210: Time to Move On

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Time to Move On

Hardcore gamers have been clamoring for mainstream recognition of their favorite hobby for nearly 30 years. But they've missed an important point: Being accepted by mainstream audiences means accepting mainstream audiences themselves. Russ Pitts surveys the changing gamer landscape and charts a new path forward for mainstream and hardcore alike.

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This article couldn't have hit the nail on the head any better. The way that games are looked at by the general public has drastically changed since (from when I can remember) the Sega Genesis & NES days, or even before. Gaming has also changed way more than how the public sees them too. Compare Super Mario Bros 2 with Gears of War, for example. We've gone from the old days where all the "hardcore" gamers wanted was an objective and a hero to do the job, to now where we bitch and moan about a game not having good enough graphics and the games are too short. Hardcore gamers themselves have changed with the games.
That said, after reading the article I've been thinking of getting my parents a Wii. What better way to pass on the love?

LALALALALA I can't here or see anything you are saying!
Just kidding, a good article, and I agree.
I think it is great that more people have come to accept video games, and start playing them.
While it is a good thing that this has happened, in no small part by the Wii and casual games on other platforms, I still think there is work to be done.
I have nothing against the Wii or casual games, but I fear that if they continue to see such immense popularity, and the young gamers do not "mature" into gamers that appreciate the "big games", The Half Lifes, the Fallouts, and the strategy games, we could be faced with an ever enlarging base of "mini-game/ casual gamers" and a diminishing base of "hardcore gamers" so, of course, the game companies will go where the money is, leaving the aging gamers with fewer and fewer titles in which to choose from.
Granted, this isn't really likely to happen, but I would hate to see the end of the big games.

j0z:
...
Granted, this isn't really likely to happen, but I would hate to see the end of the big games.

i doubt the big games and the hardcore gamers to go along with them are going anywhere. there's always going to be that audience, no matter how many casual gamers are out there

Honestly -- nearly everyone *begins* casual and becomes more and more hardcore as things go on. You master the basics and move on to bigger and better. Or bigger and harder.

No one starts gaming with Dwarf Fortress.

The biggest problem to "hardcore" gamers it seems, would be that while they want their hobby accepted by the people. That is, the lowest common denominator. They don't want games to pander to the lowest common denominator. When games are made at that level, where does that leave people conditioned to higher games? Games with more complexity, more meaning, and arguably more value?

one could argue that, just like great literature and music, such games will never truly die, as long as there's an audience. But the fact is, with such expansion of videogames, gamers see the threat looming. And many fear it, whether the fear's justified or not.

You should be writing more, Russ.

Now, let me disagree with you.

We're about the same age, but I remember video games completely differently than you do.

First, they were never about escape. The games were too difficult to provide escapism. They were too difficult to be fun, really. The pleasure of video games came from their graphics, which were new and charming, even on an Atari, and the satisfaction of overcoming their challenges. Achieving that satisfaction was work.

Second, everybody played them. Everybody went to the arcades; everybody had some console or other. Jocks played them; nerds played them. The kids who got the latest console or hottest game were always envied, never derided.

Last and similar to the point above, the kids who could beat the toughest games were admired.

I think it may be a platform divide that separates us. Are you thinking of early PC games as the territory of the hardcore? That's what your emphasis on immersion suggest to me--because I never thought of games as immersive in the way that books or movies are until fairly recently. I was never much for PC games.

Actually, this may explain a lot of my thinking about video games. I never had my own computer until 2006. My family never had one when I was growing up. For me, video games are social and mainstream, and they always have been.

I'll have to think about this some more. Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

Frankly, I never actually wanted my hobby to be accepted by the general public, except in that I wanted them to leave me alone and let me do my thing. I love the fact that designers and publishers are making better money now, what with the larger audience, but I don't love what's happening to the games to make it so. The developers are, naturally, going to cater to the lowest common denominator. I can't dispute that this makes good business sense, but it does lead to mediocre games, games that take no chances and break no new ground. Easy games with minimal challenge, short lengths and lots of pretty sparkly effects to hide the low quality, that's what I'm seeing of late. Mind, there are still occasional bold games being designed, but it's a lot like Hollywood. Most of the product is like eating baby food, bland soft and flavorless, with a rare steak dinner sneaking in now and again. This is not what I wanted for my hobby.

j0z:
I have nothing against the Wii or casual games, but I fear that if they continue to see such immense popularity, and the young gamers do not "mature" into gamers that appreciate the "big games", The Half Lifes, the Fallouts, and the strategy games, we could be faced with an ever enlarging base of "mini-game/ casual gamers" and a diminishing base of "hardcore gamers" so, of course, the game companies will go where the money is, leaving the aging gamers with fewer and fewer titles in which to choose from.
Granted, this isn't really likely to happen, but I would hate to see the end of the big games.

If nothing else, the gaming community will create what it wants if it will not be provided. Already, for masochistic gamers who like their games to abuse them from start to finish, there's I Wanna Be The Guy!

The dichotomy I see with "hardcore" gamers, the "Old Guard" Russ talks about, bitching about the current state of gaming affairs is that while we have come to a point where gaming is generally accepted as no longer a fringe-hobby like CB radio or model rockets (my apologies to CB radio and model rocket enthusiasts), what we the "Old Guard" see lacking is an appreciation for the history of gaming, its evolution over the past 30 years.

You simply cannot take a Fifteen-year-old who has just been introduced to Mass Effect and then try to show him how awesome Wing Commander IV is, because the standard of immersion has changed. Now things need to be almost hyper-realistic for you to feel like you're taking part in it.

