For those who don’t know, a friend of mine does an online gaming culture show called MUD2MMO. I don’t always agree with Tyger’s points, as he knows ^^, but it’s a solid show and good at starting conversations. His most recent episode deals with Defining Hardcore and Casual Players, which is something I’ve contemplated myself.
In short, I more often see the labels doing harm than good.
In his video, Tyger has touched on many of the negative stereotypes I’ve run into; hardcore gamers are pushy, obnoxious, and arrogant while casual players are stupid, inept, and lazy. Now, myself, I differentiate between “assholes” and hardcore or casuals but that’s sort of the point – everyone has their own definitions and they often tend to be more positive for whichever label they feel describes them and more negative of the Other.
I’ll also point out that regardless of how I use the terms, I am very well aware of the general consensus on their meanings. The connotations of each word influence the gaming space by existing and being a part of the language. If a friend complains to me that the hardcore gamers are trolling their stream I know what they mean, same thing if someone complains they got stuck in a raid with a bunch of casuals. I don’t like it, but I know what the person is trying to express.
My question over the last few years has been why we need the labels at all, why we need this concept that a player is either a Super Gamer or a Hopeless Fake. I rather suspect it has more to do with personal pride and ego than about actually trying to make sense of the various types of gamers.
If I proudly state that I’m a casual player, there’s back handed implications of what I am not. I “have a life” unlike those hardcore players, I am “not an asshole”, I “know how to have fun,” and I can make arguments based on the idea that casuals are the largest part of the gaming market. If I call myself hardcore, then I “actually care about the game and gaming”, unlike those fakes over there; I’m “dedicated,” “talented,” and my opinions should hold more weight because “I’ve invested more” in my hobby.
I also bristle at the tendency to label certain games or genres as casual or hardcore games. If my friend can’t get into The Secret World they must not be hardcore enough for a challenging game, if my other friend likes their mobile games they must be a casual, full stop. For some reason, folks seem loathe to simply state, “They like different games than I do,” and prefer to have a hierarchy, seemingly so they can feel secure at or near the top of said hierarchy. “I am a REAL gamer,” says the subtext, “I MATTER more than those other people.”
If it were up to me, I’d scrap both labels and stop trying to figure out who’s the “real” gamer entirely.
There seems to be an argument that listening to the “casual” market will destroy gaming as we know it, but as far as I’m aware, it doesn’t hurt me when fans of Angry Bird are just called gamers. Some dev’s will play with mechanics from different genre’s and some won’t. I’ll continue to play the games I enjoy, others can play what they enjoy, and life will somehow go on. I’m also rather intrigued when I compare today’s mobile games to the games I grew up with – Duck Hunt was not a super involved game with a great story and graphics, you know. But those games are real, because retro, apparently.
To make a comparison, when I was a teenager I bought into the “if you read romance novels, you aren’t a real reader” thing. It made me feel smart since I read “better” literature and I’m positive it made me a huge pain in the rear. I stopped when I got older because I realized it was entirely self-serving, pretentious, and rather high handed of me. I also grew up enough to realize I don’t need to prove the validity of the books I do enjoy by invalidating others. I’m not promising I’ve never slipped back into that thinking, but I’m aware and try to correct myself at least.
I still am not a huge fan of most romances, but the existence of romance novels (even though they make a lot of money) hasn’t managed to dissuade authors from writing horror, sci fi, fantasy, etc. As it happens, some of my preferred books have been improved by using ideas that are more commonly found in the romance genre. Furthermore, it’s widened my perceptions – turns out there are a handful of fantasy/romance and historical/romance titles that I enjoyed. I don’t have to worry about ruining my reading cred; I’m free to just read what sounds appealing to me.
It’s also made me far less of a pain to be around – I can not be a fan of the books you like, but I don’t feel the need to insist you aren’t a “real reader.” Who put me in charge of that, anyway?
[As an aside, there is another connection between romance novels and “casual” games – they are both genres that are generally assumed to be marketed towards women, while also being “not real” and “not good enough.” I’m not going to get into it overly much here, but it’s certainly something I notice. Not all romances are great lit, and not all games considered casual are great games…but not all books or games of any type are particularly impressive, either.]
Tyger mentions in his video that there’s only so much he can do, and talks about checking himself when he’s running with players he’d otherwise outclass. It’s a good plan, teaching does more good for everyone than just ragequitting because, “You all suck!” or trying to drive away other players; and it’s always good to take a look at what effect your actions are having on other people.
I extend that out, though, and try to look at my word choice. I’m not perfect, and hardcore/casual are easy words to jump to. But every time I feed into those stereotypes, I’m tacitly agreeing with them. I’m saying that yep, there is this gulf between the hardcore and the casual players and often implying one is better than the other. I’m saying that there even exists an objective definition of hardcore and of casual, and that those labels tell me something about the players as individuals.
Instead, by trying not to use the terminology, I can at least make a small change in my immediate vicinity. I can communicate to those around me that my thinking is “Yay another gamer!” instead of, “Prove yourself to me!”