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So, ‘hardcore’ then. It’s been the battle cry of “proper” gamers ever since the Wii arrived. Hardcore gamers are the ones with the serious appreciation of the medium. The ones who aren’t swayed by flavour-of-the-month industry fads. The ones who seek out real, stimulating game design talent while the mainstream casuals are falling at the feet of whatever bland, babiez-packed toss they’re currently being told to like.
Except they’re not. A hell of a lot of those who label themselves hardcore gamers don’t do any of that at all. In fact they do exactly the opposite, on all counts. In fact a lot of ‘hardcore’ gamers have a less committed appreciation of the medium than the average Wii-owning soccer mom. And here’s why.
What predilections generally define the tastes of an archetypal hardcore gamer? Ask most what makes the stuff they play better than the tap-and-waggle libraries of the casual masses, and you’ll hear about complexity, depth, storyline and technical mastery.
Ask what they play and you’ll hear about the big hardware showcases of the day, the games that show horsepower, art design, tight game mechanics, realistic world-realisation and immersion in perfect unison. You’ll hear about Gears of War, and Call of Duty, and Halo, and Grand Theft Auto, and Uncharted, and Killzone, and Final Fantasy, and Metal Gear Solid.
In short, you’ll hear the tastes of the casual masses who’ve mistaken a liking of graphical fidelity and control complexity for a true appreciation of the overall medium.
I’m not for a second doubting the greatness of any of the games I’ve just mentioned. They’re all brilliant. Well, Halo bores me and I’ve never carried on playing a GTA game once the initial thrill of the freedom has passed, but you know what I mean. In terms of what a modern, mass-market game can achieve, they’re all stunning, stunning works.
But the point is, they’re modern, mass-market games. Let’s be honest, liking them doesn’t make you any more au fait with the medium or culturally elite as a fan of video games than watching a heavily-marketed mainstream Hollywood movie makes you a serious film buff.