I grew up after VGA graphics became a part of gaming, so I was never able to fully get into my uncle's Commodore 64 text-based adventures like Planetfall, or Infidel, or the seminal Zork because without graphics, I felt I was missing out on part of my gaming experience. I think this is similar to the trouble "hardcore" gamers are having with the "casual" crowd, video games have a rich and varied history, and a lot of people don't have the patience or the curiosity to seek out this history.

This leaves the "Old Guard" without the ability to be mentors to the new generation of gamers. Games nowadays no longer have secret codes that can be passed on with a sly grin from one gamer to the next. Games rarely have secrets that cannot be found by going to GameFAQS or some similar website.

The "Old Guard" is left with nothing but our experiences of what has come before, and no one cares to listen to the ramblings of an old gamer talking about the day they finally beat X-Com, or the awe you felt when your dad bought a new computer and had your mind blown when you played MechWarrior 2 in Windows 95 when just the week before you were playing Hexen in DOS and thinking it was "the shit" for 3D graphics and gameplay (true story).

There is nothing more frustrating and disheartening than having personal experience in history and having no one give a damn to listen to what you have to say. I think this is the plight of the "hardcore", and why they are so disenfranchised with the "casual" gamers.

A soccer mom playing Bejeweled on her iPhone doesn't want to talk about the development of Bejeweled, or hear about Columns, or Puzzle Bobble, or Tetris, or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, or any other puzzle game that was published before Bejeweled, because it doesn't interest her and likely would not impact her appreciation for the game.

I have a copy of the book "The Ultimate History of Video Games" by Steven Kent. It's a great read, if you give a damn about the history if video games. If you don't, then I've lost a book recommendation for you, and the chance to talk about what I know of the topics and materials it covers.

Honestly, it's the same for anyone who is enthusiastic about history. You find that as time goes by, fewer and fewer people care about it as much as you do. The best we can do is to find someone who is new to gaming, and get them interested in the story of how things came to be. I know that any son or daughter my wife and I will eventually have, will grow up with access to all the video game systems I have in my collection.

First of all, change inevitably frightens some people.

Secondly, the disdain for the popularity of videogames by the "hardcore" was also inevitable. I don't think what "hardcores" really wanted was for the medium to become popular; but rather they wanted the "popular crowd" to legitimize gaming. They wanted the "popular crowd" to stop looking sideways at them as though gamers were some sort of subspecies. They didn't want the "popular crowd" to play games, they wanted them to accept that videogames were just as legitimate a pasttime as playing football and "going out on the town".

The main problem is that, people who have been playing videogames for a long time, see themselves as the elite or the hardcore. But as gaming has become more accessible, it has inevitably become a bit easier in most cases. Gone are the 3-life games of Super Mario Bros. that were more about sheer attrition than anything else, replaced by more accessible (aka "easier") games.

What this leads to, then, is the hardcore crowd feels cheated because they no longer have a pedestal to stand on to raise them above the rest. "You beat Super Mario Bros. in 5 minutes flat? Who cares, everyone plays Super Mario Galaxy now."

A similar thing is happening within a single game, World of Warcraft, as we speak. The game has become enormously popular and so Blizzard has decided that they need to make the content that they spend months working on more accessible. Raiding in World of Warcraft is not the 40-hour-per-week experience it used to be, it's much smaller now, doable by dedicating a couple hours each night, instead of 6 or 7. The hardcore crowd feels cheated by this; they no longer have the cool gear or whatever other virtual badge of honor that places them above the rest. Or rather, they have the badge, but so do many many other people.

The issue in World of Warcraft and the one in gaming in general, are basically the same. It's just something that people have to accept, because, in the end, the gaming industry is just that: an industry, a group of companies who are out to make money. There are still many in the industry who work there because of their passion, and they try to give as much quality as possible, but it's still a business. They aren't going to cater to 5% of their population when they could cater to 95% of the population and make loads of money.

If they truly love games, then the change shouldn't matter. They can still get the immersive experience that they enjoy, and perhaps enjoy it with more people that before. Or they can quit.

There are both positive and negative aspects to video games having gone mainstream. On one hand gamers are inundated with an endless supply of simple minded, war themed FPS games and other the other hand you have something like Heavy Rain which is a game no one would have even conceived of producing if video games hadn't reached out to a wider audience.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly some gamers turned their pleas for acceptance into derisive tirades about how "casuals" are ruining video games. I just can't help but be reminded of indie music fans or art house film students who complain when their favorite artist goes mainstream. Sure, you might lose a bit of depth, but people seem to forget that there are often improvements as well. Hardcore gamers are generally pretty forgiving of design flaws like bad UI, forced grinding, and steep learning curves, so many of the recent improvements in video game design can be traced directly to new casual focus. I wouldn't even be surprised to see voice acting and writing becoming film-quality within the next few years as development studios realize how distracting that stuff can be for your average Joe Consumer.

Some people want their identity acknowledged--because it therefore validates their existence-- but not shared, because it makes them feel special or superior.

My advice would be rather than denigrate the people who dare share the same label (in this case, "gamer"), find additional ways to validate your existence. Preferably ones that don't require a keyboard or joystick--or any other external stimuli--attached. Which is not to say "Don't play video games" or even "don't play video games a lot"--it's just to say, "Don't let any one thing define who you are, or worry about who says what defines you."

Thing is, I've seen video games expand tremendously and more and different kinds of games released, to appeal to various kinds of people each seeking different challenges. I've been gaming for over 20 years, however, and I still have no trouble finding games with a deep story and/or challenging gameplay that I enjoy. I'm glad there are more and more people I can point to these wonderful games.

