Over the last year or so I have seen a bit of confusion amongst mainstream video game journalists about how the term “hardcore” should be applied. Obviously different segments of the community use it in different ways, and those uses may not necessarily make sense or work together. Often attitude or skill level is the key. A friend of mine was ranked in the top 20,000 players in the world on XBox Live for Call of Duty: Black Ops. When he plays a game, he really plays it. He researches, he spends a lot of time and energy, and he always gets pretty good – good enough to beat most casual players. It’s easy to point to him and say “he’s a hardcore gamer.”
Then again, I have that attitude with Street Fighter, and not with any other game. But I do play a lot of games, of many different kinds. Am I hardcore? My sister spends hours playing mobile games of all kinds, constantly breaking up her day with a quick game. Is she hardcore? You can see how it gets confusing.
Many game journalists have responded to this confusion by writing articles claiming that there is no such thing as hardcore, that it is a divisive term that should be shelved, or that hardcore is dead. The interesting thing is, with the up-coming release of the next generations of the two major consoles, and particularly with regard to the XBone, this confusion seems to have been resolved.
The Xbone seems to be many things besides a games console, and was certainly pitched as such at E3 earlier this year, much to “hardcore” gamers dismay. This was good in a way though – at last we have a proper way to define the term. A hardcore gamer is now anyone who habitually plays games on consoles or PCs. They are contrasted with “casual gamers” who mainly play quick simple games on mobile devices and tablets. Attitude or skill level no longer have any part in the definition.
I just read an interview in Hyper magazine #238 with Ted Price, the CEO of the independant developer Insomniac. Price used the terms precisely in this way, which suggests to me that that is how industry professionals have been using them for a while. What was even more interesting was that the journalist interviewing him proved the distinction a valid one. Twice he asked questions and was met with a response like “well, that’s not true. It’s true of our past console games, sure, but we also have Outernauts, a very successful facebook game. And it’s not true of that at all.”
Hyper is focused on console and PC gaming, and the fact that their journalist wasn’t even aware that Insomniac had a very successful mobile/social media game proves to me that there really are two kinds of gamers.
The funny thing is, that makes me a hard core gamer. And I’m not sure I feel comfortable with that title. I feel like a fraud somehow…