So I was chillin on a forum I frequent when a cute post about someone's nieces playing with handhelds somehow led to the mocking of certain games and that inevitably led to the whole Casual VS. Hardcore discussion.
Since these days my blog is a lot of "fluff" I decided to tackle the whole "defining you as a gamer" drama to help my "blog cred" (yes, I'm smirking as I write all this).
In the past I've tackled a wide variety of topics from Girl Gamers and Feminism, Parenting and Kids gaming to the Value of games. Not to mention all my witty pieces on my life balancing family and games and my own gaming issues.
So now, I want to talk about these categories and labels that gamers inflict on themselves for some bizarre reason.
Once upon a time, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and I was a wee lass there were people who played video games. They were called "people." Some might remember those days and of course most of the "people" who played games were actually "kids." No labels based on the games you played or the console you played. I don't think I ever heard anyone being called an "Atari Fanboy" actually, I don't think the term "Fanboy" existed back then.
Before I go any further into this I want to offer a few personal insights into my messed up little brain.
If you haven't read more than just the first page of this blog (and ignored the links above) then you might not know that I am not very fond of labeling. Things are rarely black and white and because of this, you can't just place everything and everyone into neat little categories. Life just doesn't work that way. Usually when we try and put everything in neat little compartments we do a great disservice not only to the people, objects, whatever you're trying to classify but also to yourself. You limit your thinking that way and I am all for thinking. Thinking often, thinking big, thinking outside the box. I'm a mother and a wife and a woman and a video game enthusiast. On occasion I've been a writer, an artist, a nurse, a construction worker, a car service, a mediator, well you get the point. I would be insulted if someone were to call me "just a mom" or "just a girl gamer." With that in mind, lets talk gamer categories.
The 2 main categories are "casual" and "hardcore." when these terms are used they immediately conjure up a vision in a persons mind.
What did you picture in your mind as you read that?
For most people these equates to people who play games like Farmville or any of those other Facebook games I've never played. People who play Bejeweled and the other zillion games offered by Pop Cap. Older people, bored housewives, teenage girls playing Imagine games and Disney Sing it.
What did you picture this time?
A fat sweaty man dressed like a 90's reject wearing a wireless headset and playing a twitchy shooter or WOW in his parents basement with empty bottles of soda and bags of Cheetos strewn around the room?
If neither of these things popped into your mind, Kudos my enlightened one. If they did, well, there's still hope...
What I find interesting and sad is that it is these very "hardcore" gamers who go around labeling everyone. The same people who complain about how their hobby is misunderstood and misrepresented.
They complain about the fact that they "can't find a girlfriend that games" that there aren't enough REAL "gamer girls"
They complain that "casual gamers" are destroying their hobby.
And of course they complain about the "mainstream" vilifying games and gamers erroniously.
"Hardcore Gamers" have a laundry list of grievances against the world and a chip on their shoulder the size of Mount Rushmore. The worst (or perhaps funniest) part of this is that while I do agree that some people are very quick to place the woes of society on the shoulders of video games, Gamers go out of their way to isolate themselves and to quickly oust from their ranks anyone that doesn't fit into their assigned slot.
I want to stop for a moment and clarify that I don't believe EVERY SINGLE PERSON who games acts this way, but there is a lot of basis for the words "most", "many" and " a lot" So put the pitchforks and torches down.
Here are some of the impressions I've picked up from cruising different game related sites....Just some random thoughts I've encountered in my journeys....
Only casual players like girls and grandparents own a Wii, if by some chance "hardcore" players own one they must quickly justify it by stating that they only got it for a specific title such as Mario, Metroid, Mad World, No More Heroes etc. They must then add the following to their statements "But aside from that I haven't touched it." or "It just sits there gathering dust" or "I got rid of mine a while back"
Only casual players like bored housewives, chicks and old people play games like Bejeweled, Jewel Quest, Mahjong, brain age or card games. The exception would be Puzzle Quest...that is ok for "hardcore" players to admit to.
Only casual players, particularly clueless casual players, play movie licensed games and those cutesy Disney, Imagine, Dreamer, and Charm Girls Club games. It is also a requirement to proving how hardcore you are that you mock these games excessively.
Now Hardcore gamers are split into more categories. To keep it simple I'll limit this to a few categories, just remember, there are lots of little subsets in each one.
You have the Western RPG players and the J-RPG players.
On one side you have burly barbarians, knights and magicians. Swords, Sorcery, Castles and the player is the "chosen one", going from rags to riches and fame and a bevy of grateful maidens. You're character is usually mute.
On the other side you have girly men with crazy hairdos, pre-teen looking girls with high pitched voices and revealing outfits and the required annoying kids that eventually join your team. The swords are the size of cars, the magic has funny pseudo-Latin names and you're character has a preset past and an emo personality.
