The spectrum of casual vs. hardcore gamers

If you listen to the marketing or doom and gloom, there is a clear distinction between casual and hard-core gamers.  Casual gamers play on mobile devices or Wii, hardcore gamers devote a large part of their lives to games; casual gamers are being wooed by developers while hardcore gamers are ignored and relied upon to just keep supporting the industry.  Casual gamers are killing gaming.  Is it really so cut and dry?

I was introduced to video games by my older brother.  He played on the Atari and NES, while I would watch and get blamed if he lost.  When he was away or busy, I’d get the opportunity to play for a bit, but the games were his. Over time, I got more and more involved in the games – drawing maps of dungeons, strategising battles and generally acting as the navigator.  Eventually, I usurped his role and became the main gamer – actually holding the remote and playing the games from start to finish.

As a kid, I didn’t have much disposable income.  My games generally came as presents for special occasions.  Back in those days, there were some gaming magazines, but I never subscribed.  The internet wasn’t readily available, so I gained my knowledge about new games when I would walk into the store and talk to the guys behind the counter.  I’d tell them what I liked to play, and they would recommend a few new games.  After choosing one, I’d go home and play – generally satisfied with recommendations (especially when they recommended Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore).


Now, I know about games long before they’re for sale – I watch trailers, play demos, and read developer diaries to get as much info as I can to determine if I’ll like something.  I still get recommendations from people, but I am able to make my own educated decisions (plus some franchises I play no matter what – looking at you Final Fantasy).  At any given time, I have a game that I’m busy with – often getting new games before I have a chance to finish the old one.  There are titles and development houses I’m passionate about, and plenty of genres that I don’t like or can’t play (not being able to play first-person games without puking can limit some cool sounding games).

I still also play plenty of flash games – I love going on Kongregate and playing a fantastic tower defence, puzzle or simulation game.  Also, I enjoy playing silly games on the tablet or phone.  It doesn’t have to be a huge, epic AAA title to hold my attention – casual and indie games can also be a great form of entertainment.  But I’m a hardcore gamer – games are a big part of my life.  So what does a casual gamer look like?

Is a casual gamer someone who only plays games on a mobile device or Facebook?  Farmville is often sited as the quintessential game for casual gamers.  That said, there are people who have poured hundreds of hours into playing it.  Or Hill Climber.  Or Angry Birds.  Or Alchemy.  So many casual games that become vastly popular and become a central part of people’s daily lives.  Just because they don’t play on a console or gaming PC, does that automatically mean that it somehow doesn’t count?

Or maybe we should define it by how they choose their game.  Like the childhood version of me, do they rely heavily on recommendations?  Maybe they base their purchases on word of mouth or online reviews – only finding games interesting if popular opinion tells them that they will.  Although, generally speaking, casual gamers (like hardcore gamers) will only sink hours into a game if it has an appealing hook.  Otherwise, they will just abandon the game and move on.

Sure, I understand that there are people who don’t play often – those who occasionally get into a game and play for a few days or weeks before moving on to other (non-gaming) things.  However, most people who define themselves as non-gamers are still really interested in a game on their phone, tablet or browser at any given time.  And let’s not even mention people who enjoy playing cards or board games.

Perhaps we need to tear down the artificial walls between gamers.  If you use a game for entertainment, then technically, you’re a gamer.  Even our parents who played Monopoly for hours are gamers.  I’m not sure why we need to define casual gamers as so different from hardcore gamers.  If the game is interesting enough to them, they will also play for hours on end – people made ‘professional’ Wii Sports leagues!  What about those of us who might be hardcore gamers but just don’t have enough time to play as much as we’d like?  Would we become casual hardcore gamers?  Are those others hardcore casual gamers?

It all just seems like a waste of time trying to define, which means it’s a waste of time deriding people for their gaming preferences.  Maybe our next step is getting rid of gamer stereotypes so that people don’t view it as a lifestyle choice to be defined as a gamer.  If you play games, you’re a gamer, just as if you read you are a reader or if you write you are a writer.  You may not be pro, or even particularly adept, but you are still those things.

