It’s funny. People – bloggers, gamers, forum posters – throw around terms like “casual” and “hardcore” as if they were pre-designed, approved MMORPG terms. Thing is though, we really have no metrics for defining exactly what those terms are or when they come into affect. I’ve often called myself a casual player but it’s only been recently that I’ve wondered what that means.
Even when I played MMORPGs for 6 hours a day, I always considered myself a casual player. Now I probably play only about 5 – 10 hours a week and I still call myself casual. So was I actually a hardcore player before? I’ve always assumed that the terms were related to the amount of time one played and that casual players only played for a few hours and hardcore players were the guys who gave up their lives so they could raid 5 nights a week. Now I’m not so sure.
It seems to be that casual players always blame the hardcore ones for making the games too time consuming, too grindy, too difficult whilst the hardcore players blame the casuals for being too sociable and forcing the developers to dumb the game down, making it too easy and accessible. At the end of the day, its human nature to want to belong to a camp or group (it’s the dormant tribesman in us all) and that’s exactly what these terms let us do.
I think the concepts of casual and hardcore are more of a mental state than anything else. It doesn’t really matter how long you spend in front of your computer because if you don’t consider yourself hardcore, then you never will be. I bummed around in Everquest, playing for hours every day, and yet barely raided and never, ever considered myself hardcore. That was for the unemployed 40 year olds who lived at home in their parent’s basement but certainly not me, no sir.
I was totally wrong, of course. And probably a little jealous of those guys that did raid and strutted around with the coolest gear, flexing their virtual guns. Regardless of how much I played, I always thought of myself as casual because that was my state of mind. I didn’t raid. I wasn’t hardcore.
So what I’m trying to say is that you just can’t define “casual” or “hardcore” so be careful who you label with the terms. The’re just abstract terms we use to help turn our arguments into cases of “us” versus “them”. At the end of the day, the most flexible MMORPGs are the ones that let us play in the biggest variety of ways and appeal to the broadest spectrum of players but we won’t always be able to get what we want. Fortunately, though, we live in an era of competition and, if one game doesn’t appeal us to, another is certain to come along.