Gaming has wrestled with the idea of casual gamers vs hardcore gamers for as long as I can remember. Improved technology, which led to more powerful mobile devices, created new platforms for gaming that resulted in an even murkier distinction between these two types of gamers.
What exactly is the definition of a casual gamer? Well, there are many. Some define casual gamers based on their platform of choice. A humourous comment by Hammersteyn (on Zoe’s article tackling this topic) sums this up quite well:
Ask any PC gamer, XBOX and PS people are casual gamers.
Ask any of those gamers and they will say Nintendo is casual.
Nintendo gamers will say mobile gamers are casual.
Mobile gamers will say whats this gamer thing you refer to?
Other definitions of a casual gamer use metrics such as hours played, rankings or knowledge of a specific game or genre. The rise of eSports and how large it has become has served to create another layer in this contentious issue.
Now, hours played isn’t enough. It’s about how closely you follow the competitive scene around your favourite game, it’s about knowing all the pro teams and casters. It’s about whether you read all the patch notes before they came out and if you play ranked/competitive queue or you stick to casual/normal queue.
So why is it that casual gamers seem to draw the ire of the hardcore community?
The hated ones. The Casuals.
It goes without saying, but as a community we can be pretty competitive. It comes with territory. Who has the best rig at a LAN. Who has the highest rank amongst friends and beyond. Is your Steam catalogue or gaming collection the biggest? 30fps vs 60fps.
So when people come around who seemingly don’t care about any of that and are merely focused on having fun, it’s a shock to the system. History has shown us time and time again how humanity reacts to differences amongst itself.
This competitive nature leads to another reason that casual gamers are given so much contempt. They are seen as taking up space when it comes to the attention of devs.
There has been a growing discussion around the idea that games are not as hard as they used to be. Pandering to casuals is seen as a large reason for this trend. Whilst the topic of games becoming too easy over time is definitely a worthwhile discussion to be had, putting the blame solely at the feet of casual gamers seems rather shortsighted and misguided.
This concept that games are made easier for casual players is complicated because the idea of what is hard and what is seen as overly complex is a contentious issue even amongst so called hardcore gamers.
For example, if you look at Dota 2 in comparison to League of Legends, it’s undeniable that Dota 2 is a more complex game. There is last hitting, there are model turn rates, the number of active items is far larger than in League of Legends, but does that necessarily make it a hard game or is it just unnecessarily complex?
The point is, the discussion of what makes a game hard or not is an intricate topic and one that cannot just be dismissed as casual gamers are the cause for games being too easy.
Continuing with eSports intensive games, casual gamers are often disliked as they are considered the weak points when hardcore gamers are trying to climb competitive ladders. The problem however is that even gamers that would be considered hardcore (they play the game a lot and practice to get better and climb the queue) are called casuals as an insult.
The language used in eSports often establishes being a casual player as a lesser gamer, so much so that it is the new term for being a “noob”. So with the distinction between casual and hardcore more blurred than ever before, does the term still hold any relevance? Does it belong in our gaming lexicon?
Does it matter that you’re a casual gamer?
Before writing this article, I would have argued that yes, it matters if you’re a casual gamer, but not for the reasons it currently does. I would have said that the reality is that there are casual gamers and hardcore gamers and pretending otherwise would be disingenuous.
I’d have said that it’s really important that devs, especially those with eSports driven games, keep in mind that they have two kinds of gamers when making decisions and introducing features. But now, I really don’t see the need for the term, nor do I really believe in the concept at all.
Firstly, this idea that there is a right and wrong way to game, as is so often implied by the casual vs hardcore distinction, is ridiculous. You’re not more of a gamer because you know that the dev behind the latest AAA game got married last week and that they’re expecting a second child next year March.
You’re also not less of a gamer because you choose to play games primarily on your phone or because you bought a Nintendo Wii instead of going the Xbox/PlayStation route. Gaming has enough social barriers to entry as is, there is no need to add more.
Additionally, gaming has changed so much over the years that the traditional idea of what a casual gamer is, has become so outdated. As mentioned before, eSports has added another layer to the discussion of what it means to be a casual gamer. If you only play once a week but you’re a high ranking player, does that make you less or more of a hardcore gamer compared to the other person who plays 5 hours a day and knows all the pro teams but has a bottom of the barrel ranking?
Additionally the extent to which games, on what have traditionally been considered casual gaming platforms, have improved and grown adds further weight to the argument that the notion of casual gaming is a thing of the past. You can play San Andreas on your phone for goodness sake.
The gaming community already suffers from a lack of inclusivity that arises from a plethora of reasons, one of which is this predetermined idea of how one should game and whether this gives you the right to comment on or engage in the community.
Not too long ago, some gamers were mocking Brianna Wu for not knowing that the Rockstar logo on red signified the coming of Red Dead Redemption 2. She wasn’t enough of a gamer for not knowing that and therefore had no business talking about the industry. All her past work, which already receives intense negative backlash, was discredited by these same people purely because she didn’t understand the significance of the Rockstar teaser art.
At the end of the day, the phrase “you do you” should really be all that matters. Play games how you want to play games. If you don’t read reviews before buying a game, you do you. If you know every single pro team in each league in every region across the globe, do you. Are you 1k MMR in Dota 2? Do you. Is Clash of Clans your favourite game ever? Do you.
Everyone, regardless of how they play games, is contributing to making the industry and the overall scene better and that’s something we can all get behind.
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Last Updated: January 4, 2017