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Think you're hardcore? Then there's a good chance you're not

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.

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71 comments

  • LKabongUno - June 2, 2010 4:51 p.m.

    Yeah, I think I'm going to roll my eyes at this whole article. The problem is that 1) 90% of everything is bad or substandard, and 2) there are different kinds of bad. Yes, game design is hard work, much goes on behind the scenes that you don't know about, that often gets little to no thanks. None of that changes the above two facts. It's probably no coincidence that the percentage of triple A blockbusters to unknown games is about the same as the old 10/90 split that we hear about everywhere else in entertainment (and elsewhere). Sturgeon's Law applies to games as it does science fiction, and it's a fair bet that the sales of most games tend to reflect this. Mario Kart DS is one of the best selling DS titles ever, and could be considered a Triple A blockbuster, however it's not the only racing game on the market. There are a ton of others, which have received less acclaim. If I were unfamiliar with them, I could go and play games like Ridge Racer DS, or Micro Machines V4, or Homies, all of which are in the same or similar genre as MKDS. Upon doing so, I would discover that each one of these games have control issues, presentation problems, and in game inconsistencies that make them at the very least unfun to play. Having personally played all of the games I just listed (even Homies, unfortunately), I can say that MKDS gets higher ratings than the previous 3 games, not because of any Pro Nintendo bias that may or may not exist in game reviewers' minds, but because it really is technically a better game by most reasonable people's standards. Now, whether or not I am by anyone's definition a gamer, one thing I do know is that I have a limited amount of money, as do most people in the market to buy games. I don't have the luxury of buying any game that the next random Gamestop schmoe tries to sell me as the next great game. I generally want to be assurred that the game I purchase is at least worth my money. If I'm in front of a bin or on a game site, and I see 100 games in front of me, I don't care how much hard work went into the 90 bad ones, I just want one of the 10 good ones. You want to waste your time and money paying for worthless garbage so you can have the moniker of "hardcore" be my guest. I won't be doing the same, and the fact that you may do so doesn't make you hardcore, any more than it does Dusie Homemaker who was previously mentioned. Getting to the point that there are multiple kinds of bad, elitist gamers who think that their genre or taste are the only kinds of games worth playing are bad, but then so are those with no taste. Every game is not worth buying. Every game is not worth trying out or even picking up. We know this. Unfortunately, Susie Homemaker doesn't. She may not know that game X has a bad camera, and game Y has poor control, and game Z is made by a company that makes garbage in general and has never made a decent title. Yes, Susie will sit down and play any game, but it's not because she's "hardcore." It's because she really doesn't know any better. It's like those pictures of children in impoverished countries drinking water that we wouldn't take a dump in. If you don't know any better, you will do anything. The real problem is uninformed customers, who play all manner of games. Susie Homemaker doesn't know how to find the relevant information about how good a game is, and the self proclaimed "hardcore gamer" doesn't care because they think they know. This leads to both parties missing out on obscure but good games that they might have found out about had they looked around, done some digging, spoken to a few people about them, etc etc. I think that that is a lot of what you hear gamers decrying Susie Homemaker for: just picking up a game when there are 8 million reviews saying that the game is garbage and listing numerious technical reasons why. These gamers themselves may be missing the point, by not researching games that they think are not hardcore merely because they're not popular, and themselves falling into a pit of ignorance. Which concludes my second point: there is a spectrum of bad. Anyway, I freely admit I am not a hardcore gamer: I have a definite preference for fighting games and racing games, I only play games if they're fun, and I don't engage in trash talk. I will play games on older systems to try for 100% completion or to try out new stuff I've learned in newer games, or just to compare and contrast things, but once again, that's not because I'm hardcore, it's because I find it fun to do, and something interesting to do with my time. That's all that matters to me.
  • Apollomon - June 2, 2010 3:51 p.m.

    simply put, chase popular games only you not hardcore but a sheep i actually hate war games like call of duty and medal of honour, and love unknown games that tend to bring such suprising features to the table...to be hardcore you gotta look past the initial thought of all games being like CoD and search deeper for the hidden gems...grim fandango is a typical underrated game that is brilliant but wont be discovered as easily as Cod and the likes
  • pin316 - June 1, 2010 3:17 p.m.

    It toally depends on where you're coming from, but i (mostly)agree with this definition... this came up on a forum a while back after some dousche who basically spent his entire time flaming nintendo owners for having a wii, and how they were all 'well gay' and not 'hardcore like him' (which his proof for, btw, was being prestige lv whatever on CoD) eventually f'd off... For me the easiest way to tell if someone is not a hardcore gamer is when they do precisely the above - go onto message boards/forums and use any excuse to just flame another system (or all of them apart from their own), they will not listen to reason, will not have serious debates, and most importantly will not regard anything that their console is not producing as potentially exciting/good. best example for em atm is with Natal - a friend of mine is 100% ps3, and prefers everything about it to 360 and wii - yet although skepticism remains about how well Natal will work, at the same time he is excited by the potential that such a device has for the future of gaming. That to me is one of the qualities of a hardcore gamer
  • symphonicdeathpop - June 1, 2010 2:54 p.m.

    Great article, I totally agree.
  • itkonlyyou94 - June 1, 2010 2:53 p.m.

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  • philipshaw - June 1, 2010 10:48 a.m.

