On “Being a Hardcore Gamer”

I’ve been seeing this pop up from time to time in twitch chats I hang out recently “Oh they play Call of Duty like a casual”, “Oh consoles are for the casual market”, “Oh I’m not casual, I play Dark Souls” or whatever. There are two components here that bother me. First is that there is an overly large focus on the “What” rather than the “How”. Secondly the whole thing is stupid to begin with (but we’ll get that).

Being a hardcore gamer is treated more of being part of a group than being a mode of playing. People talk about “What” they play to determine there status. This isn’t being “hardcore” this is like fashion in highschool. “Oh I’m not like those popular kids, I where band shirts and am hella edgy”. Playing on a PC doesn’t make you a “hardcore gamer”. I know many people who would describe themselves as relatively casual gamers who are HUGE tech enthusiasts. They want to achieve the best looking games at the best framerates, but their playing is, admittedly, casual. I know people who were hardcore into Call of Duty, playing it with a super competitive mindset. In fact, I can’t see anything casual at all about playing a multiplayer shooter. Hell I know people who are crazy sick at bejeweled. Telling me what you play, on what platform, tells me very little about you as a gamer outside of your tastes. I want to hear about HOW you play. It’s about how you use play to express your self.

The whole ‘hardcore/casual’ dichotomy is stupid because it isn’t binary. It isn’t a ladder. It’s barely even a spectrum. If you appreciate how we play differently, it no longer becomes about being fundamentally “better” than some other kind of gamer. It’s hard to try and keep up that dichotomy when you know how far the rabbit hole goes. Most of the people I see complaining about I can look at go “Hardcore? You’re all casual. Behold my works and despair” but I also know how feeble and insignificant my accomplishments are compared to others I know. The only thing I know is we’re all passionate about games and we are often passionate about them differently. For example, skill wise, I’d say I’m pretty damn accomplished, but how many games do I actually play? Not to many. My friend Rachel jokes that I don’t even actual LIKE videogames. On the other hand there are people with less hand eye coordination than me who are just up on the whole videogame zeitgeist. They play everything (possibly quite well!) and are passionate about new releases and discussing them. Who am I compared to them? Some old grouch who’s really good at some old games. That’s an entirely different axis completely than “people, skill wise, are better than me”. Some people measure stuff totally different. For me, my gut interpretation of MMOs is that they’re kinda ‘casual’ in some strange way that only makes sense in my dumb head, but that is CLEARLY not the case and for many people the coordination and dedication required to excel at an MMO is the greatest thing in games. Any TBS game puts me to sleep, but for many, the games I like are for impatient ADD people!

So there is basically no standard for anything here. We can’t even agree on what are the most worthwhile skills. We can’t possibly make a pecking order out of all this. It’s literally the geek hierarchy thing

9 thoughts on “On “Being a Hardcore Gamer”

  1. I can absolutely agree

    Also, I’d like to add on top of that something that came up in recent history more and more: Are games like “Gone Home”, “Dear Esther” or “The Stanley Parable” even ‘games’? I have yet to see a clear cut answer on the definition concerning ‘what is a game?’ to which I could fully agree to.

    And every single time I think about ‘what is a game?’ I come to the same conclusion: It doesn’t matter.

  2. Elitism seems to be a thing in male-dominated fandom. (it’s not so much in female-dominated, as far as I can tell) I think it comes out more in video games because games are already competitive in a lot of ways and provide an easy way to show off that you’re the Best Fan of Video Games, as opposed to all those losers. It might be an outgrowth of the general male culture that prizes competitiveness, just about video games or comic books instead of money or fast cars. If you grow up believing you have to win at something, then that pretty easily translates to hobbies as well. Do sports fans do the ‘serious fan’ nonsense? I’m not a sports fan, I honestly don’t know.

    Not that female-dominated fandom doesn’t occasionally do One True Fan stuff, but it’s not as common. I think it tends to happen more in fandoms that have gotten a recent influx of new fans, like Dr Who. (which is an elitism in and of itself, yeah) It still doesn’t seem to be as open as it is in fanboy culture, though.

