Casual or hardcore? Yes

I saw some trade chat yesterday that got me to thinking. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous given the standard level of trade chat, but it wasn’t that the chat was stimulating, rather that it started a train of thought for me. The chat line itself was a normal stupid troll, laced with expletives, misspellings and bad grammar, about how “dirty casual” players were ruining the game and should unsub and/or go perform an anatomically impossible act with themselves, or possibly with their mothers. (The troll’s logic was not exactly crystal clear, but you get the idea.)

So I began to wonder, what exactly defines a “casual” player? For that matter, what defines a “hardcore” player? Are the two mutually exclusive? Why exactly is “casual” a pejorative term? And why does anyone care how others play a game?

That last two questions are undoubtedly far too psychologically complex for me to tackle, but I am betting the answers have something to do with Kris Kristofferson’s line from “Jesus Was a Capricorn” :

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on
Prove they can be better than at any time they choose
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on

In thinking about the other questions, though, I started by looking at my own style of game play. Do I think of myself as casual or hardcore? I have always tended to identify with the casual group, but in fact when I think about it, I sometimes play with what I identify as hardcore characteristics. (Warning: The below contains stereotyped assumptions!)

Why I might be a casual player:

  • I have a robust real life — family, job, artistic hobbies such as music and pottery — all of which is far more important to me than a computer game.
  • I usually play only in the evenings or when I have a few extra hours on a day off.
  • I use the game as escape and relaxation, not as a competitive endeavor except against myself.
  • I have no qualms about taking periodic breaks from playing, for a few days or a couple weeks.
  • I played for years without raiding, and though I enjoy it now, if I stopped tomorrow I would still find the game engaging.
  • I think people should enjoy the game however they see fit, unless their enjoyment requires them to gank me, ninja group loot, deliberately sabotage group events, or otherwise screw with how I or others like to play.
  • I don’t expect everyone to play at the same level I do, or to know all the things I know. So I do not think less of players who ask game questions that I have known the answer to for years. And I would never belittle someone asking such questions.

Why I might be a hardcore player:

  • I expect players taking part in certain game activities to do so with appropriate gear, skills, and attitude. I am annoyed by people who want to raid with a standing guild team but refuse to gear up, will not work to improve their class skills or raid awareness, or routinely show up late. If they do not have time to prepare for raiding, then they should not insist on participating.
  • I enjoy improving my own skills and often spend time doing so, by reading, testing different techniques, practicing at target dummies, etc. I always feel there is room for improvement, with my mains as well as my alts. Although I am not a theory crafter, I spend a lot of time reading theory pieces.
  • Sometimes I pay attention to meter numbers and judge myself or others by them. I don’t get bothered by small differences, but I do get judgmental if I feel someone (including myself) is just not performing adequately.

What I concluded from this thinking exercise is that some parts of my game play are casual, and some parts are not.  Sometimes I lean more one way than the other, but it varies. When I first started playing, I would log in only on weekends, and all I did was level one character slowly, interspersing exploration and gathering into the process. I enjoyed that playstyle then. Now I log in nearly every night, and I raid four nights a week. I enjoy this playstyle now. I am somewhat hardcore when I am raiding, not so much when I am not.

And I think that is true for the majority of active players. I think we all vary the intensity level of our game play, over the course of hours or days or months or years. Some people go very far to one extreme or the other, and extreme phases last longer for some than for others. With ten million players there are always outrider exceptions, but I bet the majority of very active players will swing from one direction to the other during their game careers, often more than once.

So am I a casual or hardcore player? The answer is yes. Maybe we should stop categorizing players as “casual” or “hardcore” and realize it’s more of a transitory game style than a personal trait. And just because you happen to be in one transitional stage now does not mean it’s OK to trash someone who is in a different one.

But of course, “everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on.”

*sigh*

 

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

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