The hardcore/casual thing also always rankled me because people arbitrarily assign the titles to various different games (with "hardcore" usually being labeled as anything with enough gore in it--I can't think of any other unifying factor--which seems like a poor defining trait). When I play Fallout 3 I'm hardcore but when I play The Sims I'm casual? What about when I play Civilization? Is it violent enough, or is the turn-based-ness to wimpy to consider hardcore? What about if I play Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown on the DS? Is it 'hardcore' because GTA is a hardcore title, or is it 'casual' because the DS is 'for casuals.' If it's time players tend to put into a game, I've seen players of the Sims 3 complaining that an early memory leak error keeps them from playing the game more than 8 hours in a sitting, but that game is still considered "casual". Puzzle games probably devour more time in one sitting than more of their players what to admit, but they're 'casual.' And actually, yeah, I think a soccer mom with "Bejeweled" on her iPhone might actually want to know about its origins, if she enjoys it enough.

'Hardcore' is a flimsy name with a fluid definition. The best definition I've been able to come up with is "euphemism for obsessed, single-minded fanboy with no life and no capability for listening/reading comprehension, effective communication, or rational thought." The more the industry ignores brats like that, the better, IMO.

Royas:
The developers are, naturally, going to cater to the lowest common denominator. I can't dispute that this makes good business sense, but it does lead to mediocre games, games that take no chances and break no new ground. Easy games with minimal challenge, short lengths and lots of pretty sparkly effects to hide the low quality, that's what I'm seeing of late. Mind, there are still occasional bold games being designed, but it's a lot like Hollywood. Most of the product is like eating baby food, bland soft and flavorless, with a rare steak dinner sneaking in now and again. This is not what I wanted for my hobby.

So true...it hurts.

infinite amount of change has swept the gaming landscape since I first picked up a controller almost 30 years ago. The games themselves - and the experience of playing them - have changed so radically it's shocking to those of us, the hardcore gamers, who at one point in time believed games would forever be considered our secret passion, unknown and unknowable to anyone not in the club.

Mmmm the only change I can see is in the last 5 to 10 where you had a quickening of the corporate mindset set to a point video games, a niche based bastard child of a medium become that could rival hollywood in production,cost and yes even shallowness. And its that shallowness and gray suit grim defiance of logic that's destroyed gaming for me.

Change, it seems, is everywhere. Yet it seems one thing hasn't changed at all, and it's perhaps the one thing that really should: After 30 years of videogame evolution, hardcore gamers are still a bunch of reclusive dicks.

I would not go as far to say that, tho between the fanboys and enthusiasts that demand better (both extremes of nitpicking games) we have no real voice in the industry anymore and that's mostly do to the money we spend and the fact that the CEOs and suits are no longer our 'game loving peers', even developers have fallen into the "good enough", "lets get it done", "we don't care anymore", "its a job" mindset furthering gaming into the shallow abyss of mass market media.

Videogames have always been more than just another medium to the hardcore crowd. It's always been a core tenet of the hardcore gamer creed that videogames are our medium. At the risk of sounding trite, for those of us who grew up with more brains than brawn, videogames were an escape. Perhaps the ultimate escape. Sure, you could lose yourself in a book or occupy your mind with the mindless entertainment of cinema, but videogames have always been about more than either while combining the best effects of both. Videogames since day one have been immersive. And we, who discovered them first, have always believed that immersion was a sacred rite that we alone could experience.

Meh I think you are starting to get into fanboy land here, then again I look at the word hardcore and look at today's supposed hardcore crowed and see nothing but hardcore consumerism of mediocre and debasing things.

I have always felt that hardcore demanded more from the experience than a cheap but monetarily expensive lulz fest, sadly that's not the case anymore, you have more zombies(casual and hardcore) out for bwains..er..brands and franchises than you have enthusiasts out for a great and fulfilling experience.

This was partly a result of the difficulty of explaining the pastime to others. Try putting into words the concept of immersion for someone who has never experienced it. There really is no way short of placing the controller in their hand. Videogames allow you to flex the muscles of your imagination while tickling the little spot just to the side of your fantasies and giving your cortex a little something to chew on. The best of them are stories wrapped in puzzles with a side of hero porn. Explain that to your mom.

I always called gaming a living book(is true), with a depth and breadth of imagination and experience(well..not so much since I just made it up, besides todays games are more fluff and flash).

This should be good news. There should be dancing in the streets on this, our Day of Jubilee. Our time has come, has it not? We had a dream, at one point in time, and now, it seems, that dream has become real. So why are most gamers so damned annoyed by this?
The changes to the industry - and the games - aren't that unusual or unexpected. Change happens. Change is inevitable. And in most cases, change is good. In this case, it's a change we've been waiting for, arguing for, begging would come to pass. People finally understand why videogames are fun and worthwhile. Isn't that what we've always wanted? Isn't that finally enough to get the monkey of shame and cynicism off our backs?

I dunno when you mass market/produce something it becomes like spam, sure you might have more of it but the quality of each individual thing can be very stark, and that is where my criticism comes in the majority of games are mass produces like film with less polish work, if the story is bad so what it does not affect great gameplay so much , but if you have mediocre story ontop of mediocre gameplay you have a less than mediocre game IMO.

Judging from the above rant, the title of which should be unfit for printing in any form, it would seem not. The attitude of being "in the club" has so permeated the hardcore audience that, even now, in the dawn of gaming's greatest era, the time in which the joy to be had playing videogames is no longer a dirty secret - no longer a secret at all, in fact - some are finding it hard to celebrate. Or perhaps it's something deeper, more insidious.

