Am I hardcore gamer? I play video games perhaps as few as ten hours a week, but still think of myself as a hardcore gamer. It's because I spend $100 or more a month buying games and game related products. And my philosophy is that "purchase is participation."
My philosophy began in tabletop RPG and wargame circles, where it's very common to buy rules sets and games with no expectation of ever playing them; simply reading the rules is enough. I now take it one further and don't even read the rules anymore.
Likewise, I didn't have to read the entire insufferable Wheel of Time series. I own them. All. In hard cover. That's enough to make me a hardcore Robert Jordan fan, no? Nor did I actually ever watch the extended edition LOTR DVDs. I bought them and that's what matters. Whiz Kids Games has built an entire business model out of purchase by participation. Does anybody actually ever field all those Heroclix they buy? I certainly don't.
If you haven't considered this philosophy I urge you to consider it. It's very freeing. Take, for instance, massively multiplayer games. In most of you, there's still probably that small twinge of guilt when you pay EA $20 to buff your new UO character when you reactivate, because you haven't raised your skills the traditional way. Now you can buy skills guilt free. You earned them.
Or even more broadly, consider that by purchasing a gym membership, you needn't work out. Purchase is participation; that percentage of your paycheck going to club dues alone is making you fit. Buying vegetables and putting them in your refrigerator frees you to eat junk food during the work day.
So, what do you all say? Who's with me? Let's go buy some games, put them on the shelf to collect dust, and feel good about it. Because we're hardcore.