What makes a casual gamer casual, and a hardcore one... hardcore? Is there even any standard measure of hardcore-osity?
It wasn’t so long ago that I was vehemently disagreeing with Patrick Bach’s (executive producer of DICE) belief that consolers are just as hardcore as hardcore PC gamers. Even though I was opposed to Bach’s position, it did get me thinking about the gaming scale that measures casual and hardcore gamers (and the many points in between).
For a long time, this was a simple distinction for me based on platform. Handheld consoles are for uber-casual gamers, consoles were the next rung up the ladder and PC was at the top. Simple. But when forced to define the term ‘hardcore’ in my own mind for the aforementioned Patrick Bach rebuttal article, I was also forced to reconsider and redefine this stance. Platforms maketh not the hardcore; the attitude, depth of interest in games (and topics surrounding games) and sheer amount of gaming hours maketh the hardcore gamer.
But as poetic as that might read, within these hardcore subcategories are some inherent paradoxes.
First and foremost, a platform that lends itself to more player control—such as the ability to nigh endlessly tweak/upgrade a PC to improve one’s gaming experience—does offer more hardcore potential than those lacking in this regard (for expanded thoughts on this, check out the afore-linked article).
Attitude is shaky ground as if you are to take into account dogmatic devotion to a particular game, or even gaming in general, it starts to imply that fanboys are hardcore gamers… almost by default. And let’s face it, unless you are a fanboy, that’s not a particularly attractive label to be associated with.
While the ‘depth of interest’ factor is linked to the above point, it also refers to how far gamers are willing to go to accentuate/improve their gaming experience. Sometimes this is as simple as purchasing headphones, improved controller (this includes console controllers, keyboards and mice) or other related hardware/peripherals. And then, of course, there’s the league-of-its-own deeper level of PC gamers who boast impressive technical knowledge for tweaking their gaming experience to specific levels; be it in the form of overclocking or toying with lines of gaming code for that fully personalised experience.
Gaming hours may seem like an obvious measurement of hardcore gamers, but then there is division as to whether the many hours sunk into MMOs such as World of Warcraft constitute a hardcore gamer (hell, there’s even division over whether WoW is even a game). And then there’s the rise of a new casual-gaming market in the form of mobile-phone and social-networking games where countless hours can be lost every day, which segues nicely onto my next point.
The phone-toting Facebook-loving gamer represents a new category of casual gamer. They haven’t bought their mobile phones primarily as gaming devices and they haven’t signed up to Facebook to game either. I’m not talking about a gamer that owns a console or a PC and happens to also play mobile/social-networking games; I’m talking about the type of gamer for whom this is there only type of gaming. They are the new entry-level classification of gamer and, by necessity of the dichotomy of the casual/hardcore scale, the most casual.
But in creating a new entry-level casual gamer, it also bumps everyone else up the scale. The handheld consolers seem somehow less casual, your average current-gen console is now more adept and the hardcore suddenly feels a whole lot more hardcore when compared to the neo-casual gamer. Or, more basically, what was once considered casual is now less casual by comparison to this emergence of a new category.
Shoot holes in my theory in the comments section below.