There Is No Such Thing As Casual Or Hardcore
Syncaine posted a good article about his return to Warhammer Online and how it’s casual PvP. It made me wonder exactly what the definitely of ‘casual’ or ‘hardcore’ is. Personally I believe they really don’t exist as concrete definitions but are rather abstract terms we use because of their implied connotations.
Time is certainly a factor when we talk about casual or hardcore. Syncaine talks about it himself and the ability to enjoy a 30 minute PvP session in WAR. But where exactly is the line drawn? If I play a MMORPG for 1-2 hours every day the MMO community would call be a casual player yet all of my RL friends, who don’t play MMOs, would call me a hardcore gamer. It would be easy for me to switch to being hardcore too as all I have to do is remove an obstacle from my RL and create more game time. There is no challenge there.
MMORPGs are not hard to play. They aren’t Street Fighter or Unreal Tournament. The most challenging aspect is probably interacting with other players and organising a large number of them to tackle raids. That being said, any player, given enough time, can achieve anything because all they need to do is tag along for the ride. I’ve seen this a lot in raiding with DPS classes especially. Most guilds don’t hand out rewards based on skill (because it’s almost impossible to measure and, no, I don’t believe topping a DPS chart is a huge sign of talent), they hand them out based on attendance. Again, time wins over skill.
MMORPG designers create elements of grind in order to achieve the illusion of challenge. They say it’s a challenge to get to level 80, I say it’s just an investment in time. Progressing through raid encounters and gearing up to take on higher tier raids is not skill, it’s time. The whole MMORPG philosophy revolves around this concept though. They longer you play and the longer it takes you to succeed, the more money the developers make.
MMORPGs revolve around time. They reward time over skill and the bottom line is that almost everything can be accomplished given enough time. ‘Hardcore’ players are reluctant to recognise this as it requires them relinquishing their status in the game world as the ‘best’ players. I believe this is why games like Darkfall create a stir because certain players want to feel elite and the only barrier between them and the ‘casual’ players is their investment of time. Games like World of Warcraft are trying desperately to remove this time barrier though and thus friction starts and the ‘carebear’ and ‘wellfare’ arguments occur.
Ultimately, there can be no such thing as casual or hardcore because, regardless of whether it takes a player 1 month or 1 year to hit max level and complete the top tier raids, the end outcome is always same. The connotation simply stems from the involvement of time which has been used to create the illusion of challenge.