Introduction to Games Design – Casual Games vs Hardcore Games

In this post, I intend to explore the terms “Casual Games/Gamers” and “Hardcore Games/Gamers”. I intend to explore how they each relate to each other and my own opinion of the terms and their tropes.

A casual game is generally defined within gaming circles as a game which requires very little commitment. They are very easy to pick up and play. They generally speaking are aimed at pretty much everybody, have a very generic theme or no theme at all and can include Real Money Transactions (RMT) to enhance or simplify the game play for the user (although it is worth noticing that RMT does appear in some more hardcore experiences).

A hardcore game is generally defined within gaming circles as a game that has massive depth in terms of game play and story, but at the expense of the commitment required to master the game or to complete specific elements of the game. Hardcore games tend to play to tried and tested hardcore gamer tropes in terms of story and subject matter. For instance, hardcore games tend to be fairly rooted in Fantasy or rooted in Military style battles, although this isn’t a set in stone rule. Many “hardcore” games have steered away from this trend with very successful products.

As a fairly keen gamer myself, I find myself constantly bridging the gap between Casual and Hardcore. There are certain times where I will play a specific game for an extended period of time and certain times where I will pick up a game every once in a while and not take it too seriously. I personally do not like the terms “Casual” and “Hardcore” to reference gamers as the line between in my opinion is too blurry. I believe that it is entirely reasonable, especially for someone who is looking to get into industry, to play all kinds of games in order to build an understanding of all kinds of games.

One of the most important things to note with regards to my dislike of the terms “Casual” and “Hardcore” is that there are many live examples within industry of games that are considered hardcore which are played by people on a casual basis. With this in mind, surely it is wrong to paint somebody with a brush that is formed entirely on preconceptions about the games that they play? Just because somebody plays World of Warcraft, that doesn’t mean they spend 30+ hours a week raiding the highest level content. Some people just like to quest and craft. Others may just want to explore. Others may just want to socialise.

Further to this, there is definitely a sense, at least in my opinion, that people who use these terms with reference to gamers tend to form the most elitist parts of the “gamer community”. Both as a community and an industry, we should be striving to embrace a more open-minded attitude towards games and gamers, as this would surely lead to the creation of better content and, naturally, better games. Games are supposed to be fun, so who are we to interfere with another individual’s definition of fun?

I do however, believe in different types of gamer. The type of gamer that you are is very much self defined. Richard Bartle is an English games researcher who largely contributed to the development of the MMORPG genre by developing “MUD1”, (MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon) which was the first game of its kind. In his research, bartle defines four types of gamer. Socialisers, Explorers, Achievers and Killers. Socialisers tend to play games as an experience to be shared with others. Explorers like to be constantly find new things and places. Achievers like to complete challenges and obtain awards. Killers like to be competitive and thrive on in-game combat.

As a means of testing this out on myself, I took the test via a website called Gamer DNA. Here are my results:

David Smith's Bartle Test Result

David Smith’s Bartle Test Result

As you can see, I mainly fall under the Socialiser group. I do however also fit quite well with the Explorer and Achiever groups as secondary groups. Here are a few short write-ups taken from Gamer DNA which explain these in more detail. I feel that both these short write-ups explain me as a gamer very well.

Socializer Explorers love the the ‘total experience’ of a virtual world–meeting new people and finding the unique places. They don’t care much for PVP or leveling, but meeting up with online friends to see new parts of the world is considered fun and exciting. SEs make great group members, because they often know everything there is to know about a game and are enjoy sharing that knowledge freely.

Socializer Achievers value reputation. They want to be known and appreciated for what they accomplish bother for themselves and their group. If city or base building are available in a game, they enjoy creating these and inviting other people to come and see. SAs enjoy the increased social status that comes with defeating a powerful foe or finding a unique treasure more than the act of gaining or possessing the achievement itself. SAs endeavor to be associated with leaders and teams that are renown for great deeds, often finding as much satisfaction in the success of the group as with oneself.

In conclusion, I believe that it is vital to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Many people play games for very different reason and quite often, many different people will play exactly the same game for very different reasons. You can’t please everyone all of the time, but you can at least provide a platform whereby everyone can have fun, regardless of what kind of gamer they are.

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