Otherwise, you might as well define me as a semi-casual hardcore gamer.  Plus, I’m not always very good at the games I enjoy (still trying to get through ZombieU without dying)… oh, and let’s just throw my gender into the mix as well, seeing as that apparently matters, too.  So semi-casual mid-range-ability hardcore girl (or gurl or female) gamer.  

Do you see a value in these definitions?  In which pigeon-hole would you put yourself?

Tags: , ,

Author:Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!
  • Admiral Chief Commander

    Well according to my Steam and Raptr rating its elite or 10/10, but I still maintain a healthy balance between all facets of my life (religion, family, work, eat, sleep and gaming)

    • Rinceandspit…

      Shut it, you casual gamer you! trololol!

    • mancera

      Sleep? What is this thing you’re talking about?

      • Hammersteyn

        I slept once. It was awful.

        • Admiral Chief Commander

          …was prolly wet

        • Daniel Keevy

          How. I kept hitting (F) standing next to my bed, but no rest bar appeared? :’(

          • Hammersteyn


      • Game game game gone

        I was told under no circumstances would I be allowed to build a camp fire in the living room :(

        • mancera

          I’ve been told the same… inconsiderate people :(

          • Game game game gone

            So inconsiderate – Swines don’t know what they are missing…..

  • Rinceandspit…

    Secret of Mana! I LOVED that game!

    • Hammersteyn


    • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

      MANA!!!! I want some pink candy now lol

      • Rinceandspit…

        Me too! Man, what a game. I think that it changed my life man, really!

        • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

          those were the days of life changing games hey.

  • Trevor Davies

    If you play a games, you are a gamer. There are no arbitrary distinctions. The bulk of this discussion revolves around a few entitled idiots wanting to show off their e-peen & believe they’re better because of what they play or what platform they use. Annoys me to no end. Except when I do it, because hypocrisy is cool :D

    • Rinceandspit…

      What you said, CASUAL GAMER! *runs off laughing…

      • Trevor Davies

        only fake girl gamers run away ;)

        • Rinceandspit…

          Damn you!

          • Admiral Chief Commander


        • Admiral Chief Commander

          oh snap

          • Argentil

            I really hate the elitists in our community. Why do we have to size each other up? I find the PC master race are the worst with this distinction of casual and hardcore. Who cares? Every casual gamer is a potential hardcore gamer anyway. Treat them nice, extend a hand, then indoctrinate them into our cult.

          • Trevor Davies

            You want me to touch a non-PC gamer? NOOOOOoooooOOOOooooo!!!!! ;)

        • Zoe

          yeah, real girl gamers will destroy you :)

          • Trevor Davies

            Please, I’m bulletproof! I am invincible! No woman can defe…what? Yes dear, coming!

  • Hammersteyn

    Ask any PC gamer, XBOX and PS people are casual gamers.

    Ask any of those gamers and they will say Nintendo is casual.

    Nintendo gamers will say mobile gamers are casual.

    Mobile gamers will say whats this gamer thing you refer to?

    • Rinceandspit…

      I was going to ask you what could be lower than a mobile gamer… but you cleared that up nicely!

    • Admiral Chief Commander


    • Tbone187

      Hahaha!!! legend…

  • Umar Kiiroi Senk?


    ahem. anyway, I view myself as a gamer, I play all types of games and I love all types of games. I don’t really believe in ‘hardcore’ but i do think there is a distinction between hardcore and core, with core playing more types of different games and is more involved in all aspects of the gaming-verse and hardcore being more focused on a single title. I myself am more of an enthusiast. browse my phone and you will find the entire OST of Chrono Cross (and yes Time’s Scar is the best song EVAR). I know more about gaming than I do about myself. I don’t feel casual gaming destroyed the industry … there are much more pressing issues than the casual market, issues that I think are too depressing to keep mentioning.

    Good article. Nice Tambourine!!

  • Alex Hicks

    I have no pigeon hole. I play games that I enjoy, when I can (which is less often than it used to be because … kids).

    I have also ceased to define gamers by labels. It would be hypocritical of me to call a player of Farmville casual; when I have enjoyed Bad Piggies on my tablet; just as it would be to define me as casual when I have poured countless hours into “core” games stretching back to the days when games were not an acceptable hobby.

    Games are like movies … you don’t judge me my bizarre love of Star Wars; and I won’t belittle your desire to see Fast and Furious 6.

