The Blurring Line Between Casual and Core
You ever notice people like nice, defined labels? As much as we like to pretend we live in a world full of shades of gray, we usually see it in black and white. People are Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, outgoing or introverted. We use these labels because they help simplify the world around us, even if they do sometimes lead to an us versus them mentality.
As Gamers, we use these labels all the time. First we divide people into two camps: the gamer and the non-gamer. Then we take the gamers and start to segment that group even more: RPG fans, JRPG fans, First Person Shooter players, MMO fans, strategy gamers, puzzle gamers…. The labels just keep coming. There are two labels that get thrown around a lot, however: Casual and Core.
If you read gaming blogs, you may notice a growing rift between these two groups. Core gamers have started to see Casual gamers as the enemy, taking valuable attention and money from the major game publishers. Casual gamers cannot understand the amount of time, energy and money Core players put into this fun but ultimately meaningless hobby.
What both sides seem to miss is that the differences between them may not be as great as they think…
And the war between them hurts gamers as a whole.
So just what is the difference between a Casual gamer and a Core gamer. Well, since you are reading a blog on a gaming website, there is a decent chance you fall into the latter category, so let’s take a look at what defines them first.
Core Gamers, not Hardcore Gamers
Let me explain why I am not using a certain term for this label. Many people like to consider themselves Hardcore Gamers. While I respect the right of anyone to take that label, I wonder if they understand what the implications of it are. Think about it; what would a truly hardcore player look like?
Well, a truly hardcore player would be one who gets lost in games. We’ve probably all done that from time to time; the allure of one more chapter has kept many a gamer up later than he intended to be. There is a point, however, where it goes beyond the innocent losing of oneself. When you hear of people whose lives revolve around gaming and little else, you begin to wonder if their priorities are in the right place. After all, gaming plays a big part in my life, but it is not my life.
That is why I stopped identifying myself as a hardcore gamer a while back. It would be different if I made my living through gaming; there is nothing wrong with that. I do not, however, so if I really start to develop a “hardcore” devotion to gaming, I will more than likely skew my priorities in ways I would really rather not. Still, it is evident by the fact I write and record for a gaming website that I have more than a casual interest in gaming, which is why I call myself a Core gamer.
So how would I define Core Gamers? To us, games are a major part of our lives. We like to game, whether at home, on trips or at friends’ houses. Games are a part of our social circles, as are other gamers; in fact, we often connect with new friends through the games we have in common. We are the ones who adopt consoles, many times multiple consoles, and we are the ones who truly support the industry as a whole. Many of us have been playing for years, and there are many older games we still hold in high regard and maybe even still play.
So if that is the Core gamer, what is the casual?
Casual Gamers, not Casual games
Casual gamers have little more than a passing interest in games. Sure, they will play from time to time, but do not expect them to really take an interest in gaming culture. Most of them will not own a console unless it was the in thing to own at the time or is a previous generation they were able to get for less money. They do not understand how those of us who identify ourselves as core gamers can spend the time or resources we do on this hobby of ours.
You will notice one thing I am intentionally avoiding in defining casual gamers: casual games. One mistake I think we as gamers have made is to automatically identify casual game players as casual gamers. While this is tempting to do, I think we need to be very careful about not making that assumption. To me, being a casual gamer is more about the attitude with which you approach gaming than the games you play. This is an argument I will come back to later, but I think it is something we really need to keep in mind if we are going to use these labels.
So we have these two groups. One considers games an important part of its life and is willing to part with both time and money to keep it that way. The other finds games a welcome diversion, but it does not really make it a priority over other hobbies or interests. So which one do you belong to? The answer may not be as cut and dry as you think.
The Gray Line In Between
For arguments sake, let me present you with a scenario. Let’s say you have two gamers. One spends ten or more hours a week gaming, even planning part of her life around gaming. The other spends maybe a couple of hours a week using games as a distraction from his normal life, but not really dedicating himself to the games. Which would you say is the casual gamer and which the core?
I would think most of us would choose to label the former a core gamer and the latter a casual one. It seems like a reasonable assessment of the scenario. Would your assessment change if I told you the first gamer played games on Facebook while the later played Halo 3?
Some people would immediately re-evaluate their stance based on that fact. Even though the first gamer spent a whole lot more time actually playing games, many would label her casual because she does not play on a traditional console or what would normally be considered core games. The latter would immediately be labeled a core gamer just because he owns a 360 and plays a core game, especially since it was a First Person Shooter.
Are you one of those who changed your labels? Why? Is it mot more accurate to label the one who spends much more time actually gaming the core player?
As I mentioned before, I do not think it is right to label gamers by the games they play. I have known many a casual game player who has spent much more time perfecting his or her ability to play the casual game than I have ever spent playing my core games. My mom, for example, is truly dedicated to Spider Solitaire on her computer. She has become very good at it, much better than I will ever be, and she has been known to spend much longer that she should playing it, especially late at night. Likewise, my step father has spent more time playing and replaying the Fallout games than anyone I have ever known. Though neither of them would probably label themselves as core gamers, I would say they both show more traits of that kind of gamer than they do the casual, and it has nothing to do with the games they play.
So maybe there is not as well defined a line as we all like to think between casual and core. The question is, what does that mean to us?
The lines are drawn….
It never ceases to amaze when a gamer gets up in arms because a favorite gaming company is making a casual game. It’s almost as if the gamer sees it as some form of betrayal, thinking the term casual is a synonym for horrible.
Now I am not saying there are not examples of bad casual games out there. The Wii and DS are full of them, and you can find them all over the internet. There are plenty of examples, however, of good casual games as well. Bejeweled comes to mind, as does well as Peggle. Then there is Tetris, a casual game that has developed a serious calling among core gamers. Then there are the games that took casual elements and introduced them into core gameplay, such as puzzle game turned first person shooter Portal or RPG/puzzle game Puzzle Quest. At the same time, we have seen plenty of examples of bad core games, ranging from the awful reimagined Alone in the Dark to Patrick’s personal favorite whipping boy, Rogue Warrior.
So why do core gamers get so upset when game companies make casual games? It has to do with the labels we discussed earlier. Core gamers see casual games as a form of a cop out. They also do not like the idea of casual gamers getting connected with this pastime they have come to love so much.
In other words, core fans are threatened by casual gamers and games.
You know, just typing that seems silly, but it’s true. Why else would core gamers get so up in arms about what is really a trivial matter? They are scared that the inclusion of casual gamers and games will mean the end of the core, which is ridiculous. While gaming companies can tend to get a little wrapped up in the idea of trying to reach the casual market, many have learned you cannot exclude the core audience. Even Nintendo is starting to learn that, though for them it may be a little too late.
In the end, this fear the core gamer has of the casual is silly at best. At worst, it could hurt gamers as a whole.
Time to call a truce
It is well beyond time to call a truce between casual and core gamers. After all, what is the harm in more people getting to share in this pastime we have all come to love over the years? As long as the games are good and the gamers are having fun, what does it matter whether they rank themselves as casual or core players?
The lines between casual and core are blurring more and more each day. The way I look at it, it’s time we stop looking at what divides the two groups and unite around our common interest: gaming.