I recently ran across an entry in the Escapist forums that was basically about how “professional” gamers were superior to “casual” gamers (their terms). I’ve seen this debate nearly a hundred times before, & I’m sure most of you have as well. But I still decided to give my opinion on the matter & try to be the voice of reason in this ridiculous debate (not that I expect my opinion to really change anything).
First of all, what do those terms actually mean? You could ask ten different people to define profession & casual gamer, & get ten different answers. In my mind, a professional gamer is someone who gets paid to play video games. Doesn’t that make sense? What makes someone a professional athlete? Someone pays you a lot of money to do it, & people pay money to see you do it. So for me, unless you’re getting a paycheck to play games (either from gaming companies, magazines, etc), or you spend all of your time training to enter gaming tournaments to win large pots of money, you can’t call yourself a “professional” gamer. So let’s just throw that term out.
Okay, what about “hardcore” v. casual? These terms are very arbitrary. At what point do you cross over from being casual to hardcore? Is based on hours of time spent in a game, sort of like a going from part-time to full-time employment? If that’s the case, why don’t you ever hear about hardcore Farmvillians? I know people who spend a ridiculous amount of time tending their virtual chickens. But does that not count because it’s just a casual game? I recently ran across a mid-core gamer definition. Now they’re just splitting hairs.
It’s all about perspective. If you asked my friends, who don’t play video games, they’d probably say I was a hardcore gamer. However, someone who proclaims to be a true hardcore gamer would probably disagree. They might say I’m in that mid-core gaming zone. I spend too much time & money gaming to be casual, but I’m not obsessed with beating every game I own on insanity mode.
I think what the whole argument boils down to an us-them mentality. If you’ve ever studied psychology or sociology, you know that almost all humans engage in this kind of thinking. Do you have a favorite sports team & a hated rival team? Do you have a favorite NASCAR driver but dislike another (& their fans)? We do it all the time. Humans are programmed to seek solidarity among those who have similarities with ourselves. Along with that, we feel compelled to single out those who aren’t part of our group. Being part of a group makes you different… & better than those who aren’t. Well, it certainly makes you different, but does it really make you better. Are UofK fans better in any tangible way than UofL fans? Do you automatically make more money if you’re a Red Sox fan? Are Cowboys fans more attractive? (In case you didn’t know, the answer to all of those are no.) So why bother at all?
It’s all about pride. Now, don’t get me wrong. Pride is a good thing. You should take pride in your hobbies & other activities. I take great pride in being a gamer (& yes, I only refer to myself as a gamer, no additions). I will defend my love of gaming & its community. I voiced my opinion that video games should be protected as free speech & thus protected from that stupid California law. But some people take this pride & loyalty too far. They want to assign levels of value to other gamers so they can compare how they stack up. They want to brag about how many achievements they’ve unlocked or how many enemies they’ve fragged. Those things are all well & good, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.
Let’s just stick with calling people gamers. Just ask them, “Do you consider yourself a gamer?” If they only like playing Bejeweled or Farmville, the answer is probably no.
If you want to call yourself a hardcore gamer, for whatever reason, that’s fine. You can call yourself whatever you want. But don’t look down on people just because you don’t classify them in your group. In the end it doesn’t matter. Companies are just as happy to take my non-hardcore money for Mass Effect 3 as they are your hardcore money for Call of Duty.