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Are You Hardcore?

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Obviously, I consider myself a gamer — I wouldn't be writing for this website if I didn't — but defining myself any more specifically than that poses a problem. I'm certainly much more than a casual gamer, playing rounds of Angry Birds on my iPod riding the train to work (I have to confess I don't actually like Angry Birds that much...). But I'm not what you would typically call a hardcore gamer, racking up hours and hours of multiplayer in Halo or finishing Super Mario Galaxy with 100% completion. So if I'm not hardcore, what does that make me?

I know I'm dating myself, but I started gaming as a wee lad when my dad brought home a Pong game from a garage sale that we hooked up to a small black-and-white TV (Dad wasn't about to waste a color set with a silly toy like that!). I used to like baby-sitting for one particular family in the neighborhood as a young teen because they had an Atari 2600 I could play once the kids were asleep. I also played with my little brother's NES at the time, but it wasn't until college that I really got into videogames. I purchased my first console, the SEGA Genesis, and it's been nothing but fun ever since.

Starting with the PlayStation generation, which was the first time I actually had the disposable income to spend, I've owned every console that the major companies have put out. Well, minus the SEGA Saturn. But I had the PS1, PS2 and PS3, the SEGA Dreamcast, the Xbox and Xbox 360, and the N64, GameCube and Wii. Not to mention every iteration of the Game Boy and DS and the PSP. (Heck, multiples of each sometimes with all the variations and upgrades Nintendo released!) But I still wouldn't consider myself a hardcore gamer.

There are people who will buy a game and try to finish it as soon as possible, I guess for the bragging rights of being the first of their friends to see the ending. I've never understood that mentality, both because I don't have that kind of free time and also because if I'm going to drop $50-$60 on a game, I want to get my money's worth. Then there are those who get more than their money's worth by playing through games multiple times and so meticulously in order to get all the Achievements/Trophies or just the satisfaction of 100% completion or each of the alternate endings. That's not me, either. It's actually kind of annoying, because I get so OCD when playing games that I have to pick up every little collectible, but I knew as soon as I saw my first thermos in Alan Wake that by the time I get to the ending, I will have probably 90-95 of the 100 scattered throughout the game. It's like in BioShock, where I was only missing one of the tape reels, and furious to check a FAQ and find out it was way back in the very beginning in the one area you could no longer reach. So I do collect, but knowing full well that I won't have all of whatever they are by the end of the game &#!51; and knowing that I'm never going to play through it another time just to try again.

I also don't spend hours online playing shooters or MMOs with my friends. Sure, the occasional session of Rock Band might pop up, and I might have guests in my Animal Crossing town, but multiplayer has never really interested me. Not sure why. Maybe because when I started playing games, I had no one to play with, and they were something I enjoyed so much by myself that when the industry took a more social turn, I never really made that same transition. The single-player experience is so much more satisfying to me. Maybe that's why I liked Morrowind so much, because it's an MMORPG without the MO.

I don't really know how to categorize hardcore gamers. Casual is easy. Those are the people who just play Scrabble or Angry Birds on their phone. They might have a Game Boy, or even a Wii. I feel like Nintendo got a lot of casual gamers to play more because many of them bought Wiis to play Wii Sports and Just Dance. (Like lots of people owned Game Boys for Tetris.) But casual gamers don't play every day (well, except maybe for Angry Birds addicts!). They'll play occasionally, but it's not something they look forward to or make time in their day for. Hardcore is trickier, though. Some people play games to the detriment of everything else in their lives, like food, socializing and general health and cleanliness. That's not hardcore, that's just sad. But there are those who play games instead of watching movies or TV shows as a leisure activity. I have a day job, and when I come home at night, I have to work on this site and cook dinner, and then I like to watch a little TV. I can usually squeeze in an hour or so of gaming, but not much more than that, because I have to get up early the next day to start the vicious cycle all over again. How many hours do you need to put in before you're considered hardcore?

So I really like games, but I still wouldn't consider myself hardcore. I like many different genres, from action-adventure to RPG to music, but I don't play them all the time, and I don't consider myself particularly skilled at them. I'll probably never get all the Achievements in a game. (Okay, it technically did happen once, but that was King Kong, and I only rented it because I heard that it was super-easy to get all the Achievements.) Many games I don't even finish because I lose interest part of the way through or it just gets too difficult to continue with my meager skills. But I'm certainly more than a casual gamer playing games on a cell phone on the train/bus. Maybe we need a new classification? Something in between casual and hardcore? But not softcore, because that sounds creepy. Amateur, maybe? How would you classify this type of gamer? And how do you classify yourself?

12 Comments

Arthur said:

A hardcore gamer is someone who loves and appreciates all games, genres, and systems because they love gaming. A hardcore gamer will spend just as much time with the newest first-party Nintendo title as with the latest FPS. Hardcore gamers do not spout nonsense about any system being far superior to another because he/she wants to play every game worthy of being played, no matter what genre it is, no matter what platform it is released on. Simply put, Hardcore gamers love and appreciate gaming in all its forms.

There are many types of Casuals. Some only play FPS's because every other genre is "kiddie." These casual players call themselves hardcore but, as by my definition, they're clearly mistaken. Some only play Wii fit because they're 60 years old. Some only play iPhone apps for a few minutes of distraction on the bus to work. What ties them all together is that casuals don't love and appreciate gaming, they either follow a new fad or they like just one type of game in particular. They range from fanboys to your mother. They don't experiment with games because they're not interested in anything they're not used to.