The rant has some merit, at least when gameplay is taken down a few notches and replaced with pretty, I can forgive the casual time wasting games, they are what they are but when a game is made into a interactive Hollywood film that's when I say if I cannot chip a unit and play before I spend a dime or use a game enhancer to make mediocre or bad fun and enjoyable gaming has no place for me anymore.

After all, wasn't this the plan? Haven't we all along espoused the kind of near-universal acceptance of videogaming that we're now seeing right before our very eyes? Haven't we always dreamed of the day when we could share the experience with, well, everyone? We may have, but, as they say, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. And in this case, it would seem the enemy is us.

I dunno when you are in it for the games and the games are no longer there or worthwhile....................... what then? This is a question I struggle with each time I pick up a control pad.........

What we realized in the past two years or so was that, while we of the Old Guard were pacing around in the echo chamber of our own circular arguments, debating with ourselves over how to convince the populace at large that games are important, dammit, the populace at large was figuring it out for themselves - and beating us to the punch.

Either trying to make it more important or better things have a life of their own when they are mass produced, trends and corporate mindsets take hold and things change...and not always for the better....

When we finally clambered out from our cave, what we discovered was something wonderful, awe-inspiring and totally unexpected: Videogames - and videogamers - had become normal. And this is the part that's truly terrifying to the hardcore; the realization that the videogames, our secret, shared hobby, have moved on without us. That the mainstream doesn't need us to tell them how important videogames are, because they're too busy finding that out for themselves.
image

Don't believe me? Watch a beautiful, blonde television personality review Wii Fit on none other than NBC's Today Show and draw your own conclusions

And yet they are not normal, film and TV is normal, I think you are jumping the gun on this, gaming is popular but we have a few years and trails to go through before its truly thought of as something equal to film(DVD video in particular), and that will never happen until a NC17 level game can easily be produced rated and sold on any console.
Then again the ESRB will have a lot of wool, smoke and mirrors to pull befor they can blind the public/poltications like the MPAA has.....

There are two possible courses of action one can take in this situation. One can either put on blinders, walk around with one's hands clamped over one's ears shouting "LALALALA!" and refusing to acknowledge the world has become a more complicated place. Or, more constructively, one can embrace the change and move forward with the understanding that, although this Brave New World of mainstream gaming may not have been entirely of our own making, it is a world in which we can nevertheless find a place for ourselves as leaders, mentors and guides. All we have to do is deign to share.

Sometimes the more simplified you make something the more complexity is involved in the creative process, I am not as ignorant as I appear to be most of the time, I however simplify refuse to lower what standards I have left to pay more for less, be it content, gameplay, control, dignity or enjoyment................................

And so, dear readers, that is what we at The Escapist have decided to do - something we've been doing all along, in fact. The Escapist was founded on the principle that we should share our passion; that we should strive to define the era of videogaming and impart our love for the medium to those who may not yet understand. We have done so with aplomb. Now, we've opened our hearts to that ever-expanding community of you who do understand, and instead of preaching, instead of leading with the hammer, we're guiding you with a gentle hand to where you may not yet have known to go - and allowing you to point us to where you want to be led.
We have, in effect, performed the most excruciatingly difficult trick in the media business: We've swallowed our pride. We may be the editors of one of the world's best videogame websites, but without you, the community, the readers, the gamers, we're nothing at all.

Then you can start to do something about the random nazi moderated posts, casuals of thought and grammar should be able to express their 3 or 6 word happiness like anyone else.... Besides that gaming has always been about sharing of experiences if only indirect ones(yes I still hate the whole MMO/MP thing) so please strive and keep standards high for articles but not so high for posting, or at the very least have a few set in stone rules that all moderators follow, I see too much odd and out of place mod sniping here, otherwise this is a good place to be.

I took half a day to write this, and proof it, word 07 I luff you! =^0^=
Yes I may be a hyperbolic idiot, but at least I can admit as much.
ZippyDSMlee
http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/

Manji187:

Royas:
The developers are, naturally, going to cater to the lowest common denominator. I can't dispute that this makes good business sense, but it does lead to mediocre games, games that take no chances and break no new ground. Easy games with minimal challenge, short lengths and lots of pretty sparkly effects to hide the low quality, that's what I'm seeing of late. Mind, there are still occasional bold games being designed, but it's a lot like Hollywood. Most of the product is like eating baby food, bland soft and flavorless, with a rare steak dinner sneaking in now and again. This is not what I wanted for my hobby.

So true...it hurts.

Quoted for the greater truth, gaming has become a dime a dozen gig, its as ''worthless'' as film and TV now, you almost have to work at it to enjoy it, that is if you have a brain or inable to go full throttle into suspension of disbelief..... and I have a much higher tolerance for bad in anime and gameing than I do for TV and film..and even I am having trouble with today's hollywoodized .....software........

Aye commander.

I consider myself to be a gamer, but I've never fit the definition of "hardcore" gamer. I don't fit the standard demographic. I'm not an action gamer, though I'm going to see if I can make it through Assassin's Creed, really appealing game. I started out with adventure games on the PC and then got into other genres. I still play adventure games on the Nintendo DS. I'm an MMORPG person (mostly but not always solo) nowadays, but I prefer a heavily instanced game such as Guild Wars, or if not that, a strongly PvE focused game. I also dip into Second Life where I keep up with a community of people. I have friends who are into The Sims, and friends who like simulation games such as managing a rock band.

