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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

Understanding the Difference Between "Casual" and "Hardcore"

Posted by Meleagar Friday December 14 2012 at 9:00AM
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I've come to a much better understanding of how to meaningfully define the term "casual" and "hardcore" since playing (and debating about) GW2.

To make it really simple: casual players, as I'm defining them for this blog, are players who fundamentally consider MMOGs to be experiences to be enjoyed and not games to be won.  They will not do things in an MMOG that are not fun (at least not much of it) in order to pursue some kind of "win" or achievement.  Wins or achievements are, to a casual player, an added bonus to their enjoyment, not something to be pursued for their own sake via otherwise unenjoyable content.

Hardcore players - again, for the purpose of this blog - are those that primarily play to win some kind of identifiable, meaningful achievement.   They are there to have a top-level character in top gear and having acquired all significant achievements. Wins, top power or achievements are, to a hardcore player, the only reason to play a game.  Everthing else in the game is, essentially, "fluff".

For the casual player, the fluff is what is of primary concern; for a hardcore player, the fluff is irrelevant.

Let me explain "fluff"; it is more than just fancy clothes and hairstyle and sparkly ponies in an MMOG.  For instance, when a casual player can wade into a huge boss MOB fight and get to loot the shiny chest at the end, what they are getting from the chest is not important; what is important is primarily being able to be involved in such a battle and being able to loot the chest at the end. 

You see, all of that is the "fluff" - even the loot, unless the loot is something that a hardcore player specifically requires to "win".  The boss MOB battle is just what the hardcore player has to go through to get the "win"; it doesn't matter if the hardcore player has to grind dungeons, grind crafting, grind resources, grind map completion, jump puzzles, WvW, PvP .. all of that, to a hardcore player, is just disposable, interchangeable window dressing - fluff. What matters is the "win" - some form of power progression for their character. 

To the casual player, though, even if the chest at the end just gives them a pile of stuff they're going to sell, it doesn't really matter, because they didn't do it to get the shiny "win" item at the end; they did it to experience a huge, monstrous battle and contribute enough to be able to loot the chest.  They're not grinding the shiny loot at the end; they're enjoying a huge boss MOB fight for its own sake.  For many casual players, such an experience has been out of our reach ever since EQ vanilla came out.

It doesn't matter how many hours you put into the game, what defines you as either a casual or a hardcore player - IMO - is what motivates you as you play. I don't see either playstyle as "wrong", but simply rather as two entirely different demographics that developers should consider in the developmental process.

GW2 has a lot of great casual-friendly features that most other MMORPGs just don't have and future MMORPGs should certainly emulate.

theAsna writes: Interesting definitions of casual and hardcore players. But it reminds me a bit of "flower sniffers" and "power gamers". Fri Dec 14 2012 3:08PM Report
Tchilde writes: COH, now a fond memory was all about the experience and had the kind of fights you describe aplenty, is still the friendliest MMORPG I've ever played. Fri Dec 14 2012 11:24PM Report
daltanious writes:

If OP post is true, then we should redefine meaning of "casual" and "hardcore" by dictionaries. :-)

Btw, I enjoy developing all possible alt combinations to max, exploring world, ... but I never raid, never pvp, .... There were times when I was doing "mini raids" in form of 5man in wow or similar in other games.

I prefer defining myself by dictionary meaning of above words.

Mon Dec 17 2012 1:05AM Report
Meleagar writes:


I'd like to know what "dicitonary" meaning of the terms "casual" and "hardcore" you are referring to.  How about a link? finitions of the terms would certainly fall in with. 



1: unswervingly committed; uncompromising; dedicated


1. happening by chance; fortuitous

2. without definite or serious intention

Those dictionary definitions correspond nicely with how I use the terms as they relate to MMORPG players.



Mon Dec 17 2012 9:25AM Report
Beowulfsam writes:

Hm, so if you do 1 30 min instance per day, you hate it, but you want the loot at the end, you're hardcore. Nah, not gonna fly.

You mention GW2 which I play. I have a job which stresses me out, so I want games to be my happy time :P., so I'm casual by that count. 

On the other hand guild I'm in is WvW focused, so we do that, buuut I still want the fractal loots even tho I hate them I still do them, same with instances. So I'm hardcore, gief lootz! BUT there are thing's I'm not prepared to do to get some stuff, like grinding money, ectos and shit for legendaries, getting all achievements, minipets (I prefer to spend my time doing stuff I like).

So idk, it's not all black and white, there be shades of grey. I'd still rather go by more than X hours played, does mindless grinding, says ppl want things on a platter when they're unwilling to spend 200hrs+ for 1 item and throws around words like entitlement, l2p, scrubs = hardore. Jokes aside, I could also say: devotes majority of his free time to games = hardcore gamer.

Tue Dec 18 2012 9:29AM Report
Eled writes:

Good definition, though I think trying to change the terms meanings at this stage is a bit late.. still I think that Funner vs Winner is a more meaningfull and less pejoritave devide than casual and hardcore.

I unconsiously regect the "casual" lablel as I do take my fun seriously, but fun is what I am after. Nota win or some arbitary measure of power, infact I tend to shy away from PVP as it forces me to compare myself to others. 

Wed Dec 19 2012 8:07AM Report
Meleagar writes: Well I'm really just defining the terms for this particular blog and what they mean to me. They are of course "in general" and don't represent all players. Wed Dec 19 2012 8:10AM Report
Ryahl writes:

I really think you are best served keeping casual vs. hard core a measure of intensity of investment.  It gets really ugly when you try to overlay motivation onto that.  Your achievement orientation referenced in paragraph 2 is a personal motivation factor.  This isn't just a Bartle archetype, need for achievement is a well recognized part of human motivation strata (e.g. McLelland's theories)

While there are some obvious correlations between the two, one would expect those with higher needs for achievement to also invest more time intensity in an activity, there are a number of reasons why this wont be a 1:1 correlation.  Time available being the most obvious.  

There are people with tons of free time, who are not achievement motivated.  For example, social players, tapping into the McLelland need for affiliation.  I would say that the people who organize the Weathertop concert in LOTRO are pretty hardcore in their intensity, but there is nothing about "winning" going on in putting together a game-wide concert for several years in a row.  That's need for affiliation in its purest form.

Conversely, there are achievement oriented players with severe restrictions on their time slots.  They tend to be as organized and efficiency seeking as your most bleeding edge hardcore content-chewer, but they tend to run behind the power curve due to time invested.

Wed Dec 19 2012 9:27AM Report writes:
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