Amit at These Damned Machines wonders if Flash might just possibly be the perfect platform on which homebrew gamemakers can experiment with a broader range of design concepts. Ian at Water Cooler Games wonders if the smaller scale preferred by casual games might provide a better milieu for adaptations of films that explore a film’s emotional content instead of recreating its action sequences. I’m starting to wonder why I bother paying money for major titles anymore.

While the latest big-budget, big-scale Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil games garner lots of attention and sales, I find myself drawn more and more these days towards casual games — little diversions, usually implemented in Flash or Java, that make up for their lack of spectacularity with low prices (anywhere between free and $20) and crackaliciousness. Their simple controls and rules mean lower barriers of entry for players, and the lack of 3D-accelerated graphics and whatnot force designers to explore different methods of art design that lead to games with unique, delightful looks.

Ferry Halim’s Orsinal is a collection of very small, very cute games. Judged by their complexity, these games are pretty thin soup, little more than “hop over the obstacles” or “shoot the widgets before they hit the ground;” hardly revolutionary stuff. What makes them so enthralling is the quality of the soft, dreamy art and music. While they don’t seem to have the pulse-pounding rhythm of Popcap classics like Bejeweled or Bookworm, Orsinal games can be just as time-sucking while being infinitely more relaxing.

Titles developed by gameLab tend towards the other end of the spectrum. Where Orsinal focuses on its graphics and sound to induce a dreamlike state in the player, gameLab’s games are all about quick, sharp thinking. These games tend to be highly conceptual, leaning towards more tricky puzzle games like Junkbot and sensory overloads like Arcadia (the Time Code of video games). Like all the best casual games, though, they’re still very easy to pick up and play for as little or as much time as you like.

There are a ton of other shops out there making quality casual games that go far beyond the Mah Jong and card games that are usually associated with the genre. On top of that are all the homebrewers who are experimenting on no budget at all with truly insane ideas, like hitting a cute boy with your bicycle or games played within a form button. And I haven’t even touched on mobile gaming, mostly because I’m still carrying around a seven-year-old Nokia phone that only plays Snake (not that I don’t love playing Snake). With so many simple-yet-expressive video games being made, there’s a whole world of gaming out there that a person could spend a very long time exploring without ever going near a console.

Of course, as soon as I’m done posting this, I’m going to go back to playing NBA Street V3 on my Xbox. Oh well.