I like story, amazing visuals, compelling music, and would really like having more things to do in a game. Hard games are not appealing to me. I play for story and to immerse myself in a world. To me, gameplay is what engages you in the world, but "mastery" and "beating the game" - this does not have much appeal to me. I understand the concept - that's what keeps you engaged, but for me, it's all just a way to be in a virtual world.

So when you say hardcore gamer, I think "what about me"?

That is what is interesting about The Escapist - articles that aren't all one way, about one thing, with one point of view. It's hard to find interesting articles about gaming that don't assume that we are all, somehow, all the same.

It completely seems like the whole escapist is against hardcore gaming. and apparently every one of us that hardcore games is a douche... thanks? I Say i game hardcore and log at least 50 hours every 2 weeks on my games but i guess that means im a total dbag becuase i like to play and i want to be good when i play. (by the way if there wasnt anyone to moan about a games qaulity then dev's wouldnt get as much feedback or be driving so far to improve the qaulity of games you play today.) and with that im going to say this was a bit biased article.(which means i will most likely be flamed for having an opinion and hardcore gamers are the mean ones right T.T?)

Ray Huling:
You should be writing more, Russ.

Thank you. I couldn't agree more.

wadark:
Secondly, the disdain for the popularity of videogames by the "hardcore" was also inevitable. I don't think what "hardcores" really wanted was for the medium to become popular; but rather they wanted the "popular crowd" to legitimize gaming. They wanted the "popular crowd" to stop looking sideways at them as though gamers were some sort of subspecies. They didn't want the "popular crowd" to play games, they wanted them to accept that videogames were just as legitimate a pasttime as playing football and "going out on the town".

I think this is the most accurate assessment I've yet seen. And I have to admit that I've thought this way from time to time; that it would be so nice if people would just "get over" that games are "weird" and time consuming and leave me to my pursuits as I leave them to theirs.

Unfortunately, the world doesn't always work the way we want it to. Legitimacy comes from understanding, and understanding comes through experience. So expecting legitimacy without being willing to share the experience is dangerously naive. Expecting people to grant that games are worthwhile pursuits without having played and accepted them into their lives is just flat out not going to happen.

A necessary by-product of gaining acceptance for our shared hobby is to share it further. Personally, I'm OK with that, and I can't help but think that for those who aren't, the hobby itself is less important than the feeling of superiority it grants them for being into something others don't understand.

Chrissyluky:
It completely seems like the whole escapist is against hardcore gaming.

Not really. I actually count myself as a hardcore gamer. But I think of hardcore vs. casual as more of a grey situation than a black/white situation.

Am I as "hardcore" as you are, for example? I don't know. I have pursuits other than gaming and I work a lot of hours. So chances are that I play less than you do, or that I play different games.

But I simply can't imagine my life without videogames. I've been playing them since I was six, and have always turned to them when I feel sad, lonely or just bored. I get along best with people who play, and find that I think of the world in terms of games that I've played. And when I find a game I really, really enjoy, there isn't much I'd rather do than play it.

So the fact is I really have no idea what your definition of "hardcore" is, or how it compares to mine, but when I say "hardcore" I include myself, and I'm generally referring to people who play a lot. Saying I and/or The Escapist is against that would be a gross mischaracterization. What I am against, however, are people who are dicks, whatever they do with their spare time.

Chrissyluky:
It completely seems like the whole escapist is against hardcore gaming. and apparently every one of us that hardcore games is a douche... thanks? I Say i game hardcore and log at least 50 hours every 2 weeks on my games but i guess that means im a total dbag becuase i like to play and i want to be good when i play. (by the way if there wasnt anyone to moan about a games qaulity then dev's wouldnt get as much feedback or be driving so far to improve the qaulity of games you play today.) and with that im going to say this was a bit biased article.(which means i will most likely be flamed for having an opinion and hardcore gamers are the mean ones right T.T?)

But I would present to you a question, dose hardcore mean you merely play alot and buy into things they sale too easily or demand more from the experience. Hardcore 'was' never as simple as playing for extended hours and owning to much gaming crap, it was more than that at one point and time, now adays it feels hallow and based solely on consumerism....

The article may be biased, but I see it as trying to put the realization of an epiphany to words. Or something of the like :P.

Nice to see Russ Pitts in something other than an intro sequence with him getting hit by wii-motes.

The interactive nature of video games demands that players figure it out for themselves.
Sure people still like being pointed towards games that are of interest to them, or games they may have overlooked...
but it ultimately comes down to personal taste.
People need to understand that just because of the general consensus is that a game is great or a game receiving many glowing reviews,
doesn't necessarily mean that they personally will enjoy the game.

The older "hardcore" players that in the past wanted video games to be more widely accepted, are now complaining...this is quite hypocritical.
Even the other "hardcore" players that never wanted video games to become mainstream...this is a business,
you expected developers and publishers to alienate large portions of their consumer base for your personal benefit and the benefit of a small group?

The classification of exactly who is a "hardcore" or "casual" gamers has always been ambiguous.
It is quite difficult to find a consensus on a definition (if not impossible).
Not many people can agree on a point when a "casual" gamer stops being "casual" and becomes a "hardcore" one.

Many gamers now seem to have a false sense of entitlement that game developers owe them the earth and all the heavens.
In most cases this largely seems based on unreasonably high expectations / preconceptions,
or because a series isn't going in the direction that they wanted.
In the more delusional ones, they want most games to be free and so game developers will feed themselves through osmosis.

Thanks for the great article...oh, and Happy Birthday Escapist Magazine!

Two years ago, we began to address that

And to this day I still miss the pseudo-intellectual wankery.

