Casual Vs. Hardcore: A Meaningless Debate

Recently I talked about the malicious anti-Wii U activists and why they should embrace Nintendo’s upcoming console. The true root of this hatred comes from something long-running and ridiculous, that I’m going to settle right here: the casual vs. hardcore debate.

When the Wii was brought into this world to unprecedented and phenomenal financial and critical success, it started to bring in customer who never played games before. These are called “casuals”. Gamers who’ve played games before and take them seriously, are “hardcore gamers”. The premise of such terms is almost as funny as that video, but bear with me. They didn’t like this new crowd, because they felt their hobby was being taken away from them, or wanted recognition for “being there first”. Its not true at all that Nintendo only make easy, dumbed-down party games, but nevertheless the casual/hardcore war began.

Here’s something that will make you laugh and cry. Check out this new video below of Fable: The Journey:


While its hilarious how terrible it is, it leaves an upsetting realisation that these people represent us as gamers. Not only are these people clueless talking about a “core” experience on Kinect of all things, they appear to know nothing about good games, at least not what I’d expect from experienced gamers. Never mind video game knowledge, they seem clueless in general – “I’ve never sat down with a Kinect”. Maybe because you stand up to play it?

Its time people realised that whether you’re “casual” or “hardcore” is meaningless. Its incredibly unnecessary for us to rank each other and therefore look down on each other, when gamers as a whole are all looked down and despised by tabloids, ignorant adults and politicians.

Like it or not, the truth is we were all once a “casual gamer”, in its most common definition: someone who is new to gaming, doesn’t play as a frequent hobby or isn’t considered very good at playing. We all started somewhere, so if we are to abide by this ridiculous logic, a gamer must start from “casual” in order to rank up as someone “hardcore”. And if we’re supposed to despise the “casual”, how can we ever expect to see new “hardcore” players? These people constantly complain that people look down on our hobby, but will become aggressive at a non-gamer taking a passing interest in it, blocking out potential core players completely.

The terms are so convoluted that even hardcore gamers don’t know what “hardcore” means. When the label is applied to the games themselves rather than the people who play them, it seems to be a term that gamers associate with mature themes and violence. While the people that choose to play only these types of games may think they’re mature, ironically I find it infinitely funny and childish. And completely wrong.

You are supposed to be considered “hardcore” when you prove to be skilled at games, but a game doesn’t have to be filled with blood, gore and headshots to be something difficult or something that invites skill to be applied. Donkey Kong Country Returns is about two monkeys on a quest to retrieve their stolen banana stash, while Mega Man 10 features a robot seeking revenge against an evil scientist. Both are satisfyingly difficult without being excessively violent. When it comes down to it, video games are for fun and entertainment, and while I’ll always defend their narrative and emotion-invoking abilities, for the most part they shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

Not that I disregard competitive gaming. I’m fascinated by e-sports events and the passion, skill and faithful knowledge on display at fighting game tournaments. I love a competitive game of Mario Kart or Tekken too, but it doesn’t matter if I’m playing against a gamer friend or introducing someone to Wii Sports – either I’ll have fun and respect both demographics equally.

Another misconception is that its the Wii’s fault that casual games exist, when in fact they’ve been around since the ’80s. Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man, the games you’ll openly praise as the true birth of successful video games: casual games. Why do you think they were so popular? It’s because everyone could play them. and they still do today with Pac-Man mobile ports and NSMB Wii. The controls were so simple, but that’s made them so great. And that’s why we’re able to play games today, thanks to the millions of casual customers that people are so willing to write off.

No matter how much I dissect the logic behind this mentality, the whole thing remains a mess and a problem for all of us. This is why I think that we’re better off abandoning using the terms altogether. We should welcome those new or less experienced with video games, and treat all gamers with equal respect. Besides, gaming is now one of the biggest industries on Earth – do you really think we’ll have our Halo’s and Street Fighters taken away, only to be replaced by Just Dance and Brain Training?

No one is impressed by labels or superiority complexes, so remain open-minded and give every type of game a chance. If you refuse to play something because everyone else is enjoying it, you’re only limiting yourself. I’ll never forget the first time I played on a Wii – my first swing of the controller to play tennis stands as one of my most surreal amazing moments. Sometimes I’ll play Angry Birds, sometimes I’ll play Super Meat Boy, and if makes me a casual gamer, so be it. I don’t care, and nor should you.

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