  3. Yeah, Yagamoth. I think we spend too much time trying to put games in a very specific box when really, our pattern of behavior in how we regard videogames is more akin to how we regard art. Best to just throw your hands up and go with it.

    Mars: Yeah we’re competitive dicks and it’s kinda annoying sometimes. Y’all need like, competitive fanfictioning or something. But I also think of like, movies and stuff and people are competitive about movies so much! It’s clearly different for games because most of them are in some way competitive, but I still feel like we can still dial it back quite a bit.

    Also yeah, sportsfans are TOTALLY like that.

  4. I’m in your boat Kayin. I like to watch a lot of streams of competitive games (Apex was awesome), I play and organize a TF2 team (we’re in a mediocre division), and I don’t really play modern games. I love steam, haven’t played a triple A title in a quite a while, and generally am disinterested in the latest trends in video games. Hardcore is definitely something I would say to refer to my gaming interest, but how much would I actually have in common with other “hardcore” gamers? Not much with the people who would actually call themselves hardcore. I merely know what I like, like to get really good at it, and genuinely dislike modern single-player games, at least the popular ones.

  5. Kayin: Yeah, I think video games and sports will collect more competitive people in general, because the medium itself tends to be competitive. Hm. Now I’m wondering about board games, which tend to have a much stronger set of cooperative games.

    Fanfic actually can get competitive, but it’s more in a ‘whose stuff is the most popular’ way. It’s very social-based and all about hoping to get the most people to hang around you and like your stuff. I tend to ignore it because I’m not in any fandoms big enough to actually get me any popularity except by default. I didn’t think of it at the time since it’s different from what you’re talking about, (I don’t think people aim to be BNFs except in a few cases) but popularity is a kind of competition. The fact that traditional fanfic-writing fandom is organized mostly around movies and TV shows might also be a factor, since like you said, people don’t usually get that pissy about movies in general.

  6. I was pretty surprised to see this pop up in my e-mail. Maybe it’s just the places that I’ve been discussing games nowadays, but I almost never see the hardcore/casual dichotomy brought up anymore. I thought characterizing yourself as hardcore had fallen out of vogue. Maybe because a lot of the places I discuss games are on Dark Souls forums, and Dark Souls players have gotten tired of fellow Dark Souls players claiming to be hardcore for playing Dark Souls.

    Re: Yagamoth

    I hear tell of a legendary diagram which, upon its reference, made clear what is and is not a game. Sadly, it was lost amidst the ash and rubble of a flame war waged in ancient times upon a foreign cybersoil. I know not if there are any left who remember aught of the wisdom it held.

  7. @MarsDragon- Yeah, you obviously don’t know much about female-dominated fandoms if you think the “One True Fan” is exclusive to the male-dominated ones. Go look at some of the Internet reading clubs (which are 80-90% female, since women tend to read more than men do these days) if you don’t believe me.

    Anyways, I agree with Kayin’s post. It’s a particularly weird position to hold with regards to games, since I have always felt that our appreciation of the medium is so fundamentally irrational.

    Same thing goes with music. (Which, amusingly enough, has more of the elitist, hardcore crowd, too)

  8. I’d be careful there, because Mars is a woman with her hands in actual fandoms. Mars also specifically said that it wasn’t exclusive to men. But I will say, looking at like, Male dominated fandoms like, say MLP or my own experiences tiptoeing in the yuri fandom, like…. Dudes tend to be more extreme in genera (Though more does not mean exclusively extreme. I understand this. I use tumblr).

    Music on the other hand is funny because the more elitist you are about music, the more you sorta remove your self from conflict since you can barely have conversations anymore. Videogames could ALMOST be the same way but we fall deeply into the “THINGS USED TO BE BETTER” fallacy of assuming the way games were made when we were kids was somehow superior. But alas we have to stop on each others toes.

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