More on Gamer Literacy

by Darius Kazemi on June 19, 2006

in Uncategorized

So a while ago I wrote a post on gamer taxonomy, specifically talking about how the words “casual” and “hardcore” don’t actually describe anything worthwhile. First, I want to address some reader comments, and then if I’m feeling to the task, I’ll write some more of my thoughts on the issue.

Troy’s Comment

Troy Goodfellow of Portico (a great blog covering strategy games and the process of reviewing games) wrote:

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?”

Which is super-interesting, because a game like Total War is what a lot of people would call hardcore. And yet by Troy’s definition, this guy is casual because he’s only interesting a small slice of the gaming pie out there. Troy also had a good point that I hadn’t thought of: one way that a person can be perceived as more hardcore is if they follow the gaming press.

Darren’s Comment

Darren Torpey of The Designer’s Scroll (his not-updated-often-enough gaming blog) wrote:

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.

Ahh, mastery. James Paul Gee has written (in What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy) some great things about games as mastery systems.

Tying it All Together

So between what I wrote and what my readers wrote, we find certain attributes that may describe a gamer who is… I actually don’t know what we’re describing. Some would say a hardcore gamer. Some would say a literate gamer. I’m sure there’s a better term.

  • Mastery level: how much you seek to dominate a game system.
  • Heavy time commitment: simple hours per week spent gaming.
  • Variety of gaming interest: do you only play World of Warcraft and nothing else, or do you have gaming wanderlust, always seeking new experiences?
  • Interest in gaming current events: do you read gaming blogs, magazines, etc?
  • Giving back to the community: do you contribute to the gaming community somehow?

I added that last bullet point just now because I think that propels you into a new level of involvement with video games. Do you run a fan page? Have you contributed to a community project like GameFAQs or MobyGames? Are you active on a forum? Maybe you’ve made a mod or two?

Anyway, I think what I’m trying to describe here is someone for whom gaming is a primary interest. Wish I had a word for it. But I think that if anyone has maybe three of the five bullet points I listed, they fit into this nebulous category.

Questions for Readers

Do you have any more bullet points to add?

Do you have a name for what I’m trying to describe?

{ 1 comment }

Darren Torpey July 14, 2006 at 4:00 am

This is a very interesting topic, so I’ll have to keep myself from going too far on a tangent here, but….

One thing I want to point out is that I in no way meant to belittle the value of mastery as an aspect of the fun and deep involvement that games can provide. As you know, Darius, I love Gee’s book on games, learning and literacy.

As a matter of fact, I think that mastery can, on some level, be an even more important aspect of the gaming experience for “casual” gamers than for less-than-casual ones. The trick is: how much mastery is needed for it to be appreciable? Adding to that I’d ask: how much mastery does it take to reach the height of the game’s experience or experience most of its content?

For example: how much mastery does it take to simply get through all of Final Fantasy X’s storyline — as opposed to how much it takes for a presumably hardcore player to accomplish all the tricky and time-consuming side-goals?

(and I’ll actually just leave it at that!)

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