Chrissyluky:
It completely seems like the whole escapist is against hardcore gaming. and apparently every one of us that hardcore games is a douche... thanks? I Say i game hardcore and log at least 50 hours every 2 weeks on my games but i guess that means im a total dbag becuase i like to play and i want to be good when i play. (by the way if there wasnt anyone to moan about a games qaulity then dev's wouldnt get as much feedback or be driving so far to improve the qaulity of games you play today.) and with that im going to say this was a bit biased article.(which means i will most likely be flamed for having an opinion and hardcore gamers are the mean ones right T.T?)

Not at all. I consider myself a hardcore gamer, in that I play something virtually every day, and that games are an incredibly important part of my life. There's nothing wrong with being competitive, or wanting to be good at your game of choice. If you take the time to hone your abilities, you deserve to be proud.

What you don't get to do, however, is tell other people what they should or should not like or how they should or shouldn't be playing. Where the hardcore gamer crosses with the douchebag in the Venn diagram of life is when they start talking about how casual players are "ruining" gaming, or how people with less devoted to gaming are somehow unworthy to draw breath. There's nothing wrong with being hardcore -- but there's nothing wrong with NOT being hardcore, either. If you're not like that, then worry not -- you're not one of the people referred to in this article.

Dom Camus:

Two years ago, we began to address that

And to this day I still miss the pseudo-intellectual wankery.

I'm sorry man, but having spent some time in the forums and other sections of our site, I have to say that if you can't find pseudo-intellectual wankery at The Escapist, you aren't looking hard enough ;)

We didn't outlaw it. We just agreed to no longer consider it to be the end all be all of gaming journalism. There's a significant difference.

Ray Huling:
You should be writing more, Russ.

Now, let me disagree with you.

We're about the same age, but I remember video games completely differently than you do.

First, they were never about escape. The games were too difficult to provide escapism. They were too difficult to be fun, really. The pleasure of video games came from their graphics, which were new and charming, even on an Atari, and the satisfaction of overcoming their challenges. Achieving that satisfaction was work.

Second, everybody played them. Everybody went to the arcades; everybody had some console or other. Jocks played them; nerds played them. The kids who got the latest console or hottest game were always envied, never derided.

Last and similar to the point above, the kids who could beat the toughest games were admired.

I think it may be a platform divide that separates us. Are you thinking of early PC games as the territory of the hardcore? That's what your emphasis on immersion suggest to me--because I never thought of games as immersive in the way that books or movies are until fairly recently. I was never much for PC games.

Actually, this may explain a lot of my thinking about video games. I never had my own computer until 2006. My family never had one when I was growing up. For me, video games are social and mainstream, and they always have been.

I'll have to think about this some more. Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

I don't know how old either of you are, but it sounds like you're talking about the late 70's or early 80's, when arcades were a booming business and before the market completely collapsed in '83.

Most of the 18-34 year old "hardcore gamer" demographic doesn't remember the game industry collapse, they don't remember Pac-man Fever or crowded arcades, and they may only have vague memories of the NES.

What they do remember is that most of their friends boxed up their video games along with their G.I. Joe's and comic books. they remember their parents taking them away because they were too violent, or they weren't getting enough exercise, or whatever. (and they were probably right, but that's beside the point.)I've never heard of anyone being bullied because of video games, but I know quite a few people who believe there's a correlation.

Now they see the same jocks playing Madden. They see the girls who shot them down playing the Sims. They see the parents who wouldn't let them play Mortal Kombat enjoying Wii Sports. And maybe they don't understand why, but they're pissed. They loved video games when loving games was hard. On some level, these johnny-come-latelys don't deserve to have as much fun as they did. these "hardcore" gamers are the ones who've been sustaining the industry all these years, and now it seems like the game industry is abandoning them for the dreaded "casuals".

Personally I think it's a load of crap, but i can understand the sentiment. it goes a lot deeper than the false dichotomy between "hardcore" and "casual". it goes deeper than gaming, even. gaming as a subculture is being assimilated into the mainstream, and it has a lot of us scared shitless.

EDIT: now i'm done. much better.

Russ Pitts:

We didn't outlaw it. We just agreed to no longer consider it to be the end all be all of gaming journalism. There's a significant difference.

If only I knew which side my wankery falls on.

cobra_ky:

I don't know how old either of you are, but it sounds like you're talking about the late 70's or early 80's, when arcades were a booming business and before the market completely collapsed in '83.

Most of that 18-34 year old key demographic, doesn't remember the game industry collapse,

EDIT: i accidentally click "Post" WAY too early. please stand by.

Yeah; I'm not waiting, but I won't jump all over you, either.

Let me just clarify: yes; I'm thinking of that period, but also the Nintendo and Playstation ages that followed. I think it's inarguable that for people of my and Russ's generation video games have always been mainstream. So I'm not sure what argument the hardcore crowd wanted to make.

I'm also saying that I disagree with the importance of escapism and immersion in the appreciation of video games. I think that both of these aspects are primary for many people, but I don't think they're definitive.

Then again, I don't really believe that any generation has a common experience of their times.

I'd agree with Ray about the misconception that "generations" have some sort of common perception of ... anything. I grew up int eh golden age of arcades, yet I also had home consoles since they were available. And I also played computer games. I played lots of different kinds of games for lots of different reasons.

