Gaming is a popular pastime for many of us, though one of the big distinctions made within communities is whether or not someone is hardcore or casual gamer.
Whether you play a couple hours a day or dozens per week, whether or not you fit into one of the two main categories is a hotly debated topic. Some people spend hundreds of hours on a mobile game yet are still considered to be casual, while someone who spends a couple hours a day on a console game like Call of Duty might be called hardcore.
According to Computer Hope, “Casual gaming is a term used for a form of playing video games where a gamer does not have a long-term commitment to a game and can approach playing the game on an infrequent and spontaneous basis.”
One of the trickier things to be is a bit of both. I spend a couple dozen hours a week at least playing a wide variety of video games primarily on PC. Many people I know dub me a gamer, and arguably, considering the difficulty of the games I play, I could be labeled a hardcore gamer.
But within those games I play are people who spend those dozens of hours on just one or two games a week, rather than the large number I dabble in per week. Those people tend to consider me a casual gamer for the purposes of that particular game.
A good example of this is the popular League of Legends. I’ve put in a few hundred hours on that game over the last few years, and in normal gameplay, I’m quite good (based on win/loss and kills/deaths). However, when you throw me into the mix in the ranked mode, I’m eaten alive. I don’t spend sufficient time in that one game to become exceptionally good: I’m not a hardcore League of Legends player.
Call of Duty is the same way. While I used to make the top three regularly in a match based on points, it wasn’t because I got a lot of kills. Rather, I tended to take out the UAV’s and helicopters other players called in to get my points. I was not a hardcore Call of Duty player.
However, considering the amount of time each week I play video games, it’s arguable that I’m a hardcore gamer.
So what is it like to be in a position like that?
For those of you who, like me, enjoy a wide variety of game types, modes, etc., the challenge is to keep having fun even when you aren’t great at one of the games you play. Most of the time I find that finding a specific role in the games I play is the best way for me to have fun. In various medieval combat games, I’ve learned that I do poorly in melee combat, but if I’ve got a shield equipped, most of my foes end up dead. It’s not because I kill them, but because I take hits and attention away from my teammates who then gang up on an unsuspecting foe.
In Arma 3, I enjoy the King of the Hill variants out there, but since I’m not good with attacking buildings with twitchy reflexes or sniping from a kilometer out, I had to discover what I am good at. In this case, taking out aircraft. Give me a surface-to-air missile launcher and I’ll rack up kills like no one’s business. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to use these weapons, but it does take patience. Five shots may get spoofed by flares, but the satisfaction when that sixth shot connects with a pilot who has been harassing your team in spawn never gets old.
Rust is another game where people have put in thousands more hours than I have, but I find I can still be relevant by being patient. Instead of frontal assaults on major bases, I grab a bunch of low-level explosives and punch a hole in the side of a base for other people to exploit. Again, my success is based less on my skill within the game and more on patience.
Patience, waiting, and analyzing tactics used within a game are the way gamers who tend to bounce from game to game can remain relevant within the overall meta of what they play. Instead of going for the high difficulty but high reward options, a steady grind at your actual level of skill reaps much greater benefits in the long run. Support characters and tanks (and every game has a way to utilize those characteristics) rarely get the glory, gold, and kills, but they make the difference between winning and losing a match.
In Call of Duty, instead of taking a second primary weapon, I take a rocket launcher that keeps the sky clear of enemy surveillance. In League of Legends, I keep people alive longer than they should be (thank you, Soraka). In most MMORPG games, running as a tank is pretty easy, and everyone wants more tanks. When I played World of Warcraft, my queue time as a tank was often a few seconds compared to minutes waiting as a damage dealer.
To really enjoy playing a wide variety of games, we casual hardcore gamers have to learn to take advantage of our broad experiences and learn ways of tying in the various tactics and strategies we pick up on in other games to better affect the outcome of our play.
On the other hand, there are games which simply have too high a level of skill needed to be successful at if you aren’t going to put in a lot of time playing it. Payday 2 is a good example of this. The constant DLC updates, the changes to perk trees, new enemies, and more keep a casual player of that game from truly being able to excel. Dota 2 is another challenging game which needs a lot more time to learn and succeed at than League of Legends.
It is important to learn which games require less consistent time investments to be good at than others. The new For Honor is likely to be a game requiring a lot of play time to remain relevant. Even Call of Duty can at times need a lot of time to be a successful player.
As a casual hardcore gamer, I look for games I can set aside for weeks at a time yet still come back to and play with success. XCOM 2 rarely changes, and one month is typically the same as another as far as content and balance goes.
Interestingly, one of the more notable things about strategy games is their consistency. Most tend not to change from week to week or even month to month, making them great options for those who don’t intend to spend a lot of time on just a single game.
Games like military simulators (Arma 3, Insurgency) or MOBA’s (DOTA 2, League of Legends) often either have a very high skill cap or change often enough to require relearning of tactics and itemization in order to succeed in a match.
In MOBAs especially, a character can go from over-powered one week to less than useless the next if one of their core abilities or items is nerfed. This means that the character you played for a couple weeks last month may not be relevant when you pick up the game a couple weeks later.
Being a casual hardcore gamer can be immensely satisfying, but it isn’t for everyone. I like the challenge of applying knowledge from other games to new ones. In the case of Call of Duty, which is an arcade shooter compared to a mil-sim, I transferred my tactic of keeping the air clear over to a number of other games. The skills I needed to survive and be effective at that in the close-quarters combat of CoD have paid off major dividends when I applied them to other games. In strategy games, utilizing garnered knowledge of the power of infrastructure as a weapon has enabled me to compete with far more experienced players because I know how basic strategy works.
So what are your thoughts on being a casual or hardcore gamer (or both)? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Mike Coppola/Getty Images]