Is "Hardcore" Gaming A Thing of the Past?
I’ve never been called a “hardcore gamer,” and I’m not sure how to feel about that. On one hand, I feel that my dedication to gaming throughout the last 22 years of my life warrants recognition as hardcore. On the other hand, while I’ve played games for a long time, I’ve always been a bit of a casual gamer--one who picks up a game, plays it through once, and then sets it aside for a long time (or forever). There are obvious exceptions I can point to (Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and Starfox 64), but overall I’m not someone to attempt true mastery or 100% completion of every game which, to me, means a gamer is hardcore.
However, it seems that my definition may not accurately reflect the current generation of games and gamers, and it’s something that I’m not sure how to feel about.
To me, beating Contra with only 3 lives, finding and destroying every ultimate weapon in FFVII, or getting a high score on a classic arcade cabinet like Joust is hardcore and would allow you to claim such a title. However, it seems things have changed dramatically from a world where simply beating a game could be considered hardcore (I’m looking at you Battletoads and Super Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts), to a world where pwning n00bs and insulting them about it makes you hardcore.
Now, even as I write this, I know right away that this can be seen as an unfair assessment of the gaming landscape today.
I’ll clarify that I am aware that there are games that still give the gamer a way to be completionist and try for high scores. I’ve played PacMan Championship Edition, and I’m currently working on 100% on GTA V so I know this first-hand.
Still, there’s something to be said about how achievements, trophies, and online multiplayers have warped people’s views of what makes someone “hardcore." I even fell into the trap earlier of thinking that getting all achievements in a game would make me hardcore, only to be extremely dissatisfied with my experience. I found that I wasn’t playing for fun, but rather playing to increase my Gamerscore so others would see it and think “wow, that dude’s gotta be a hardcore gamer.”
Certain games and series have been highly influential in what I see as the “end of hardcore” as I knew it in my youth. You probably saw this coming a mile away, but series like Gears of War, Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield have certainly changed the culture of what makes a hardcore gamer, especially in online multiplayer.
I tried playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield 2 online with my dad on a few occasions, and I simply couldn’t stand it. I’m not going to sit here and say that getting my ass handed to me was fun and didn’t influence this feeling, but the biggest issue I had was the culture of gamers both on my team and not. It seemed that no matter what you did, you weren’t good enough. Even when I moved from dead last on my team to a respectable third in kills and points, I still felt like I was crap and more of a liability. It didn’t help that obscene insults and childish whining flew around more than bullets, and with that I decided that this wasn’t the scene for me.
Still, there are millions of people out there that live and breathe those franchises and consider themselves hardcore, and anyone else that doesn’t is a n00b (among other things).
Does this make me any less of a gamer? Of course not. Does being a badass in those games make you hardcore? I don’t really know. Perhaps it does, just like collecting all the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic the Hedgehog or unlocking every car and winning on all courses in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec would be back in my day. Perhaps I’m just getting old and I want nothing more than to hold on to the nostalgia of the past where achievements were “Not Dying” and “Saving the Princess.” Perhaps I’m just yelling at kids to get off my lawn.
I honestly don’t know anymore, so I’ll just say that to me the idea of “hardcore” is gone for me in today’s generation of games. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist for the current generation of gamers, and one day they may feel the same as me, but I prefer to stick to high scores in arcades and the brutality of 16-bit side-scrollers to define my core as hard.