In suppose my perception of the 80s is that the arcade games were the equivalent of games like Madden and Halo today; widely popular, but not very deep, and kind of looked down upon by the hardcore crowd. Whereas computer games like Zork and the like were favored by the same types of people who also played Dungeons & Dragons. I played both types and many more besides (in fact, one of my favorite games during that time was a crude handheld baseball game).

yet in spite of having many, varied gaming experiences, I generally turned to games, first and foremost, as a form of escape. I suppose, as I often do, I'm assuming I wasn't alone in that. I'm also totally open, however, that not all of us during that time played in the same way, or had the same experiences as I did.

Royas:
Frankly, I never actually wanted my hobby to be accepted by the general public, except in that I wanted them to leave me alone and let me do my thing. I love the fact that designers and publishers are making better money now, what with the larger audience, but I don't love what's happening to the games to make it so. The developers are, naturally, going to cater to the lowest common denominator. I can't dispute that this makes good business sense, but it does lead to mediocre games, games that take no chances and break no new ground. Easy games with minimal challenge, short lengths and lots of pretty sparkly effects to hide the low quality, that's what I'm seeing of late. Mind, there are still occasional bold games being designed, but it's a lot like Hollywood. Most of the product is like eating baby food, bland soft and flavorless, with a rare steak dinner sneaking in now and again. This is not what I wanted for my hobby.

I have to +1 this post. Well said, sir.
Like you, I fear that games will pander for the Lowest Common Denominator.

It's like sharing a beer with a chum down the pub. You want them to enjoy a beer, not a watered down beverage.

Ray Huling:

cobra_ky:

I don't know how old either of you are, but it sounds like you're talking about the late 70's or early 80's, when arcades were a booming business and before the market completely collapsed in '83.

Most of that 18-34 year old key demographic, doesn't remember the game industry collapse,

EDIT: i accidentally click "Post" WAY too early. please stand by.

Yeah; I'm not waiting, but I won't jump all over you, either.

Let me just clarify: yes; I'm thinking of that period, but also the Nintendo and Playstation ages that followed. I think it's inarguable that for people of my and Russ's generation video games have always been mainstream. So I'm not sure what argument the hardcore crowd wanted to make.

I wasn't actually asking you to wait. I meant that more as a general note that i had a lot more to say than just an awkward sentence fragment. (I just finished that post, for those interested.)

For my generation, (I'm 23) video game popularity waxed and waned but they never seemed to reach the level of ubiquity they did when the Mario games were at their height.

Ray Huling:
I'm also saying that I disagree with the importance of escapism and immersion in the appreciation of video games. I think that both of these aspects are primary for many people, but I don't think they're definitive.I'm also saying that I disagree with the importance of escapism and immersion in the appreciation of video games. I think that both of these aspects are primary for many people, but I don't think they're definitive.

That's actually the closest thing I've ever seen to a reasonable distinction between "hardcore" and "casual". "Hardcore" gamers seem to be the ones who value immersion and escapism more than anything else; they're also a lot more sensitive to how the game industry has changed over the years. For more "casual" gamers it doesn't seem nearly as big a deal.

I still hate the terms, but for the first time I'm thinking that there may actually be a useful distinction here.

mszv:
I consider myself to be a gamer, but I've never fit the definition of "hardcore" gamer. I don't fit the standard demographic. I'm not an action gamer, though I'm going to see if I can make it through Assassin's Creed, really appealing game. I started out with adventure games on the PC and then got into other genres. I still play adventure games on the Nintendo DS. I'm an MMORPG person (mostly but not always solo) nowadays, but I prefer a heavily instanced game such as Guild Wars, or if not that, a strongly PvE focused game. I also dip into Second Life where I keep up with a community of people. I have friends who are into The Sims, and friends who like simulation games such as managing a rock band.

I like story, amazing visuals, compelling music, and would really like having more things to do in a game. Hard games are not appealing to me. I play for story and to immerse myself in a world. To me, gameplay is what engages you in the world, but "mastery" and "beating the game" - this does not have much appeal to me. I understand the concept - that's what keeps you engaged, but for me, it's all just a way to be in a virtual world.

I fall into somewhat of a middle category to you. I come from the same background- I remember the days of Infocom, Kings Quest and the Lucas Arts games fondly. Generally, the games that I spend the most time in and enjoy most are the ones with heavy focus on story. At the same time, I enjoy the aggressive release of FPSs and the thrill of beating a particularly strong AI or 'pwning some newbs' :) For me, Mass Effect is heroine.

I am frankly puzzled by this article. The assumption that gamers wanted gaming to be accepted strikes me as naive. Tolerated, yes- accepted, no. My parents have never understood the appeal of gaming and I don't need them to. It was enough that they left me alone to enjoy it.

Russ Pitts:
Unfortunately, the world doesn't always work the way we want it to. Legitimacy comes from understanding, and understanding comes through experience. So expecting legitimacy without being willing to share the experience is dangerously naive. Expecting people to grant that games are worthwhile pursuits without having played and accepted them into their lives is just flat out not going to happen.

I don't care one bit about legitimacy. The world doesn't need to acknowledge gaming as a worthwhile pursuit, so long as it doesn't actively try to destroy it. Contrary to millions of people, I refuse to acknowledge the act of *watching* cars go around in a circle 500 times as a legitimate pursuit, but I'm not lobbying congress to outlaw it in order to conserve fuel, either.

This is also why I'm somewhat bewildered by this issues' article about romance novels. I don't want game companies focusing on expanding their demographic. I want game companies focusing on creating games keyed to *my* demographic. Those are the only games I'm going to enjoy. My demographic may be smaller than the general public, but it is certainly large enough to sustain its own industry- as evidenced by the fact that the industry exists at all.

