Fanning the flames

Makkaio over at the Fickle Corebear is the latest person to jump onto the flaming juggernaut that is the hardcore vs. casual “debate” (if you’re going to “debate” make sure you bring ammo and asbestos undies). You can check his post out for more links, I’ve already told y’all I’m lazy.

Rants and hyperbole aside, it’s a great discussion not only because we like to put people in easily-quantifyable boxes, but because I think it points — though I’m not sure how directly — not only to how we play games but also why we play them and what we expect from them. It’s far too facile to say Hardcore player = Type A personality, because in fact I know loads of ultra-casual players who are pretty type A in real life (and I admire them for actually being able to relax in games), and I’m sure many of the mouthy, brash, bossy “TypeA”-type players in games may be quite shy and/or laid back outside the game. Still, there’s probably some correlation — say what you like about Bartle’s types, they do at least give us a handle on basic styles and preferences, and I don’t know a great many social, explorer-heavy type players who would call themselves hardcore.

But I’m getting side-tracked. (Me? Perish the thought.) What Makk’s post suddenly made me wonder is why we seem to equate hardcore with smart and casual with stupid. No no, don’t dismiss that out of hand — check back on some of the hardcore/casual debates you’ve seen. It’s often said these days that hardcore players are the ones who “care more” or “know more” about the game, and the implication is often made that they “make the effort to learn” the game — by further implication, then, that casual players are hippie-layabouts who don’t really give a stuff what they’re logged into as long as they can sniff flowers and braid someone’s hair. Or is it the other way round?

All right, hyperbole again, but still not necessarily inaccurate.

On the other hand, if you look a little more closely, you’ll see that the reverse often happens too. The “casual” contingent, often also equated with “role-players,” “carebears,” “girls,” and “long-haired slap-ass crazy hippies” (okay, I made that last one up) tends to have a rather low opinion of the “hardcore” contingent, saying that they’re so concerned with squeezing every last drop out of a bonus that they miss the forest for the trees.

Both sides have a point. That’s not my point. I was just struck by — and interested in — the unspoken, unconscious assumptions we start making when we try to label stuff. Myself included. I was intrigued to find myself almost offended by some of the subtext I (thought I) read in Makk’s post. Unintentional subtext for sure, but read there by me all the same — “Whaddaya mean, I’m stupid because I’m casual?” I’m tempted to read back through my own posts to see what my underlying assumptions are, but it’s harder to see your own, and it means I’d have to read all my posts again. In any case I know they’re there — I’m as biased as the next person, only my biases are right and yours are all wrong. (Do I need {humour} tags?)

Ah, we Earthlings. So strange.

PS: Yes, I’m posting on a Saturday. Don’t get used to it. I reserve the right, yadda yadda.
PPS: Haiku Sunday tomorrow. The theme is … hardcore v. casual! Or whatever you want.