Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Hipsters of Gaming

I've never cared much for the terms hardcore or casual. From their nebulous origins to today, where they are chiefly used to define something that is not on the Wii, the terms have always reeked of PR bullshit. Whether it's used to defend a mindless brawler's lack of any innovation by saying it's for the "hardcore" or to dismiss a person's gaming tastes because they don't relish in FPS titles, the term mostly gets thrown about as a defense. Companies wishing to justify making yet another game in genre X that brings nothing new to the table will claim that they are supporting the hardcore. Games that do not support a 90's aesthetic of empowerment fantasies are considered casual. Games that do not play on a certain console are considered casual.

The problem, with either term, is that they are not defined by what they are. A game with cute graphics is not automatically casual nor is a game with mountains of complexity automatically hardcore. These terms are mostly applied by the community and press to impose an aesthetic and sense of appeal in a game.

The issue I take with this is that defining yourself by what you are not is a never-ending process. The hardcore aesthetic, if it continues unabated, will continue to marginalize itself into steadily more irrelevant and more unpopular standards. Kieron Gillen made a similar point in an Escapist article way back (which I can't seem to find) with a different analogy: the hardcore is becoming the equivalent of 80's rock. I opted for a nastier comparison.

You don't need a weather man to tell which way the wind is blowing.

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