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.

8 thoughts on “Fanning the flames

  1. “What Makk’s post suddenly made me wonder is why we seem to equate hardcore with smart and casual with stupid.”

    Well, “we” don’t do that. The hardcores do. 🙂

    Actually I think there are two axis at work here.

    Hardcore Knowledge vs Casual Knowledge
    Hardcore Attitude vs Casual Attitude.

    What we *see* is the attitude access. But it is only through actions that the knowledge axis is revealed.

    And obviously I’m biased, but my problem with the hardcore attitude types is that they seem to always be in someone’s face about something, and that just screws everything up.

    Anecdote time!! I was in a small-ish WOW guild, back pre-TBC. We regularly did 5 & 10 man instances successfully but weren’t really big enough to do anything larger. And we were definitely a casual attitude guild. Then one day a hardcore attitude player joined us. He’d been in a raiding guild, had great gear and all that, but for some reason he decided to join us.

    And every instance he went into went to hell fast. Why? Because he was constantly telling people what they were doing wrong. The leaders of our guild, being casual attitude, didn’t shut him down, hoping he’d get a clue and mellow out. But he didn’t, and suddenly instances we’d been sashaying through with lots of laughs and great success became chain wipe sessions of hurt feelings and resentment as the new guy would switch characters because “our healer can’t handle it” or “the hunters aren’t doing enough DPS” or whatever.

    Eventually enough was enough and he got booted, and we went back to having great success and lots of fun doing those instances.

    This guy was, on the face of it, the personification of hardcore. He had like 5 level 60 (cap at the time) characters and gear that none of us could hope to get without joining a raiding guild. And yet he ruined everything he touched.

    So in looking back, he had Hardcore Attitude, but not Hardcore Knowledge.

  2. I swear, the more we try to define “hardcore” (and “casual”) the more heads those terms sprout. (And ouch, I’m just glad your guild survived that.)

    Maybe it’s time to find a new terminology to describe basic gaming styles. I’d say let’s dump them altogether, but we’re a box-sticking, label-making kind of species.

  3. Don’t forget the time axis. That gives us, what, three axes so far? Eight “quadrants”? How many more dimensions can we stuff in there?

  4. @Ysh – I think you helped me say what I was trying to say a bit better. As I said, I view both terms through old-school eyes and don’t see the terms as negatives. And I definitely wasn’t implying any level of intelligence at all. I just kind of rambled in writing to try and capture the feeling of what we termed hardcore and casual back then.

    @Pete – I agree about attitude and knowledge. Back in the day, as you may remember, hardcore knowledge was far superior to attitude. Unfortunately, by today’s standards, the attitude portion seems to readily define the term now.

    I still consider myself hardcore by old-school standards. I’m a stat geek. I’m all about dialing my character to do its best at whatever it is suppose to do. But I hardly have the attitude by today’s standards of hardcore.

  5. @makk — I know you didn’t, I was just struck, while I was reading your post, about some of the attitudes we may hold and not realise, or the subtext to stuff we might say that we don’t intend. There *is* a general trend to belittle the other side, but then I guess that’s certainly not unique to gaming. 😐

  6. @Pete it’s funny that you say he “ruined” everything he touched, but at the same time … put one of your casual guys in with his raiding guild and I’m sure the same thing would happen. They would ruin the way the hardcore raiding guild’s raids or instances, etc.

    They’re two different worlds and it’s tough to live in both, honestly. I’ve tried (god knows I’m getting better at it :P) but my first real stint with it was with the CoWs in WAR.

    Previous to that I had always been a raider; always trying to max out so I could do everything I wanted to in the game. I got my character to 20 as quick as possible so I could have a mount and … quickly burned myself out.

    But then I went on an exploration jaunt with one of the CoWs … just to sight-see, just to experience what the world itself had to offer, and I calmed down a lot. I was able to understand a bit better, why a lot of people don’t rush and going back to the WoW side of things, rolling an alt and just … going through the world from level 1 on up experiencing things … was fun.

    So I really think the two worlds AREN’T as mutually exclusive as we’d all like them to be, it’s just really tough to live in both, especially if you’re doing both in the same world. You can’t un-know what you already know about the game so if you’re hardcore, but you’re taking it easy, you have to just bite your tongue when you see people doing things their way and not necessarily they “best” way as dictated by the mechanics of the game.

    Their way IS the best way for them, and vice versa. The casual vs. hardcore debate is stupid. There is no “Us vs. Them,” everyone is just playing.

    Now bads are a different story all together 😛

  7. At least in regard to what you’re talking about, I think it boils down to achievers vs everyone else. It’s about goals. Gamers whose main thrill in gaming is achieving, in beating challenges, have trouble understanding gamers who are more in it for moment-to-moment experience; and vis versa.

    I put way too many hours each week into gaming. By some standards, that would make me hardcore. But I rarely join competitive multiplayer matches or raids because I’m more the whistling explorer type (not that I can whistle). In Call of Duty multiplayer, I care less about winning than about enjoying myself during the match. And not getting a lot of joy out of achievement is probably why I haven’t played an MMO (except in beta) in years.

    Really, it’s silly that these different types of players are forced to group with each other all the time. Why don’t multiplayer matchmaking systems include playstyles beyond difficulty level? Why don’t MMOs help players find people who want to do the things they want to do, rather than simply help them fill a class vacancy?

    Thanks! I’ve figured out my post for today.

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