actually make that connection playing it, but it kind of limits the scope of where your mind and your heart will go when you're working on the game.
For me, as someone in a teaching capacity, or somewhere where they're like, "Hey, please look at my thing," or teaching in a critic's capacity, I guess I would say, I always and only bring up things I would compare it to, by way of example of things to learn from: Specifically, what are the mistakes you see them doing that you do not want to repeat, what are the really awesome things you see them doing that you don't want to be accused of stealing? How do you want to improve upon them?
And it's hard, because sometimes you see someone going down a road, and I playtest a lot of other indie games and give them feedback, and you see them going down somewhere, and I almost don't know whether I should mention a game or not, because I don't want to destroy their world. But you also don't want to influence them too early, but I want them to be aware that this other game exists, just in case.
But you don't want to be in that world where you are completely alone in a vacuum. That's terrifying, and there's no context for, "What am I doing?" But I see that so often in videogames where it's like, "I am an artist, I am unlike anyone else." And you're actually being a little ignorant. A little bit. Which sounds harsh, but you're cutting yourself off from so much stuff you can learn and learn from, and learn about yourself.
Yeah. I mean, it's hard. I don't know. Advice that writers are sometimes given -- I've heard a lot of advice for fiction writers. One of the things you're supposed to do is not read in your genre when you're working on a longer work. Let's say you're writing a fantasy novella, you're supposed to not really read fantasy for a while while you're working on it because the way the brain feeds on that is a little bit distressing, whereas it can be a lot more inspiring if you start reading, I don't know, historical non-fiction, or science fiction, or whatever.
It's the same as games. I did an interview yesterday with Brenda Laurel and we were talking about this. She has her students go and do batteries of interviews. For example, for one game project, just talk to children who have math anxiety, and use that as inspiration for a game, rather than to your point, go play Math Blaster, or an educational game.
Yeah, like, already start out in a constructed box.
Yeah, it limits what you can do. So I guess this is a natural segue to procedural generation. [Laughs.] Which I got to very organically. But what interests you about it and where do you think were at with it? Where do you think it's going to take us?
Well, I was initially interested in it almost as a design problem. We had to make at least 20 hours of interesting content and we weren't sure how to do that with Shattered Planet other than procedural generation, because we only had one designer, and we knew we wanted to make a system-driven game, so programmers were going to be busy with that. And so it initially really started as kind of a practical solution to a design and production problem.
But the more we started working on it, the more I realized that most of the people talking about procedural generation weren't talking about the design of it, they were talking about the implementation because it's a very programmer-friendly kind of topic. And I started looking into -- and I wrote our essays, articles about our level design, trying to teach our algorithm, how to be a level designer and think about things like the critical path and risk vs. reward and things like that.
Because that's what my degree is in, is level design. But then I saw where that algorithm had failed; it had a few serious problems, and we knew for Moon Hunters we wanted to make something a little bit more meaningful for each of the pieces of the level, and furthermore we knew we were going to procedurally generate the world as well. And I started reading up on it a lot, and I came across the work of Michael Cook, who created the AI Angelina, who makes her own games. That was just so fascinating to me that I kind of entered this rabbit hole of just thinking about procedural generation most days now.
I fell down the rabbit hole, and my rabbit hole also included Michael Cook, last year, way before I knew I was going to be doing this site. At that time, I was just wondering, "Why are there not new genres? What's going on?" Seriously. [Laughs.] And then, fast-forward, I did an interview with someone else at GDC who insisted that we have found all the genres.
Oh my goodness.
I don't think that's necessarily true, but I was interested in procedural generation because at that time I was just wondering: Is it possible for an algorithm to just create an entire game. Not just the level, but just completely randomly create a game.
Oh, yeah! Yeah. Angelina --
Yeah, and that's where I ended up with Michael Cook.
Interestingly, I don't know if you saw A Rogue Dream?
So, A Rogue Dream I think is like an adapted second version of Angelina that he's now shut down for reasons I'll explain shortly. But it would take a topic and it would --or maybe it became Angelina eventually? I'm not really sure. But, it would go on Google and Google Image Search and it would just create a simple 2D game using that topic that you gave them. It would make up whatever enemies if it saw that there was a conflict, it would make up power-ups based on what things it thought were helpful to the topic you gave, so an example was it would give you a little text prompt, it would say, "I had a dream about..." and then you would put in whatever. And if you put in, like, "Canada." [Laughs.] You play as Captain America, actually, and I think you are picking up hockey and punching -- I don't even know. It's just a silly little platformer/creation game, basically, and it creates the random levels and it creates the rules of the game based on what it understands from the Internet.
