8-Bit Thought Bubbles

What makes someone “hardcore” at something? That's the topic I am going to delve into today. This concept can be applied to any different industry, career field or form of entertainment if you think about it; however I've heard it more often used in gaming that anywhere else. I feel that the shift towards free to play games and social gaming – think Farmville, iPhone games, etc. – is causing this discussion to pop up more and more as traditional gamers feel their turf is being invaded by people who aren’t ACTUALLY gamers.

I have no idea why people get so upset over this topic, but they do. Isn’t having more people gaming GOOD for video games? I guess the counter-argument is that if the masses trend towards what are sometimes perceived to be bad games, then good games will cease to be created due to companies catering to the market.

So is someone who plays Farmville, Mafia Wars, Angry Birds or another similar game automatically unable to be hardcore? Is it true that no one who plays those games also plays the “traditional” games like Madden, Call of Duty and Oblivion? What if I make the argument that simple social games are actually more innovative then your yearly releases that net a billion dollars in sales and the Call of Dutys and Maddens of the world and their hardcore senseless fans are actually the PROBLEM with gaming?

Let’s see if we can dive a little deeper into the rabbit hole and see what conclusions we can come to…not that my opinion means ANYTHING in the end. Let’s start here: What makes a gamer hardcore?

Some people like to think it's hours spent, but I don’t like that definition because you can be pretty terrible at a game and not really all that hardcore even if you sink 100 hours into it. I think you have to go deeper than that. Can you be a hardcore player and only play social or browser games? I think you can. I believe that a hardcore player is someone who delves into the mechanics of the game to try to be the best at it. If you are min/maxing your stats in a game to ensure that you are the ultimate weapon at the expense of maybe just messing around and not having as much – at least according to some people – fun, I’d call you hardcore.

Here's the catch. I don’t think it requires some massive amount of game play in terms of time spent to be that way. You can absolutely be a hardcore gamer but have a limited amount of time to play. To me this defines the hardcore gamer. Someone who looks into the rules to find ways to bend them and exploit holes to be the absolute best they can be. They will adjust their play style to meet what is “the best” instead of making the game adapt to their game style.

Now of course you can be hardcore and not be as extreme as I’m making you out to be above. I think if you play a million hours on a ton of different games and have a 30k gamerscore you could argue that you are hardcore and I’d listen. You certainly aren’t a casual gamer but I think hardcore is such an extreme word that it should imply something else. I’d say I play about 20-30 hours of games a week. I’m not sure where that places me overall in the grand scheme of gaming in America today, but I wouldn’t consider myself hardcore. Once upon a time I would have called myself a hardcore player of shooters, but those days are long gone.

So if you micromanage your Farm or City on facebook to the point where real life has started to fade away…I’m pretty sure you're hardcore. I don’t understand why you are pushing gaming in that direction instead of getting a nice safe AAA title and going into that, but that's just me being a snob.

If you buy Call of Duty or Madden in their incremental improvements on a yearly basis and then sink time into it but never get any better or try to understand the game mechanics. You aren’t hardcore. I’m sorry. You are just supporting publishers that put out the same game year after year while charging higher prices and reserving more and more content for DLC. (Notice I put some qualifiers in there so that not everyone who buys those games are disqualified, but I have a feeling a good chunk fall into my definition.)

It's so hard to classify these things that I’m not even sure my point is getting across perfectly here, nor am I even sure that it is POSSIBLE for my point on a topic this broad and far-reaching to be made in less than a novel dedicated to the subject. If you read through I hope you enjoyed this journey in my convoluted and poorly arranged brain. Just remember I had a baby 12 weeks ago so I’m tired and cranky. Happy reading!