I've waded through five or six pages, and I can reasonably say the following:
"Hardcore" as a term defining a certain subset of gamers is one of the most useless inventions since the head-mounted toilet paper holder.
I'm a gamer. That's it. "Hardcore" means so many different things to so many people that trying to call myself hardcore or casual would be an almost guaranteed fallacy. I breezed through Super Mario Galaxy, but my ass is continuously handed to me in StarCraft II. I've finished Saints Row 2, but I can't get past the one required Tank Mayhem mission from The Third to save my life. I enjoy The Sims in all its iterations, and yet I'd rather shove a melon baller in my eye sockets than play some Civilization, much less some of the easier Sim titles, like Theme Park or Hospital. I enjoyed Bulletstorm for its sheer mindless fun, and I couldn't give two shits about Gears of War. Sports games always fail to grab my attention, and Football Manager looks more like a chore than a game.
I could go on like this forever. See, we're *individuals*. We're not market figures, or stereotypes, or products of a given gamer-related mindset. Each of us is his or her own person, and we all have our strengths, weaknesses and talents. The games industry caters to all colours of that proverbial rainbow.
That's all there is to it. When someone calls me a noob online, all I hear is "I'm proving you that I'm emotionally immature and that I can't stand it when someone challenges my superiority complex!"
Honestly, if that's what it means to be a gamer, nowadays - we've devolved to a pretty sad state. If your ability to verbally stroke your dick is what determines your worth as a simple presser of buttons and twiddler of joysticks, then there's a serious problem.
I could be wrong, but I think part of the problem is in modern game design. We've come to foster a sense of competition, so naturally, players who spend more time with a game or have a greater level of innate talent will rise to the top. Unfortunately, the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (mentioned in Page 1) still holds true. These skilled individuals, unable to see that they might be emotionally hurting other people who are trying pretty damn hard to have some fucking fun for a few hours, start mouthing off at them. Seeing as there's no effective way to curb online douchebaggery, said douchebaggery is fostered and nurtured. The idiots start thinking that, hey, if you can't rise up to the challenge and accumulate a monster K/D ratio in Call of Battlefield 23, then you're obviously a worthless larva. If you *do* beat them, then you're Hitler Spawn (TM), they call for hax, ragequit, or try to pin the blame on you.
Far be it from these idiots to recognize that they might have off days, just like everyone else on the fucking planet.
If *these* idiots are hardcore and if they're actually proud to consider themselves as such, they they need to be fired off into the sun, to leave more room for those of us who only care about unplugging for a couple hours.
In short, if being hardcore means living and breathing a specific game day-in and day-out and not being able to recognize defeat in the context of play as being utterly meaningless - then that term shouldn't be considered a label to be worn or some sort of badge of honour. It should be discouraged, because it's referring to basement-dwelling mouth-breathers.