Pauwow said:

Great article. I think of myself as a gamer that grew up with the first NES. That idea of Hardcore or not Hardcore gamer is a new invention that players that "grew up with Halo" and other online games use to define competitive players. Nothing wrong with Halo but I'm not going to sit there and listen a 12 years kid giving me lectures about what a "real gamer" is.
Don't get me wrong I like online games like Uncharted 2 because I'm a team player but I'm not a competitive person, I honestly don't care if your achievements/trophies are bigger than mine. I think there are two kinds of players Pro and everyone else. If you you don't win/participate in tournaments and receive money while playing videogames you are just a gamer like everyone else.
By definition the word Hardcore means:
"The members of a group or movement who form an intransigent nucleus resistant to change"
The word hardcore has more in common with the word fanboy.

Hendrick said:

I really liked your article! Im having a hard time triying to define what hardcore or casual. When I was a kid, many of the hardcore games were what you will call casual today. I think we are above those. We just dont play games all the time, dont need to have a controller in our hands to show the world we play lots of games. We now about the industry, developers, "gaming history". We are not the obsesive gamer. People can see we like gaming and even get surprised how we manage to have what they call a normal life full of responsabilities and we can handle it all (school, work, relationship). Many people use to say: "yo pense que eras un loquito, porque te gustan los jueguitos" (I thought you were a little crazy, because you like sillygames), but ha! I won over their percepcions of what a gamer is. Now, even if I enjoy my gaming time with my couple and friends I still do like my solo games. Maybe we just dont need more words, just less... Im a gamer, no casual, no hardcore, just a gamer.

Mittens said:

I think people trip over "Hard Core Gamer" as opposed to a "Hardcore Game" in usage. It's probably easier to classify the second (a deep, challenging, sophisticated, and satisfying game like Demon's Souls, BioShock, Shadow of the Colossus, Oblivion, Persona 4--all up for debate) while a "Hardcore Gamer" is an identity (perhaps the depth to which you care about your games).

I would present it as a grid-like continuum for gamers. If you are a gamer at all, you probably fall somewhere between Hardcore and uninvested and the games you play would average out between Hardcore and Casual. In that model, you could be a Hardcore Gamer of Casual Games--like a Farmville addict.

John said:

I'm the same way. It was very enjoyable to read your article. After reading I'd have to consider us both 'hardcore', cuz gaming IS a large part of our lives, and we DO take our passion for it seriously. We may not be aggro good ol' boys playing the latest war game in multiplayer with headset, but it seems your (our) range of interests in genres would indicate a hell of a passion. Also, hello, you write for a gamer site. And i read it every day. Game on!

Jack said:

This is a great article for sure.

I guess I've never thought about whether or not I consider myself a Hardcore Gamer- but now that you mention it.. I think I can only consider myself a competitive and/or niche gamer.

I have a terrible time ever talking to ANYONE about video games because I play a select few series', and I'm VERY passionate about them. My favorite two games of all time are Half-Life 2 Deathmatch (I played competitively in CAL for a couple years) and Demon's Souls.

I also consider From Software's "King's Field" series to be infinitely more fun and deep than any Elder Scrolls title.

Maybe I can't connect with the "Hardcore Gamer" label because people like the tool on CNN equate being hardcore to playing Halo. People like him shouldn't decide what being a hardcore gamer is- but he's obviously spewing nonsense from a broader media outlet than my word-of-mouth.

Hewligan said:

I'd define Hardcore Gamer simply as someone that spends the majority of their leisure time gaming.

smallvizier said:

I tend to see a hardcore gamer as one who makes a notable effort to get better at the games they play.

So that could be the Street Fighter player who sits down one day and learns the movelists. Or a Rock Band player who actually uses the practice mode, or who looks into the overdrive mechanics to find the best paths.

A Scrabble player can be hardcore to me, if they pull out a dictionary and expand their vocabulary just to get better at a game. Or an Angry Birds player, if they doggedly practice the stages until their accuracy lets them complete most in just one attempt.

I'd seperate 'hardcore' gamers from 'frequent' gamers, though. Certainly, it takes a lot of time to practice. But you can spend a lot of time playing games without really getting 'better' - you'll just be enjoying yourself.

I also don't think (my version of) hardcore gamers are more loyal, committed or worthwhile than others. It's just a different playstyle.

Do I see myself as a hardcore player? It depends on the genre. For an RPG, definitely, because I go the extra mile to invent strategies and tailor my gear - become the best that I can be. For an FPS, not at all; I'll blast through the story, play in non-standard ways, but I don't really care whether I'm actually any *good.*

Chris said:

"(I have to confess I don't actually like Angry Birds that much...)"

I hate Angry Birds too! Why do you think it's so popular?

For me it has the Ninja Gaiden aspect of being nearly impossible to get from level to level at a certain point, so I just lose interest. I don't even understand how little kids can get into it without tossing the damn iPhone across the room, LOL!

Maybe this is the "hardcore" experience you're alluding to, and therefore the reason you may not be into it?

benwa said:

Wait Wootini is dating himself, that's kinda hot. Just saying... I play my game system every day and dont call myself a hardcore gamer, I leave that for those who when at a party that is the only thing the know and talk about.

tropicofanatic said:

Woot, you've got a gaming vblog and you contribute to a video game blog. You also have pretty much every system. You are a hardcore gamer.

David d said:

Hardcore gamer: It's not what you play, it's how you play it.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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