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Casual Vs Hardcore

Casual vs Hardcore

Gabe sounds off on the Casual vs Hardcore debate.

There's an issue that always seems to arise but never gets the proper discussion it deserves. Without this people aren't able to actually comprehend it as well as they should be; The Casual Gamer debate. The word gamer is in and of itself a term that I personally am not entirely fond of either, but we'll avoid that discussion for the time being and focus solely on the 'Casual' portion. That said, what is a casual gamer? What is a hardcore gamer? More so, why the hell do so many people care what the status is on the opposite end of the spectrum?

Those are questions that are possible to be, but for the most part aren't, easily answered due to the lack of any valid reasoning. It's safe to assume that many people do not understand the distinction here, so a quick explanation of the two is in order. Casual Gamers are generally so classified due to their limited time to actually play games. They aren't able to take the time and play something extensively deep or complex, (such as Mass Effect,Elder Scrolls, or even Gears of War)that will require any real dedication to the story or gameplay. Ultimately, this results in the "norm" being that they will often turn to flash games, iPhone apps, or their ilk for a quick little time waster. This begs the question; why can't/won't they play some typically "hardcore" games over a short period of time? That's what I'm building up to here - They do.

Casual, by true definition, is simply referring to how much time one has to play a game, not what they play. The association with Casual Gamers, and pick up and play titles such as Solitaire is formed only from the fact that due to limited time, they need something that starts quick and they won't need to adapt to anything unique. It's a mere coincidence that those games appear childish, family friendly, and don't include gratuitous amounts of blood and gore.

This moves onto the "hardcore" variant of this discussion. It's not exactly a brain-buster to determine what this consists of based on my description above; the mirror opposite.

Hardcore has the time to play difficult games, master all the secrets and control schemes, or just rank up on some multiplayer. The only true difference is their ability to play video games well. That does not imply hardcore is better than casual when it comes to playing the games but hardcore does have an obvious time advantage. Nothing more or nothing less. There happens to be a whole bunch of subsets in play here (Pro's, Fitness games, etc) but those are neither here nor there so we'll avoid those for sake of time. The typical “Hardcore” player by most peoples standard is that 13 year old boy foaming out the mouth every time he dies at Halo, those people that play those murder-simulators, and just play games a little too much.

Something to get clear right now before we move on is this; Casual Gamer does not and should not mean “Your mum”. While this is obviously the common misconception and general opinion of what a “Casual Gamer” is, it's not. As stated earlier, casual is just that, casual. So yes, technically speaking it's easy to say that your parents are casual if they enjoy playing the Wii now and again. It's not because of what they choose to play, it's because of how often they choose to play it. It's merely a coincidence that they tend to lean towards certain games. It doesn't make them any worse, it just means that it fits what they enjoy. Many people today grow up playing video games or witnessing extreme violence in popular media of their choosing. Those interactions reflect on their outlook on certain situations; Blood, guts, gore, even killing to an certain degree (different discussion all together for that one). Eventually you just outright get immune to it and can overlook it in what ever you happen to be doing.

Mostly in the older generations, that stuff wasn't a common thing to see in movies. Many scenes were implied with at most some blood or maybe even a quick shot of the after-math. Eventually they started getting creative with their props/effects and could begin to show the death on scene for everyone to view. That just didn't happen right away, it took time and a few “social rules” of sorts had to be broken to pull it off.. Your mom, dad, or even your grandmother may not even have seen those types of films and as a result are not as used to it as we are. What if it was the other way around? What if they were used to it and did play what we play? Would that still make them casual in everyone's eyes or would they be an entirely different group by that point? I know it may be tough to wrap your head around, but lets leave it at this then move on. Many “hardcore” gamers are used to certain content in games while the older generation, whom of which are considered casual, are not. This easily results in them leaning towards more cartoony, fun, family based games they can play with others. Family time used to be extremely important. It isn't to the same extent anymore, but it's always good to do it some how. Give it a shot.

See, this is where it starts to get a tiny bit confusing. How exactly is a group of people with the lack of time to play certain games, or games longer for that matter, destroying hardcore gaming (or gaming as a whole in some opinions)? Assuming your answer wasn't an "It's not" and one of the reasons included "The market is catering to casual gamers now!" you should probably keep reading. The market is catering to casual gamers? Well sure I won't deny that but how is that a bad thing? Shouldn't we want the games we play to be a more friendly environment that even the "hardcore" demographic can hop in and start "head-shoting noobs" without a hassle?

No, being able to easily play a game no matter how deep, complex, or even simple it may be is not a bad thing. We'll always have our games that take extensive knowledge to master, just look at Dungeons and Dragons. D&D has been around for decades and while not a video game, is still a widely popular and very high on the "Hardcore" side of debate. Extensive number-work is in play, a ridiculous amount of rules are at work, stories have to be created and expressed in a believable and interesting way, and the sessions can last up to hours at a time(Which in turn can take days or weeks to fully complete). If casual gaming is going to destroy something, it's obviously not that.