    • Trevor Davies

      Well said.

    • Nitro

      Bad Piggies… That is the closest I’ll get to “coke” on my mobile

  • Ultimo_Cleric N7

    According to my 1200 hours on Mass Effect 3 MP last year, I think I might be a hardcore gamer…. Although I have always used MMORPG’s to define the split. Anyone who has the TIME & ENERGY to play WoW or Guild Wars has to be a hardcore gamer.

    • mancera

      Then I was a hardcore gamer for nearly 3 years when basically all I played was WoW?

      • Ultimo_Cleric N7

        Fair enough, but be honest. How many hours a day did you spend playing?

        • mancera

          Between 2 and 20 hours depending on the day, sometimes more depending on my raiding friends. I’ve gotten 6 characters to lvl 85+, one of which is lvl 90, done most raids, dungeons, about two thirds of the achievements and killed a couple months of my life on each character.

          But of course life came along and I can no longer afford to play, and I’d have less time to play. My biggest problem with Blizzard is that they charge you for 2 months, and it’s from day x to day x, they should make it accumulated logged in time.

  • Slade Boender

    I’m a hardcore gamer, I totally played on medium like twice.

    • Admiral Chief Commander

      XDXDXD classic

    • Nitro

      Well done… :)

  • ElimiNathan

    Brilliant article. Thanks

  • Uberutang

    I think the breakdown is like this:

    Simulation gamers. Hardcore gamers. PC Gamers. Console gamers. Casual gamers. Mobile gamers. Facebook scum.

    • Rinceandspit…

      Nicely put there, nicely put.

      • Admiral Chief Commander


    • Admiral Chief Commander

      Wow, good point

      • Tbone187

        Nice close as well, with the whole FB scum thang that is… :)

    • Y9Power

      You forgot Sports gaming scum too. (So called gamers that play anything with WWE, NBA, Tony Hawk, and Madden in the title.

  • Yobokkie

    I think what makes you a hardcore gamer is coming on to a gaming site and saying “I’m a hardcore gamer”. Everyone else probably doesn’t give too much angst to wondering if they are or not and just plays games they want to play. I still don’t know what a hardcore game would look like, as many which people claim are hardcore are a whole lot easier than a super mario platformer, and can be finished in 6 hours or less.

  • Tbone187

    I reckon you can add this discussion to religion, politics and sport. It has no end with differing views all round…

    • mancera

      So true

  • Aequitas

    I’ll just leave this here … see if you get addicted. Is it casual? is it hardcore? who knows!

  • caponeil

    would 400h+ in 5 months in DOTA2 make me a hardcore gamer.. You betcha. Why because I said so… OK Seriously the thing I would rather distinguish between are those who knows what gaming and gaming industry entails and those who don’t

  • Kamille

    casual and core gamers definitely exist so don’t even try to deny that. Stereotypes my ass. I know who John Carmack is, I have many consoles, many different games and shit. I am what I am and I play and know more about gaming than several casual gamers combined.

    Let the casual gamers playing their crappy Kinect games and Wii-sport and leave us core gamers alone. You can’t even have a decent conversation about gaming with a casual because they probably wouldn’t even know about any recent rumors and stuff let alone about the people that make the games they play.

    • Zubayr Bhyat

      Those games have market and succeed. Definitely not worth calling them crappy. Rather just respect their right to want the game and carry on with what you do :)

    • Argentil

      Every gamer has their area of interest. John Carmack is a PC legend (and lost some credibility after RAGE). How clued up are you in the Atari era of gaming? Because that’s pretty much a more extreme version of what you’re arguing. Ever played pong (the original)? No? Filthy casual.

  • BubbleMAN

    wake up at 5 play games go to work at 7:30 , play games secretly at work go home play games till 2 the morning , day in day out . Interesting fact though looking at my coffee mug and pressing F5 does not refill it :’(

    • mancera

      life would be easier if “refreshing” your coffee mug worked

  • Kromas

    The only hardcore gamers where the guys and girls who had a tamagotchi and kept it happy and healthy for more than a week. :P

    • mancera

      LOL! Mine kept dying, longest I had one survive was just over a week, and then the battery died. I took it as a sign and sold my tamagotchi.

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