Being born into the era when the Nintendo Entertainment System was growing in popularity, I had no choice growing up but to be a hardcore gamer. Why? There were no easy games. Hell, there were rarely even save points or passwords. If you wanted to beat a game (think Mega Man series or Mike Tyson’s Punchout) you HAD to become, essentially, perfect at these games. There was NO room for error. You either were perfect, or you didn’t beat the game. Though it drove me insane and caused me to smash many a controller, I WAS a hardcore gamer. The reason I was a hardcore gamer was because I had no other choice. There were no alternatives. All the best games were hard as f*ck to beat. But then something happened as the console age evolved. We slowly got the option to become casual gamers. Gone were the rage quits and broken controllers. Now WE were in control of how much of a game we saw, and we didn’t need to scream and punch walls to get there. It was nice for a moment. Then the Dark Souls series came out and pushed us all into two schools, no questions asked. You were either a hardcore gamer, or a casual gamer. Allow me a moment to explain both, as I have been both.
The Hardcore Gamer
When in “hardcore gamer” mode, it is very much like beast-mode. You are an animal, with fine tuned instincts and perfectly honed reaction time. The game transcends gaming and you and the machine are one. You rarely pause and in that time, you are focused solely on that world. You also react to enemies and situations with a look of brazen intensity across your face. This is not a game. This is not enjoyment, even. This is LIFE!
While I can respect people who game like that, I will be honest. I just don’t get it anymore. I reached a point when I asked myself: why game if it is not fun? When I find myself wanting to smash a controller into the ground and punch an infant in the face, gaming is no longer fun to me. At that point, it becomes a chore or punishment. I understand the satisfaction hardcore gamers get when they finally crush mighty boss after 100 tries. That is a feeling of pure joy and satisfaction. But the time and rage it took you to get there is not something that interests me.
This is why I became a….
It happened around Bioshock. The slow realization that this game was MADE so everyone who paid the sixty bucks for it got to see the entirety of it. That is when it dawned on me that my days as a hardcore gamer could also be viewed as “self injurious behavior”. I was torturing myself for hours and hours and hours and honestly, for what? Looking back, I don’t always know. A perfect example of this was beating Mike Tyson in Punchout. A feat few can say they did (007-373-5963 is the password to get to him, and it is burned in my skull). The thing is, looking back, it is not something I should be proud of. Do you know how I beat him? Muscle memory. I let him beat my ass for days and days until I LITERALLY could just react through memorization. That is not cool or skill or fun. That is self torture. I beat Tyson by letting him beat my ass for WEEKS. Granted, when I beat him I stood up and screamed out of joy. But what it took me to get there is nothing short of sad.
But now, I just have fun. I realized, I earned this. I played hardcore for years, and it doesn’t interest me anymore. Now I want to actually SEE the game I am playing through. I want to stop for a second and marvel at level design and the graphics. I want to get sucked up in the narrative without worrying that some lumbering boss is going to bring my progression to a dead stop. But, truth is, there is no right or wrong. Game in the way that makes you most happy.
All I ask is….
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Someone is hardcore, someone is casual, it’s all good. Instead of hating each other and drawing lines in the sand, why don’t we just all collectively smile that gaming has gone this mainstream and stop putting labels on everything? You want to get butt-raped in the Souls series for hours at a time, so be it. I want to play on easy mode and kill everything without breaking a sweat, so be it. Don’t you see, we are all one family. Enough picking sides and shit.