Hardcore vs. Casual: A Question of Literacy

by Darius Kazemi on June 7, 2006

in Uncategorized

So I was having a discussion with Ian Schreiber a few weeks ago, about how the terms “casual gamer” and “hardcore gamer” don’t actually describe people in a very accurate way. For instance, while most people would consider me more on the hardcore side of the spectrum, I know people who play Windows Solitaire like 60 hours per week. Meanwhile, I’m playing Galactic Civilizations II for like one hour, if that. Who’s more hardcore? I’m playing the hardcore game, but the solitaire person is clearly a more hardcore player.

It seems to me that the terms “casual” and “hardcore” are really describing different levels of gaming literacy. The 60 hr/wk solitaire player is casual because he or she would have no idea what to do if you sat them down in front of an Xbox with Halo, or a PC with SimCity, or even an 8-bit Nintendo running Super Mario Bros. On the other hand, you can give me, the hardcore player, five minutes with pretty much any game and I’ll have a decent idea of what I’m supposed to be doing, and how I should go about doing it.

I was going to write more, but that’s about all I have to say. For now.


Craig Perko June 7, 2006 at 4:48 am

On a related note, I recently noticed that although I gain skill at a given game extremely quickly, as soon as I stop playing all that skill goes away…

This happens really quickly. In less than a month, I go from able to beat a game in “hard” to total beginner.

I’m hardcore! You can tell by the way I fumble any game you happen to name…

Patrick Dugan June 7, 2006 at 5:41 pm

Not to undermine time investments in a game (I’m convinced the future of the industry is in games that require twenty minutes to enjoy, instead of hours) but the question of literacy is probably a more intentive one.

The question is, in a new genre such as drama, where the literacy isn’t there on either side of the fence, how would one go about designing a casual drama game?

Troy Goodfellow June 11, 2006 at 4:43 pm

I think you are right that the difference is literacy. Do they follow game development? Do they regularly read gaming news? Do they spend discretionary income on games?

And I think there are levels of “casualness”. I have a good friend who I would consider a casual gamer since he is always asking me for advice on what games to buy and he usually wants something similar to something he already plays. “Is there anything out there like Pirates?” “When is the next Total War game coming out?” And before he met me, it was just Madden, Madden, Madden.

Darren Torpey June 19, 2006 at 1:53 pm

Thanks for bringing this up, Darius. I’ve been thinking about the casual vs. hardcore lately because I always find it hard to explain to people where I stand on the supposed spectrum.

How do you describe a gamer who buys more than a dozen games a year and never beats any of them? I play games largely for the novelty of the experience (as Craig so aptly pointed out a while ago).

I’m extraordinarily games-literate, I really get into the games I play, and I consider games to be a deep part of my entertainment time in my life. Together, I’d say that’s what makes me “hardcore”.

I just hate the implication that hardcore means you have to master everything you play and turn games into a pathetic, juvenile pissing contest.

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