Motion-control seems to be something that comes up now then as well. It's not entirely something that can be understood without some thought put into it; Why would physical activity make people consider something casual? The answer for this is the Wii. To elaborate on this, the games for the Wii. A good portion of the games for the Wii are considered "Family Friendly" which due to most casual games being well, family friendly, that connection has been made without any thought being put into it. That's the error though, how casual can swinging your arm and adding extra physical activities into your daily routine really be? It's a question that is better to pass over to the Kinect for answers.

The Kinect is, no matter what your opinions on it may be, an amazing piece of technology. It's what people originally expected out of the Wii: motion controlled gaming that copies your movements directly to the character on the screen. That obviously wasn't the case but the Kinect changed that. While some games require specific actions to be performed, for the most part a large selection of the titles already available require direct movement from you, the player. Jumping, ducking, side-stepping, punching, movement, anything you do is easily represented. It's a system that can, and indisputably does, cause you to sweat. You're not just sitting with a controller in your hand pressing buttons or doing that along with an occasional bonus arm wave. You're involved in the game at much more than a mental level, you're physically active within it.

Depending on your physical stature it's something you can play for a while, or not long at all. It's not for the faint of heart and you're going to do things you probably would never do otherwise. This mental/physical immersion does more than just allow you to play the game, it makes you experience real events. Kinect Sports, specifically the soccer game for this example, is what we're going to use to help express this. You have to make quick choices; Are they going to pass the ball to my left or right? Should I pass it left or right? Are they going to kick it to the left or right side of the goal? High or Low? Should I go left in case they pass left? What if they pass right instead? The number of problems you face in the easily less than 30 seconds it may take for one team to get to the other end of the field is overwhelming and yet we don't consciously answer them. We take the questions and their answers into consideration so quickly that we don't stop to really think about it. These problems are the same ones we face in 'Hardcore' First Person Shooters like Halo or Call of Duty. Are enemies going around that way? Should I put a claymore at this point or move further ahead and risk being seen? Do I look for someone left or right when entering this room? Do I risk wasting a grenade now for safety or do I hold onto it for when I know I'll need it? What if someone is in there and the grenade would have been a better idea? Those are just some of the question that are encountered and some really aren't that much different in any way other than context. So why is motion-control a casual variation of the gaming medium? If anything motion-control, at least the Kinect (being the forefront of this argument), invokes a sense of immersion that, in the end, should easily be on the far side of this ridiculous "Hardcore" spectrum that appears to exist.

We, as a community, have an issue of letting go. We can't, and for many will not, accept that there are different areas of games that are segregated for no reason other than to 'protect' the genre of games that specific people play. When we can finally accept that Casual games, even some simple ones like the some-what recent and popular Angry Birds, can be as complex as some best AAA games on the market we can move forward. It doesn't matter how obvious these complexities are, the fact they are there is what matters. It's just our task to actually understand that they're there and accept it. Casual games only allow you to start playing them instantly and feel some form of satisfaction or accomplishment from your limited play. While Hardcore games do have that aspect, they merely focus on rewarding long-term progress more often than not. Many quests (or missions) can take up from 20 minutes to an hour depending on travel time, difficulty, puzzles or if you're using a guide to help you breeze through it. Yet, both categories require quite extensive play-time to "win" the game. So why is it so hard for some to realize that there's nothing wrong with a game being easy to get into, family friendly, or just a simple idea? Well that's a discussion on it's own but until it's figured out we'll never quite move ahead as a medium as quickly we should be.

Here's something fun for you to consider before we reach the end. There are these people that oddly enough refer to themselves as 'Hardcore Gamers'. Some of them have a gaming routine that includes using Gamefly to obtain their games. They beat the game, maybe dabble in some multiplayer, then send it back that day. Well that makes sense right? They beat the game, they don't want it anymore. Sure there's things to do but they completed it, they win. There happens to be these people that refer to themselves as, well, the amusing part is they don't typically refer to themselves as any name. The 'Hardcore Gamers' have given the nick-name of 'Casual' though so let's go by that. These 'Casual Gamers' have the possibility of, and commonly do, put hundreds of hours into Facebook games like Farmville. This scenario isn't much of an exaggeration either. I'm sure many of you know a minimum of at least one of the two categories presented. While they may not use Gamefly, it may be something simple like returning the game to the store, or trading it in for another. The only true reasoning behind how they get away with this is because that game they rented was “Extreme Manly Man Doing Manly Things 2 The Sequel: Total Manliness in Space!”

This has been going on longer than originally wanted and it still feels like not everything has been discussed. When it's finally accepted that simple ideas don't equate to simple (casual) games there will be a good chance that everyone can start getting along; Hey look at that, a flying pig!

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