The main problem with this algorithm was that it was extremely racist and homophobic based on the meanings that it found online. So if you put in almost anything, it would go online, and especially around the time of Gamergate was when he had released it, you just came up with horrible hate speech, basically, as part of the game. So yeah, that was an interesting experiment into AI and AI's looking at humans and saying, "Oh, well, this is what this means."
I think it's more an interesting view into humanity than anything else.
I mean, as to your question of genre...I don't know, I just have so many thoughts.
See, Minecraft was clearly not a genre until it suddenly was, so there -- I think absolutely there will be new genres and games are actually much more likely to continually create new genres for hundreds of years than film is, just because humans like interacting in new and different ways, and maybe genres will come in and out of fashion, or maybe we can support more simultaneous genres than more passive media can.
What do you feel is lacking in games right now? What are you yearning to see more of?
In terms of content and game design?
Well, part of why I'm creating Moon Hunters the way I am is because I'm really interested in relationships and personalities and what are the components of a person and what makes them matter to other people. And I wish there were more games thinking about that. I was really fascinated by how much meaning--this is kind of segueing back into procedural generation -- like, Crusader Kings 2 is a really good example of something where it gives you a bunch of data, and it most of the storytelling is actually off-loaded onto the player, where the player kind of understands someone's personality and makes logical leaps based on that, that maybe an algorithm wouldn't. And the relationships between characters can be really important, and the development of that personality is impacted by the people around them. And I can't think of many other games where anyone is even thinking of that from a system design point of view. Or even a writing point of view, to be honest. The number of people who will talk at length about how well a character is written, but then never actually talk about, "Well, what are the elements of gameplay that contribute to that personality, or to that relationship." That's what I'm curious about.
So this was something else on your list that is sort of a pet topic of mine, too: More collaboration between creators from different disciplines. I think it's worth talking about. Maybe Twine is a way of fixing this, or starting to fix this, but why are videogames not a writerly format, or a format that seems to be friendly to including more writers?
Oh yeah, Twine is a great tool for that. I'm a big champion of Twine, for sure.
Yeah, but I always hear Twine discussed as a separate thing. Because it doesn't have graphics, it doesn't have -- it's almost like you need to be predisposed to "Oh, I think reading is fun." [Laughs.]
You know what I mean? It's like it's a different audience subset.
I think part of the problem, actually, part of the root of the problem, is that you -- in the Maslovian pyramid of game development, writers are kind of towards the top. You absolutely must have programmers to make a game that will make any money. And then, you probably almost certainly need an artist. And then, if you're lucky, you'll have a designer and/or a project manager, and then you start looking at how many hours in every game is spent programming, or art creation, or designing, or project managing. Then you look at writing, and it's like, "Wow, well..." [Laughs.]
I mean, Moonhunters, we're going to have a lot of text in it, and we'll need a lot of writing, but...it's still the lowest amount of human hours put in compared to all the other professions that are represented. And it's a really hard job to also just put in a few hours here and there and be spread across 80 different projects. We are going to be, almost certainly, contracting an external writer to come help us get all the content that we need, and we're hoping we'll be able to get Jill Murray, who's an award-winning writer from Ubisoft -- who was at Ubisoft. But even then, let's say we could've gotten her from the beginning, getting her for an hour here, an hour there, which is really all we needed at the beginning, she has a thousand other things, and I think it's one of the hardest jobs to multitask because you have to be in the universe and breathing it and it is such a different kind of writing than all the other types.
I would highly recommend you look at playwrights.
Yeah, yeah, she's also a playwright. That's her background, and she does classes at a theater school and stuff.
I'm really tickled that you mentioned Maslow's hierarchy. I go on Steam every Friday and I just take a look at what's popular and what's coming out, and I saw this lead review from whoever curated this game being at the frontmost page when you search for this type of game. So I'm quoting to you, here: "Parkour and stabbing, and great combination to make a game 'fun.' Also, a storyline."
[Laughs.] And so my tweet was just that and just Maslow's hierarchy of games journalism.
[Laughs.] And as long as that's got stabbing up front -- but it's the same thing, right? No one wants to be first, and so it becomes this echo chamber.
It depresses me, you know?
I mean, I think there are games with lovely writing out there --
-- but the problem is almost like, like when someone does a good job of audio but doesn't do anything new with audio, nobody notices? I mean, I guess a few audio designers will be like, "Hey, that game had really good audio," but everyone else is like "sounds like a game." It's the same as with a good job writing. If nothing innovative is done, everyone is just like, "Yeah, that was a good game." And the writers will be like, "It's really well-written," and everyone's like, "Well, okay. Sure."
That's a whole other conversation I am well-equipped to have.
How do you feel games are being devalued? Did I ask you that, or...?
