Yet, as easy as it would be to declare that "boys will be boys" (even when they're women, though that's rare), it still gets in the way of accurate descriptions. For some people, "hardcore" gamers play these masculine games. For others, it means simply the amount of time spent on a game, ignoring or willfully dismissing the code that "casual" is more feminine than "hardcore." Sometimes we can figure it out from context. Even still, continuing to use these words will trigger debate or controversy about what's really casual or really hardcore. On the other hand, it's good to have these distinct terms. A term for people who play a lot of games is useful. Likewise, it's good to have a term for people who like boy games and only boy games.
The problem is that once terms are defined, it's almost impossible to change them intentionally. Of the likely dozens of terms which people attempted to use to describe gamers who played a great deal to the point where "gamer" was a significant part of their identity, why was hardcore chosen and accepted? The term itself wasn't common before describing music genres like hardcore punk, or especially graphic or "hardcore" pornography. It generally means uncompromising, with a screw-the-system aesthetic. Punk music, explicit pornography and videogaming all have stereotypes of being male-oriented pursuits, and likewise, they all moved into the popular consciousness starting in the late 1970s. Now the term can be used generically to describe anything or any action perceived as uncompromising."You told your boss off? That's hardcore, dude."
In issue 235 of The Escapist, Erin Hoffman specifically drew the parallels between the male-dominated punk movement and the videogames industry today in Riot Grrls Wanted. Dealing with coded terms like "hardcore gamer" and "real gamers" is primarily symbolic, far from the creative force of the riot grrls. However, both concepts strike directly at the implicit and encoded masculine dominance of the videogame industry.
There is one term which contains an identification which can compare with the term "hardcore gamer." It encompasses regular Call of Duty players, FarmVille fanatics, Bejeweled addicts, and your raid healer in World of Warcraft. It stands as entirely distinct from "non-gamer" or "person who happens to play games." It is a statement of frank identity, instead of a loaded, coded and confusing claim of maleness. It is, simply, "gamer." A person who declares that they are a gamer, that playing games is a part and parcel of who they are, implies as much or more about their relationship to the game industry as "hardcore" does. Why not use it instead?
Rowan Kaiser is a fashionably underemployed freelance writer living the Bay Area. He blogs at renaissancegamer.blogspot.com, tweets @rowankaiser, and is currently working on a book about the history of video games.