    I would say I'm hardcore because I will play anything I hear is half decent. For example at the moment I'm playing the Mark Ecko's Getting Up instead of Red Dead Redemption
  • Snakeman - June 1, 2010 10:06 a.m.

    Fantastic article, David, I'm in complete agreement. I can't stand the people who think they're better than the rest just because they're Prestige level I-don't-know-what. Kudos to you for this great insight.
  • shinigamiDude - June 1, 2010 5:53 a.m.

    How could you hurt the feeling of Little Jimmy Killzone!!!??? I love this part >>> Being hardcore isn’t about playing the big, complicated, flashy gory stuff, and owning half the world in multiplayer. It’s just about having an open-minded love and appreciation of the medium in all its forms. It’s about finding as much to appreciate in the writing of a crusty old adventure game as in a bleeding-edge FPS. It’s about being as interested in what an obscure, arty indie game is trying to achieve through the interactive media as what Insomniac wants to achieve with Resistance 3’s graphical upgrades.
  • Rika - June 1, 2010 5:33 a.m.

    I don't agree with every point made, to-the-letter and across the board, but I agree with the gist of it. I myself ventured into gamer "cock measuring", I've got scores and records to prove it, "hardcore" territory once... but only in one game. And I realized at the end of it that I was so concerned with trying to be measurably "good" at that game that I was no longer literate in the world of games in general. At the end of it, the sneaking feeling that I was more hardcore when i was just a nerd playing RPGs alone on a PS1 with no network for trophies or anything else to prove I'd done what i'd done except for the ability to carry on a conversation about it.
  • V13Dragongal - June 1, 2010 5:30 a.m.

    I never thought of myself as hardcore. Yet I fit the defination. I play mostly RPGs, but when I do play the war games I see the time put into them to make the whole aim and shoot system. I respect all games, but just play a few of them. And love the ones I play.
  • Sickooo - June 1, 2010 4:31 a.m.

    what a very insightful article...
  • slimjim441 - June 1, 2010 3:35 a.m.

    @juicheidea You are perfectly expressing my point. He's not saying that new shooters suck and shitty party games are great. He's saying that if you think about it, most of the people who play video games, only play a certain type (MMO, RTS, FPS, RPG, or even just Nintendo, 360, or PS3 fanboys) as opposed to casual people who play whatever (shit) they want. And if you really think about it, these new games do lack some qualities that make games great. Now think hard, how many people do you know who still play Cod4, Halo 2, Uncharted 1, Prototype, and I could go on. The point is, when you expand your perspective, you can find the truly great games. Most of the games I have now, I purchased far after their release date, because visual awesomeness and 'next gen.' tech doesn't mean the games are good. Play an older game like Metal Gear Solid 1, Metroid Prime, (original) Wolfenstein. Those games look pretty shitty, but you try to tell me that they're crap, I dare you.
  • sirpsychosexy - June 1, 2010 3:12 a.m.

    I think you have a different definition for a "hardcore gamer" than I do. To me, a hardcore gamer IS the CoD guy, and a hardcore game IS the big main stream shooter. Also, under my definition I am NOT a hardcore gamer, I appreciate the genre I might suggest a different term like... "game buff" or "game appreciator," because hardcore just means you play them a lot (under my definition)
  • HawtKakez - June 1, 2010 2:02 a.m.

    Great article as always. I find it funny that I've never considered myself a "hardcore gamer" even though the major portion of my daily entertainment is comprised of video games. At the moment, I own a collection of 24 games ranging from the playstation 3 to the wii. I don't like to say I'm "hardcore" but instead I am an afficianado of video games. I also don't anticipate the big financial hitters such as Call of Duty, Killzone, or Gears of War. I don't know where I'm going with this so I'll just say I don't like the term hardcore gamer because I find it to be a negative conotation of an avid gamer. It brings up pictures of the worst of the worst gamer who takes an unhealthy pride in their gaming and boast themselves whenver it is not really neccessary.
  • Shi-ne - June 1, 2010 1:46 a.m.

    Ask a Wii mommy which buttons to press to perform Subzero's fatality in the 1st Mortal Kombat. Or what a Neo Geo is. I'm casual BTW.
  • Shrimpandwhitewine - June 1, 2010 1:35 a.m.

    A great article Mr. Houghton
  • XNewAgeWarriorx - June 1, 2010 1:04 a.m.

    This article actually assumes that being hardcore is good...If someone decides to play blockbuster titles only, whats wrong with that? Indie=/= good. If something is good, in the gaming world it becomes blockbuster.Can you really rag on someone because they don't play older or unknown games when the amount of new great games coming out right now is staggering? This article makes no sense.
  • mrmorozov987 - June 1, 2010 12:52 a.m.

    Sorry, sorry, gameSradar.
  • mrmorozov987 - June 1, 2010 12:50 a.m.

    Now I have an excuse when everyone is talking about their favorite modern games (either MW2 of Halo, absolutely nothing else), while I'm still enjoying Shadow of Colossus, Okami, and Resident Evil 4 on my PS2. Thanks, Gameradar!
  • jucheidea - June 1, 2010 12:42 a.m.

    This entire argument is also implying being able to call yourself a hardcore gamer is something to be proud of in the first place when IT'S NOT. Out there now is somebody that spends all this time watching quirky, niche movies, reading forgotten, "under appreciated" books in the desperate hope that somebody cares how discerning and dignified their taste in movies or books are when in reality NOBODY CARES.

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