Gaming is a hobby which absolutely adores labels. We love them so much that we keep inventing new ones every time a new gameplay model pops up. Sometimes it means adding extra descriptors as if that explains anything (what IS an action RPG these days?), sometimes it’s clever portmanteaus (Metroidvania), and occasionally we dive headfirst into the depths of sin to come up with puns, like “Rogue-lite”.
Of course, the labelling goes beyond, and involves even things like slapping a name on people’s playstyles and attitudes towards gaming as a whole. That’s what we’re going to talk about this time. Specifically: we’re taking a look at what makes one a hardcore or a casual gamer based on several aspects.
It’s not as simple or clear-cut as it may seem, but with the school going back online, it’s as good a time as any to take ideas under scrutiny and perhaps maybe even learn something about the kind of gamer you are?
So, let’s dive into a brief dive which will tell you…
How to know if you’re a Hardcore or Casual Gamer?
(in several easy steps)
The first aspect is already contentious, but bear with us.
A significant difference between hardcore gamers and casual ones is why they play games in the first place.
Hardcores play to see everything the game has to offer, take it for themselves, and perhaps also shove it in their friends’ noob faces (more on that later). While it is fun for them, it wouldn’t look this way for a casual (get it?) observer and might look like an extra duty. It’s a military-grade completionist mindset that isn’t limited just to clearing the map of question marks.
On the other hand, casuals play for a more common idea of “fun”. They’ll launch a game to unwind after work or school and play to do something that looks interesting at the moment. It might be visiting a new town in Skyrim, making half of Handsome Squidward in Minecraft, or putting in some work towards the next level in an MMO. The point is that they might drop it the moment is starts feeling like a chore.
That should be a no-brainer, right? A hardcore gamer has exactly one time frame for playing: Whenever-They-Can o’clock, each day, every day. If that’s impossible due to duties like work or school, well, that’s too bad for the duties.
Casuals are, as the name suggests, much more casual about it. They might play nothing for two months and then spend hours, each day, all week playing something… if they feel like it. Not-playing isn’t an aberration, for them, it’s the norm.
Now let’s look at what Elden Ring players would call “skill issue”.
If you’re a hardcore gamer, you probably care a lot about mastering the ins and out of the game you put your John Wick-like focus on. Perhaps it’s learning how to do Bloodborne no-damage runs or figuring out the optimal path to victory in Europa Universalis even with the weakest country.
On the other hand, a casual player might be fine with being just good enough to get by. If it means tanking twenty Mega Potions in Monster Hunter or grossly over-turtling their base before venturing forth in Age of Empires, they are usually happy to be able to get further into the game, inelegant through their methods might be.
Of course, it’s not uniform by any measure, there are untold thousands of games with all kinds of playstyles. It’s fully possible that a World of Warcraft hardcore will have a casual fling with Civilization VI, for example, a one-turn-stand, if you will.
The attitude towards multiplayer might well be one of the key aspects deciding whether you’re hardcore or casual.
For many hardcores, multiplayer might be the most important thing, and they take their online responsibilities seriously. If their guild has an 18 hour raid scheduled, they’ll have an IV of energy drinks and a conveyor belt of snacks ready to go, but they won’t leave their post. If that also involves getting up so early that birds are telling them to chill out, that’s fine. Teammates need their tank, and sleep is for the weak.
If that sounds like work rather than a good time, it might just mean you’re leaning towards a casual attitude on that front. Perhaps you’ll pop into multiplayer only when it has no strings attached, like a quick deathmatch in a shooter you like, while for hardcore gamers, a full commitment’s what they’re thinking off when they go online.
It’s connected to both the mastery and multiplayer aspects. Sometimes the community and getting better at a game are the point. Sometimes, however, the point is having people to beat the shit out of in the game they thought they were good at. They might have been, but for hardcore gamers it’s a point of pride to prove that their opponent might be good, but they are better. What happens when two hardcores collide? This is how legends begin and clips start circulating online, like the famous Evo Moment #37.
Does that mean casual players don’t compete? They do, but they are more likely to pursue friendly matches, often play unranked, and the stakes are rarely more personal than deciding who’s paying for pizza.
The third option
Although the format of this text might suggest that there are only hardcores and casuals, there is in fact another label, because… come on, of course there is. And it’s good news for everyone who plays like a hardcore in some aspects but also feels strongly casual about others.
It’s called being a core gamer. If you’re core, you probably try to get in as much gaming time as you can without it being the most important thing in your life, and you’re fairly serious about a few games, but quite casual about many more.
It’s a niche many people settle into if gaming is their primary or secondary hobby. Often current cores are in their thirties and older and used to go hardcore back in the day, but had to tone that down for one reason or another. Perhaps they have a family they prioritize, or simply don’t have the energy and spare brain-room to care that much about games anymore.
And as any trainer will tell you: working out your core muscles is very important and healthy.
Does it matter?
Here comes the kicker: these labels, core, hardcore, casual? They don’t really matter a whole lot most of the time, not really. They can be helpful when you’re looking for teammates, a casual and a hardcore probably wouldn’t play well together, but in the end whether you’re the type to just dip your toes into the gaming ocean, go for a swim, or immerse yourself fully, what’s important is that you’re in this hobby that gives you your personal kind of fun.
The best moments come by when both sides (Core players are golden, don’t you ever change) can push aside their petty Hardcore vs Casual disputes and talk about the games they love. Even if one can’t scrounge up enough souls to improve anything up in Dark Souls, and the other has a trigger-finger for the Push-to-Talk to yell at somebody for being 3.5 DPS behind everyone else.