I'm as avid a gamer as the next man. But I'm still impressed, and a little shocked, by how much time some of my comrades will invest in the latest videogames. It isn't just time: These games absorb their creative energy and are granted a central place in their lives.
And of course, why shouldn't they? Videogames are the most engaging media experience of our age. They entice us in with visual imagery, orchestral sound and intuitive controls - all honed to perfection over the years. They tell stories that rehearse the themes of the old legends and sagas. They are fast becoming the most attractive (and popular) way to spend our leisure time.
But then it struck me, how hardcore is it to revel in all this? With all that before us, it's not really that hard to be into games these days. Maybe gaming had a hardcore element back when 8-bit and 16-bit tech meant hours of investment getting a game to load before we could play it - I never could get the volume right on my Spectrum 48k. But these days pretty much anyone with half an inkling will find a way into what we call hardcore gaming. And, to quote my favourite Pixar character, Buddy from The Incredibles, "when everyone's super, no one is." Perhaps it's time to leave the concept of a hardcore gamer behind and embrace the broad appeal to the masses of the games we play.
Sure it's semantics. And who really cares whether we are hardcore, specialist or enthusiasts? But that's not my point today. I say all this because I think I've found a group of gamers who really deserve the hardcore moniker.
These guys and gals spend hours tracking down their gaming prey from a rag tag collection of local stores and half baked websites. They can't buy electronically, their games have to be physically delivered to them. When it arrives they then have a good half hour reading the manual and setting things up. No tutorials, no flashy graphics; just cards, wooden pieces, dice and a playfield.
OK, so you guessed it, I'm talking about board gamers. For my money they are the real hardcore gamers these days.
The biggest sign of this for me is that they are largely an underground movement. People still think of board games in terms of Monopoly, Chess and maybe Trivial Pursuit. As every hardcore board gamer knows, the truth couldn't be further from that sterile world of traditional, sedate gaming.
New board games are released almost daily and devoured by a community as voracious as any videogame forum - just check out Board Game Geek. It's all very reminiscent of the underground gaming days of the late 80's with the Amiga and Atari St giving birth to companies like Team 17 and Bullfrog.