Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Casual/Hardcore Debate: Are You Tired of It, Too?

Then allow me to broach about it some more. I'd like to take this opportunity to give my take on the whole discussion in as rational a way as possible. This all started with a blog entry about the Wii destroying hardcore gaming or something like that. I will refrain from linking to it as it just came off as hit-bait. Several regular (myself included) and not-so-regular (but still apt at discussion as sometimes I fail to be) GoNintendo users had a nice chat about this ongoing casual/hardcore porn-- I mean-- gamer debate. I've taken some of my comments and edited them into the following editorial. Most of my thoughts here are completely exclusive to this story though, so no worries if you feel you'll be retreading ground.

First, I'd like to talk about the definitions of a hardcore and a casual gamer. Let's start with a casual gamer. I honestly don't see this wave of Wii owners as casual gamers-- and of course, not all Wii owners are buying the Wii just to play Wii Sports as much as some would like us to believe. I just see new Wii owners as just that-- new gamers. It is way too soon to distinguish a new gamer with a casual gamer. Who knows if a given person will stay with gaming as their full-time hobby or not? I don't have a crystal ball... yet. Now if a person-- yes, a person-- not the collective casual group in general-- they don't share a hive mind-- exits the gaming scene before the Wii 2, the next Xbox, and the PS4 arrive, then sure, I would call them casual. I just think it's too soon to see.

I know what you might be thinking. You're going, "SuperPhillip" or "Phil" or "^$%^$" depending who you are-- "What exactly is a casual gamer then?" Now there isn't just ONE definition for a casual gamer. There are several types I've picked up on. I always equated a casual gamer as someone who has a feigning interest in our hobby. Perhaps they just play to be part of the in-crowd, because they perceive it as cool because MTV tells them it is, or just to see what the buzz is all about. Additionally, I associate the typical male casual gamer as the type of person the annual Spike TV VGA show is marketed to, drinking their Mountain Dew airplane fuel, hooting and hollering, calling you and me racial AND sexual slurs online (they're ambitious people, y'know), and the type that goes to hip Guitar Hero parties with their drunk cousin. I'm using extremely exaggerated examples of archetypes, but I hope that my point is at least seen. Furthermore, I really don't care if your cousin's distant relative's kid stopped playing his Wii after a week. Such anecdotal evidence is not acceptable proof. Not only is there no way to verify such a claim, but there's no way to verify whether or not it is an isolated incident. And judging by software sales, it's difficult to believe such.

Another point I'd like to make is that casual gaming is not new. Is there anyway to determine which gamers from the 80s are still gamers in the new millenium? Not that I know of. We really can’t draw any statistical information on that. Yes, there are some who have gamed from then all the way to now. There’s also probably some who got burnt out on games, stopped, and have rejoined the industry or haven’t yet at all since then. Then there’s the casual gamer of the 80s, too.

By just comparing sales of consoles from then to now, you can see the number is astounding in comparison. What does this mean? We can hypothesize that a lot of new gamers have come into the industry-- these new gamers I was referring to earlier. There’s really no way to honestly classify them. I think the terms “casual” and “hardcore” are stereotypes. There is no one concrete way to be a casual or to be a hardcore gamer. Most of those that proclaim they're hardcore-- the most vocal and admittedly most obnoxious group-- are just being elitist as if saying they're hardcore somehow makes them better than every other gamer around. No, it makes them come off as merely insecure.

I also say that this population of game-blooded people are but a small niche compared to the hundreds of millions who play games as a not-as-often hobby. These insecure hardcore people were lucky last gen that their tastes aligned with the tastes of the casual gamer (NOTE: not new gamer. Casual gamer. The Spike TV VGA crowd). These are games like Halo, GTA, Madden, and Guitar Hero.

Then we have the matter of Wii/casuals killing gaming. The new/casual market does not destroy. Every generation this faction has helped expand the industry. And what of the Wii? How we can say only bad software sells when almost all signs point that is the complete opposite? If every title that did not make it onto the NPD's Top 10 sold horribly, then a lot more companies would be out of business. Speaking of being out of business, EGM. How can you not say that this hardcore group isn't in the minority? The magazine was tailored to this very group. Who else would care how many polygons are in Old Snake's moustache? Heck, I'm a severe game addict, and I don't care! How is such content supposed to draw those on the outside in? This is the hardcore gamer. They're resourceful like MacGyver but without the mullet (unless they play a lot of Gears of War). Why settle on information that is old as soon as it hits the press when you can have instant access to games YOU want to know about, and not just what an editor chooses?

There's a problem with stereotyping these new gamers-- all of them-- as completely inept. Yes, there are a lot of stories that come around such as a woman not knowing that she can't put her charge card directly into her Wii for online purchases, but at the same time I seldom see articles about new owners who GET it. And there are a lot of people who get it. Go outside. There's stupid people, of course, but there's also bright ones, too. Then again, a mother who did research to see if she got everything for her kids is much less interesting than a father who didn't know he had to hold on tight to the Wii remote when playing.

Regardless, there honestly will be no getting through to some people. I have to be truthful that I side with the new generation on this for the simple reason that I don't see them crying on internet forums like spoiled children who think they are no longer the center of attention (or were ever the center of attention for that matter), damning the "casuals", damning Nintendo, damning the Wii, damning that woman in those Progressive commercials "It's RESOLUTION season!"-- oh wait, that last one is just me), and damning anyone who dares have different tastes than them. Thusly, I sympathize with people just getting into gaming. I hope that there will be plenty who stick around and find that they really like what they leaped into. Hopefully, this read has been enjoyable, and hopefully, this will be the one and only time I've spoken about this subject on SPC in a long time. All I know is that topics like this that want to segregate gaming into groups only help support popular opinion that video games are still a very immature industry.

Special Thanks to Castro, dandancc, thedreadpirateguy, gstarr, and Walo of GoNintendo for a great discussion, talking points, and inspiration for this piece.

1 comment:

CJ said...

I agree and don't with you article.

But thing is true, a hardcore player is not one that play games that are bloody with guns and stuff, that just a 13yo kid trying to appear to be cool.

Hardcore is the way you play a game, same goes for casual. Hardcore would be the kind of players that plays a game so much that he gets to get everything the game to offer, even find all those glitches to favor his game, while casual is someone who play a game (any game) just for the unf of it. Like myself, I consider i'm a hardcore Mario Kart Wii player, cuz i'm trying to get everything at the most, and also rule the leaderboard some time in the future in every course, while i'm a casual Gears of War player cuz I played the game beat, got to known the sotry, and never ever touch it again, unless i'm willing to replay it. Same goes for MGS4, played the game, filled all those holes in the history, and i'm not going though again on a greater difficulty cuz, i'm not interested on replaying this game with the same things all around, while mario kart wii, yeah, the same tracks, but the races are never the same IMO