By Chris Blain
September 27, 2018
Casual vs. Hardcore video game players have been in a secret war going on for over two decades that most people would never even know was occurring. The casual vs hardcore style games were designed for certain challenge levels. Hardcore was for difficult while easier with a more fun play through were deemed as casual.
The games that were deemed hardcore were typically PC related because most gamers were not willing to spend that much money to play games. Those who were, generally were considered hardcore gamers and all others, were casual. We have seen these terms thrown around a lot more lately since there are more players than ever before.
Not surprising, the words have become outdated since initially being applied to players because it made more sense back in the days. However, the gaming environment has changed dramatically over the years and so should the terms used to describe players. Terms should more adequately describe them and their playstyle to match with others of similar taste.
If you have spent any time what so ever in the gaming environment, you have most likely heard the terms of casual and hardcore used to describe players. These descriptions are used both positively and negatively when labeling others. Mostly, it is the latter since gamers aren’t always nice to each other.
Just like in our real lives, labels matter in the gaming world just like how our job titles may. They may mean nothing when it comes to getting the work done, but people will still view you a certain way based upon that title. Fundamentally, this makes sense since people want to play with others who share a similar mindset.
For many years two primary labels were used to describe people, and that is where the casual vs hardcore debate stems from. Although the terms were logical in their use at the time, they are very outdated in today’s gaming culture.
When players use hardcore to describe others, it generally refers to them as a very committed and skilled individual. The use of hardcore was typical to describe these players that were the most dedicated to the games and put the most effort in.<
It was a gaming style that typically got associated with Mass Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games because it not only required an immense amount of time to do things in addition to a lot of skill. It was quite common in games like EverQuest and Final Fantasy 11 to require immense amounts of effort to succeed.
A stigma surrounded the term hardcore that correlated with having no life, due to the massive amount of time that was necessary to be at the top of the chain in these games. However, you can play a game 24/7 and still be terrible at it. Hardcore was a mixture of these things.
What was hardcore was not necessarily the difficulty of the encounters – but rather the extremely unforgiving circumstances players could find themselves in. It’s why people who played EverQuest, ran guilds, were top of the food chain, while maintaining a job and family were rather intense people.
There is a reason that MMORPGs have horror stories about marriages breaking up around them. The time commitment was real, and there were no shortcuts when it came to getting those raid goals accomplished. If a boss spawned at 3 am, you better be getting out of bed to kill it! Let’s not even forget the 18+ hour boss battles in FF11.
That type of dedication was necessary for games like these if you wanted to be successful since they were not the type of games for the “casual gamer” to flourish. EverQuest was a great example of unforgiving because every time you die, you lost significant experience. FF11 was a great example of ridiculous boss encounters. They deserve hardcore status.
Even more fun, it wasn’t just difficult but some places had level restrictions such as the notorious Plane of Fear, which required players to be 55 to enter. That means, if you lost 55 while inside, you COULD NOT go back inside until you reached 55 again. Aside from missing the remainder of the raid, you had to figure out how to get your corpse back.
Games that were deemed hardcore in these days actually were that. Like Diablo 2 had Hardcore mode – where when you die – you lose. If you got disconnected, to bad so sad, game over. Hardcore seemed to have meant consequences and that is what made them truly so difficult. Could you imagine anyone playing 18+ hours straight on a boss these days?
Those huge boss times got nerfed, but it is just a small droplet in the bucket of difficulties when it came to the annoyance of old-school MMORPGs and online style RPG games. When WoW came around, they tried to change that direction. Developers were in the super high-end EverQuest guilds, so they knew the anger that was raiding and much of the nonsense.
World of Warcraft has undergone tremendous changes since Vanilla, which shared some EverQuest roots but has subsequently changed the structure. Raids offer different tier levels in WoW from Looking for Raid to Mythic. Mythic is technically the “real” raiding when it comes to WoW.
The term casual refers to someone who “casually” plays the game and typically is a person who has other responsibilities in their life and cannot always put games first. In the past, it was used to describe players who weren’t on the same level as the hardcore people since they couldn’t usually devote the necessary time needed.
Those once “hardcore” people still play but have additional responsibilities such as work, family, and so on to prevent them from playing as much as they may want. That doesn’t change the fact they are skilled players who have been there and done that with a gaming environment that doesn’t require “hardcore” play to be the best.
Yet, they are tossed into the same category as the players who do not care and the term casual is more closely associated with a noob in today’s world rather than what these players actually are.
The casuals that I am talking about are those that do not have a lot of time in their day for games, so they use time management skills to ensure success. These players are not novices when it comes to the gaming world because they come in ready to go, and yet they are treated like second-class citizens much of the time.
Since WoW is the dominant MMORPG in the market, we will use it as an example in the field for MMORPGS. So Mythic raiding utilizes 20 players, instead of 40 like Vanilla had, and has a stronger emphasis on skill instead of the nonsense. Old raiding involved tons of people and assembling an army while new raiding is just ensuring to follow the proper strategy.
Nothing about the current system makes players hardcore because they can be extremely talented, log in, do their job, and log off. There is no farming resist gear anymore, craftable gear, recipes for specific gear, and so on. Nothing that truly makes this a “hardcore” feat. Does that make it easier in terms of difficulty?
Skill wise, mechanics are trickier, but regarding the wasted time commitment, it is far easier for players now than it once was. Most people are not getting world first achievements anymore and every little detail of how to play games is found online. These tools didn’t exist for the folks back then and perhaps that is where the dedication came from.
Every player needed to come in prepared with the right gear, resistance levels, stats, and so on – without having materials – super add-ons and the awesome stuff we have today. Players shouldn’t be faulted for using these resources, but they obviously have an advantage and the term hardcore doesn’t really describe these types of players anymore.
To me, hardcore is making your living off games these days. Hardcore has the definition of unswervingly committed, uncompromising, dedicated, and all that jazz. You can fulfill the “top tier” achievements without being hardcore quite simply by being talented.
Streamers and those reliant on videos game to sustain their life seem a bit more hardcore. If you are in a raid, and things don’t go very well, hey it happens it’s just a game. However, if you’re a professional streamer and that failure makes you lose fans. That could mean a lack of rent money.
That is why I feel the term “elite” is a much better way to describe players because hardcore and casual seem to be relating to time commitments as opposed to skill levels. Players can be casual, playing a few hours a week, and be just as talented as someone who plays 24/7.
You can be in very high tier ranks in multiple games while just being a casual these days, and thus the elite title seems like it would be quite fitting. The terms of hardcore and casual definitely feel like they are lacking. However. until things change those are the terms are we stuck with for now.
Although Hardcore still should be used to describe many types of players, it should not apply to the massive amount of folks it does now. Being a talented player does not equate to being hardcore, and frankly diminishes their skill accomplishments. Being a casual elite is far more impressive if you have less time in the day and still succeed.
The term elite works across the board to describe skill, where those who are considered hardcore currently regarding their skill, can be known as “elite.” Those who are considered “semi-hardcore” currently could even be semi-elite and so on. That way there is a new category for casuals, casual elite, and casual semi-elite. Maybe different names, but you get the idea.
Even though most of us understand that hardcore, semi-hardcore, and casual are types of playstyles, casual has become associated with noob more or less. Most if not all players are casuals because they have actual jobs to sustain themselves while playing games for fun. Games are for fun, not sustaining life.
Should we have more labels to help distinguish players or is what we currently have good enough? Only time will tell.