No, you mentioned that you felt they were being devalued. I think we actually might be able to argue about that a little bit.
Okay! Well, let's argue. I've had a lovely conversation with you so far, let's argue. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] I know that a lot of people are really worried about Steam sales and bundles and things, but honestly, more money is being spent on games than ever before, and even if one individual game, maybe the average amount being spent per-game is lower, I think more and more people are able to enjoy games because that price threshold is much more like a cup of coffee, whereas it used to be a lavish meal or a prom night meal. I don't know, it's now something, and I feel a little bit like some of the people, and I'm not accusing you or anything, but--
What did I do?!
-- who are afraid of lowering prices, it's almost like a classist, "These used to be worth something back when most people couldn't buy them." [Laughs.]
Well, but you're presupposing that my argument is founded on the price. It actually isn't.
True. Well, okay, what's your...
Oh no, no, you're fine. But I will posit, also, that the same people you're talking about, who will talk about the price, very frequently are the same people who do things like complain about Monument Valley’s 99-cent DLC. Or, what game was it?
Which could've been any number of games at this point.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Those are the same people who will be like "Ugh, a dollar."Then those are the same people who will go to Starbucks, which I think they have up your way --
Yep, yep, yep.
-- and they'll buy a $4 or $5 latte.
No, to me, it's the sheer firehose of stuff coming out.
Oh, yeah, there's more and more games, that's for sure.
To me, it's not so much the price. The price is fine, and I'm certainly not one to gripe, I am in the media, people send me vouchers all the time --
-- I try to buy stuff as much as I can, I love games, I want to support people who make stuff, I'm a writer, I get it. But I do worry. This sounds like such a jerky thing to say: I worry there's too much stuff? I mean, it's a byproduct of the tools and production being so readily available, there's so few barriers to entry. It's just that there's so much stuff.
Well, but I mean, I feel like it's great! I mean -- it's terrifying, because I'm trying to make a living in that market that's a firehose of stuff, but I almost feel like writing is an art form that everyone thinks they can do, and most people can't, or they can, but not very well, and then a few people are really, really good at it, and of those people, only a few make a living at it. And it'll be sad if games go that way, especially because they require such a collaboration. I don't think they will? I think that it's only good for games that more and more people can get their first taste as a creator, without needed to be part of a 100-person team.
It used to be you had to either be able to program your own game in C or C++ or whatever, or else you had to join a 100-person team, and that was kind of it. Or you could make it on RealMod and that was cool, but it also wasn't really the same as making a game from scratch.
Right. So there's a couple things going on here. One is, I feel like mods are sort of dying away, or at least I've talked to some people who feel that way for this project. I don't know for sure myself, I know we do see fewer of them, like there was a Proteus mod a while back.
Certainly bigger games are harder to mod just by virtue of how colossal they are and how proprietary they need to be. As far as writing, the thing you're talking about, most people confuse writing with typing. So I'm curious: What do you think most people -- we started this way. You said most people imagine game design to be just thinking of ideas. How is game creation being confused by ...
Oh most people think game creation is programming, for sure.
So what is it? I guess I'm asking for my own sake, and also people reading. Because I wouldn't even presuppose to tell you what it is. To me, it's magic, is what it is.
[Laughs.] "All creation is magic!"
[Laughs.] But I would never say, "Oh, it's just typing."
No, I mean, it's logically thinking about a player experience. That's what I think game creation is. And I don't know, as the co-director of Pixelles, I've helped dozens of women make their first game. And I've kind of watched this process where they originally think that they have to be a programmer, and we tell them that, "No, you don't, but you do have to think logically and you do have to imagine what the player will be doing at any one moment." And that's kind of the key, is to get people thinking about that one moment, because in that moment, they're thinking like a designer, but they're thinking in a way that will let them then implement that behavior that the game needs to do. Whether you're working in Twine or you're working in Unreal or whatever, the real building blocks of a game are imagining what the player does at any given moment.
So how do you feel games are changing right now, on the whole?
I think we’re still in the midst of an identity crisis, but it’s nearly passed. "What is or is not a game?" was never a very interesting question but “who is a gamer?” continues to rile people up and literally change where millions of dollars are funneled. I’m excited by all of the new people playing and making games, and that some of them are starting to identify as someone who loves games, even though they’ve never played a shooter or an RPG or whatever you consider “core.”
Maybe they only play choose-your-own-adventure games, or only build voxel castles, or only click cookies, but they love doing it, and dream of what’s next in their chosen niche. I think it’s becoming clear to everyone -- even to heartless business sharks -- that "casual" doesn’t mean anything. There are so many kinds of people with new and complex passions, and ways to contribute to our industry, and I can’t wait to meet them, or even work alongside them.