Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Classes of Gamers

Posted on September 28, 2009 at 5:55 PM

Oh videogames. They both bring together yet divide. I suppose it's like anything, really. Around the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the rise of this wonderful thing called the internet, videogamers began to amass. Here they join sides, groups, and begin discussions which often lead to arguments. It was like The Gathering from Highlander only there's no prize for winning. In fact, there's no winning at all, just lines being drawn and sides taken. If you've read my previous blog about fanboys, you know the roots of this, but now it's time to expand on it. In videogames, there seem to be two primary classifications for gamers: the casual and the hardcore.


In layman's terms. A casual gamer is a person who plays videogames sparingly. They don't dedicate their time to it and often aren't knowledgeable on it other than a few games they've played at a friend's house. They have a "pick up and play" mentality. Once done, they move on. They don't commit themselves to learning a game or playing hours on end, having more fun with games such as Rock Band or party games.


A "hardcore" gamer is someone who dedicates themselves to a game, really wanting to achieve all they can and fight the final fight. They'll pay for online gaming, spend hours gaining experience in an RPG or achievements on an online shooter. They are often knowledgeable of their gaming, its history (to a degree) and keep up on new games coming out, reviews, previews and so forth.

Yeah, but they also are superficial and won't play a game unless it's "badass." How do I know this? Well, in a recent trip to a videogame store (a dead concept, if you ask me, unless its retro gaming) it consisted of mainly hardcore gamers. Let's face it, young men who go to a store dedicated to videogames are probably dedicated to playing them, thus they are labeled "hardcore." In doing so, the usual conversations are overheard: how the Wii is inferior, how totally cool some game looked (incidentally, it was the awful game LAIR) and how awesome they are going to E3 or reading internet gaming news. I find it incredibly ironic that by only playing "mature" games, throwing aside anything that appears simple or childish on the outside, is a rather immature and childish approach to gaming. Most haven't played anything older than a Playstation or N64 - most weren't even alive yet. No wonder the industry is still trying to find its legitimacy. Especially considering that, in the end, these are all still videogames - a media form that is still struggling in terms of public perception. If every gamer acted like the so-called "hardcore" then it's no wonder nobody takes it seriously despite the revenue generated. To many, it's still just a toy.


I've also noticed a trend with hardcore gamers, and perhaps this is in relation to by previous blog about fanboys, is their often elitist attitude towards everything and everyone else. Of course, the irony here is that a little over a decade ago, many of these hardcore gamers were, in fact, casual gamers. Thanks to the gain in popularity of gaming with the Playstation, many of the casual gamers before that were now more focused on playing games and were now considered hardcore. That moniker has stayed with them since; once you become a hardcore gamer, you really don't regress back to begin a casual gamer.

But what about the group of people that, during that time, were already hardcore gamers? People who read the magazines and hunted down hard to find games, maybe even mail-ordering them. Or even wearing Nintendo T-Shirts in pride. At time, they were hardcore as we know it today: rather immature, somewhat still ignorant and incredibly judgmental. Since then, though, they've grown up. They've moved past that stage which is why I have to bring up this question: why are gamers labeled in an either/or scenario? You're either a casual or a hardcore gamer, nothing more. There's really no reason why there are only two categories to this. An entire demographic, if not generation, is neither one of these. I should know...because I am neither one of these myself.

So to this I bring a notion to the table. You see, I play games too often and understand too much of how it all works to be labeled a casual gamer, and I'm also too intelligent, mature and open to numerous gaming outlets to labeled hardcore. While those elements might appear to classify one as hardcore, go up to any "hardcore gamer" and see if you can really have any conversation outside of talking about their Halo rankings or the totally awesome gun they got in Gears of War. This is why many have labeled them "Gramers." A person who might know a lot about gaming, dedicate themselves to playing, but really limit themselves to select popular titles. For better or worse, this is the audience that "hardcore" has become synonymous with-then again, it was probably synonymous with it all along and as those hardcore gamers get older, they realize how utterly stupid it really is.


As a result, I feel a third category of gamers has to be created. It's that group that is neither casual nor hardcore, but simply gamers who play, know and appreciate gaming from various eras, often don't fall into fanboy arguments and, to be honest, are how most of the hardcore gamers should be in the first place. So what is such a fitting name?