I am one of those people who likes both. While I'm all for standard Arthurian style stories, or Space Operas, I also enjoy angsty girly men moaning and complaining while saving the world. Both have merit and both are too damn long for me to ever actually finish a game.
For the West there are games like Oblivion, Mass Effect, The Witcher etc.
For the East there are games like Final Fantasy (pick a number), Lost Odyssey, Chrono Trigger, Star Ocean etc.
The battles between these 2 types of RPG gamers can get ugly. Accusations of too many zippers are countered with pointing out that their counterparts are brainless meatheads. Do not get in the middle of these arguements, they get messy.
*a quick aside*
There are dissentions among the ranks in both groups, though the biggest one would probably be in the JRPG group...there are those who love Final Fantasy 7 and those that think it is over-hyped, these arguments can lead to bodily harm, if you see one, run away.
Perhaps the greatest proof of being "hardcore" is not only a technical knowledge of gaming platforms but the rabid defense of you're preferred platform....Yes, Console Fanboys. There are 3 types, 4 if you include PC Gamers. I'll give you a quick rundown...
PC Gamers look down on everyone else. They will mock console players for their controller limitations, graphics, gameplay and game price, not to mention failure rates.
Playstation3 Gamers, will CONSTANTLY bring up the Xbox360 failure rate (you know the RROD jokes stopped being amusing about the time the phrase "the cake is a lie" did, which means basically as soon as they started) They will claim the power of the CELL. They will mock the $50 a year cost of Xbox Live. They will argue the graphical superiority of their console, the awesomeness of Blu-ray and the justifiably high price of said console because....to quote Sony Advertising..."It does Everything"
Xbox360 Gamers will claim superiority because of the Xbox Live service, Halo, Graphics, price, its huge came catalog, and they acknowledges the RROD but comforts themselves with an extended warranty and quick turnaround on repairs.
Both the Xbox and the PS3 Gamers will bash the Wii as a fad, and being full of shovelware, they don't even consider it worthy of competing with their almighty machines.
The Wii Gamers, these are not as loud as the other 2, they tend to quietly buy Wii games and lay low. However there are a vocal few who will holler at the top of their lungs MARIO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you play fighting games, you should have stick, and memorize the moves for the entire roster, if you play Soul Calibur, don't use Kilik, cause that screams button-mashing noob. For the record I played Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast and Kilik was my preferred character, still is.
If you play RPGs you must collect EVERYTHING in game, and know the exact mathematical formulas that are used to determine stats...lets not even get into the Pokemon players, they start discussing pokemon stats and techniques to level up your pokemon "right" and my eyes glaze over.
If you play shooters, you must be able to headshot everyone wit your eyes closed, you love Halo and/or Call of Duty.
There are so many different criteria for being a true hardcore player its ridiculous.
It leads to constant battles on forums across the net, it divides the people who game and it intimidates those that want to try playing games.
A normal person stumbling on one of these forums would probably walk away feeling that all the news casts about the evils of game are completely justified and true.
I consider myself a gamer. I love games, I play them for fun, for adventure, for stress relief. I love Fallout 3, I like Call of Duty, I love Soul Calibur, I love Imagine Modern Dancer and Style Savvy. I'm also female, in my 30's, married, and with kids. I've clocked hundreds of hours on various games. I spend my days reading various gaming sites, keeping up with gaming news. I buy at least 1 game a month, sometimes more.
But I don't fit into any of the "established" categories of hardcore gamer and you now what?
I'm kind of glad I don't.
Gamers have forgotten what games are supposed to be.
Its not about console power, its not about mine is better than yours. Its not about waggle or graphics, and its not about achievements and trophies.
Games are supposed to be fun, enjoyable. The ability to play multiplayer with people from around the world should be something that brings people together, regardless of circumstances and lifestyles, you can connect with someone from a place you've probably never been and might never visit but here you are, talking and sharing your hobby with each other. It should be a positive experience.
When a game goes Multi-platform, there shouldn't be massive revolt and threats of Boycotts, you should be happy that now many others will get to play a game that you enjoy.
When you run across a girl who plays games, regardless of the game, whether its Halo or Build-a-bear, you should treat her like any other gamer and you should rejoice that thanks to these "casual" and "tween" games, thanks to the Wii and its "gimmicks" and "waggle" and "shovelware", more girls, women, people in general are discovering the fun and depth of gaming. You should encourage them to explore the possibilities, rather than mock them for their game choice.
The worst thing to happen to gaming is this elusive title "hardcore gamer".
It divides the gamers, it alienates the newcomers it vindicates those that vilify games and gamers.
I'm proud to not be hardcore.