I remember back in the mid 90s reading an article in Game Developer Journal about games that appealed to girl gamers. I read the descriptions of some of the games and thought, "That sounds like crap. Who cares what girls like?" In that context, though, I could understand the motivation. The magazine was written for people who were trying to make the most money possible off the games they wrote and so they cared about attracting a wider audience. In a magazine focused on gamers themselves, such an article makes much less sense.

Russ Pitts:

Ray Huling:
You should be writing more, Russ.

Thank you. I couldn't agree more.

Fantastic article, Russ - you're an excellent writer, and I hope to one day produce anything nearly as good as that. I hope to see more articles from you in the coming year.

That said, you've seamlessly provided both points of view while stating your own opinion = excellently done. Now, let me provide my own points. I feel qualified for a few reasons:

First of all, my mind works in a funny way - I'm what most people call a hypocrite, but it runs deeper than that, and is very difficult to explain. See, I can see both sides of everything, and I can be on both sides of the fence about the same issue, on different parts.

Secondly, I am what you would call a casual hardcore gamer. I play 'hardcore' games like your RPGs, FPSs, et al, but only play them on a casual basis. Work commitments plus that frequent 'can't be arsed' feeling makes it hard to dedicate the time sometimes. So I casually play hardcore games.

Finally, I have this rare gift of being supremely unfanboyish. I don't give a shit if you have a Playstation, a Nintendo or an X-Box. I don't care if you're Sony or LG for your TV, or Athlon or Duron for your hardware. If it's in your budget, and brings you joy, I don't give a rat's proverbial.

I think this gives me a unique perspective.

Firstly, hardcore gamers, as you said, have long thought of games to be 'their' thing. Something they were mocked and persecuted for, that their peers have long blamed for the state of the world. Same as MTV, television, radio, Dungeons and Dragons, jazz and liquor in times past. To see this now accepted is fine, but it was still OUR thing, and gamers don't want anyone to be in it.

Secondly, just as the struggling writer, actor, musician or whatever decries the fact that their goal is denied to them, but open to anyone that can bodge together a half-arsed story, make some funny faces to amuse the common people or warble something and throw it to the tri-remixers to make it sound good (Dan Brown, Adam Sandler and most modern major label musicians come to mind), you find that the hardcore gamer hates their once secret and reviled passion is now open to the very same people that tried to tell them they were lesser people because of their love of gaming. When the guy who once called you out as a loser while you played Diablo during lunch starts playing Halo and pretending he's a gamer, it's downright irritating. When the mother who kept telling you that you that games were bad for you and pulling the plug right before the end of the epic boss battle starts playing Peggle and telling her friends she's a 'gamer,' it's enough to make you tear your hair out.

Then there's the third issue, which is the fact that gamers are a bunch of dicks, are never satisfied and have a hell of a persecution complex. Something I've noticed and find simultaneously hilarious and irritating is that gamers have to have something to hate, or someone to hate them. You see it every day - PS3 owners go on about how X-Box owners are a bunch of brainless jocks, people with X-Boxes say that Wii owners are pussies. Arguments over Athlon vs Duron were frequent when I was younger, as were LG burners vs Sony burners - this is the new Mario vs Sonic, Atari vs NES.

It's the same reason why gamers will put an up and coming game on a pillar of chased silver and pure shimmering samite, surrounded by a chorus of angels - only to decry it as crap the moment it fails their lofty expectations. You remember Assassin's Creed, right? I recall people saying that game was the Second Coming, and as soon as it was released - despite being an excellent game - was suddenly the worst game ever.

cobra_ky:
"Hardcore" gamers seem to be the ones who value immersion and escapism more than anything else; they're also a lot more sensitive to how the game industry has changed over the years. For more "casual" gamers it doesn't seem nearly as big a deal.

I'll agree that devoted enthusiasts pay more attention to the vagaries of the industry than your average consumer, but I don't think hardcore has anything to do with immersion or escapism, necessarily.

A lot of the most hardcore players I know couldn't care less about the worlds or fictions of the games they play. They approach video games as games of skill, not as narratives to inhabit. They are focused, like an angler casting, but I wouldn't say they're immersed. And the kind of things they do with their games are too difficult to be described as any kind of escapism.

wadark:
Secondly, the disdain for the popularity of videogames by the "hardcore" was also inevitable. I don't think what "hardcores" really wanted was for the medium to become popular; but rather they wanted the "popular crowd" to legitimize gaming. They wanted the "popular crowd" to stop looking sideways at them as though gamers were some sort of subspecies. They didn't want the "popular crowd" to play games, they wanted them to accept that videogames were just as legitimate a pasttime as playing football and "going out on the town".

Pretty much this. A good number of the "hardcore" players wanted their own version of what the jocks and preps had in high school "back in the day"- the sense of belonging, of being "in" and having the chance to exclude and look down upon others. All of a sudden there's an explosion of popularity in games, it's suddenly a common thing, and all the building up of their particular hobby that the "hardcore" players have done suddenly means nothing. It's as if all of a sudden the NBA lowered their backboards to six feet high- now everyone can slam dunk.

I think this viewpoint is what separates the dicks from the real gamers. The dicks will scream "You can't have this, it's mine, you'll ruin it!". The real gamers will say "Welcome to the fun house, take a look around. If you want some help just ask." While it's true that many of the new, "casual" gamers aren't going to show any sort of interest in the "serious" games, there will be some who look beyond Peggle or Plants vs. Zombies, see classic entries like System Shock 2 or Deus Ex, and say "Hey, that looks pretty interesting, what's the deal?".

The doors are open now. We can stand in the corner giving glares and muttering to ourselves, or we can put up some informative signs and point out the fun stuff.

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