Well, there's retro gamers, who I love, and I would classify myself as such if I didn't play new games more than I do my old cartridges. Many of this type of gamer are often, at the very least, knowledgeable of retro gaming. They understand and appreciate older titles even if they've never played them. If you can honestly tell me that a "hardcore" gamer will take one glance at Ducktales on the NES and think it was cool, then you haven't really tried talking to many of these hardcore gamers lately. It wouldn't hold their attention, after all, look at those awful graphics and horrible sound. Where's the choir symphony, dynamic camera angles and texture mapping? A game isn't good unless it has those. As previously mentioned, it's a whole new generation, mid to late teens, sometimes into the early 20s that are "hardcore." Appreciating anything before the Playstation (if not the Playstation 2) is out of the question.


But no, retro is too limiting of a description all though it bears a slight resemblence and many in this new category probably do retro gaming from time to time.

There's import gamers also, a small demographic and often the one with the most interesting stories about particular Japanese games (especially those always-fun dating games). Yet that group is pretty exclusive, very few actually play import games in the first place. But this group at least understands the interest of doing so. Like the retro aspect, even if they don't do it themselves, they at least appreciate those that do and don't judge them in doing so.


So let's let look at the qualities of this new grouping:


They're often intelligent and knowledgeable of games past, present and future. They understand and know quite a bit about the gaming industry itself. They play games for the sake of playing games, not to be trendy or cool, and they don't let their presumptions or assumptions of titles, box art, or consoles they don't own turn into a fanboy argument about what is better or worse. I could be cool here and say "Well...they're "real gamers" or "true gamers"" but that's a little vague and surprisingly more pretentious than the term "hardcore."


Instead, I present this as the new category: The Appreciative Gamer.

In my own search of self-identity, I feel the need to give myself a label. The more I thought about it, the more I realized there are many others that approach gaming like me: those that grew up during the NES and SNES eras, saw gaming take off and now, being older and more mature, can't relate to today's "hardcore" demographic. We certainly understand them, we were like them once, but look at them and in comparing to our own hindsight realize how ugly they can be sometimes. Oh, there are exception (I saw a hardcore gamer buy Persona 3 to the shagrin of his friends oogling at Resident Evil 5) but they are often rare.


So I feel an appreciation towards things that are videogames, even if I don't play them as much as I used to. I appreciate its history in combination with its current influence on entertainment. I appreciate the simple titles as well as the complex, the classic games as well as the new, and even the casual gamers and the hardcore as those two classes rarely appreciate anything outside themselves. The casuals are too unwilling to explore or dedicate themselves, perhaps even frown on videogames except at a friend's house, and the hardcore too unwilling to have an open dialogue with anyone and adopt an elitist attitude.

I am neither yet both, and I feel the only way to acknowledge a growing group such as myself is to throw out the idea of gaming demographics not merely being limited by two classes. There shouldn't be a "either/or" between two sides, especially considering other media really doesn't set out to classify their demographics so delicately. Of course, this classification comes from the internet which is synominous with videogame culture, but that's a completely different blog to write, not for here.


So, if you're tired of the "hardcore" gamers and the "casual" gamers, then try out a new grouping where people just play, discuss, show respect...and that's really about it. It's pretty simple if you think about it, I just think some haven't taken the initiative to really bring it up. By doing so, you kind of alienate the hardcore and casual gamers that might listen or read. I contest, though, that you're already alienated from them and it really wouldn't make a difference. The Class is for you and you alone, not them. You don't want to associate with them because you can't. You can converse with a Casual gamer yet feel a conversation with a Hardcore gamer is painful due to their exclusive fraternity-like demeanor.

No...this is for you. And myself. And anyone who is tired of simple classifications. If you're reading and still feel apart from these three, then make another. There's no reason not to. Perhaps you're a dedicated gamer on only one game, spending hours on it (World of Warcraft is a perfect example) yet know nothing out gaming outside of it. You can join us, "Appreciative" also means respect towards others, or just find a new category for yourself. Or...just not care at all. That's alright, though, we appreciate that as well.

Signing Off




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1 Comment

Reply toosmartforbond2
11:03 PM on December 8, 2009 
Mmmm, appreciation ... how about Gaming Gourmand? It's alliterative!


Still, I like the classification bit. People are quick to pick a label, not as quick to define it in any quantifiable way. I don't think I've met a genre I couldn't find a good game in. The trouble is in sifting through the garbage to find the treasure.

But, hey, if I do it with books, movies, paintings, art, and music I damn sure well better be doing it for games. No self-respecting gamer should do otherwise.