Is "Hardcore" Gaming A Thing of the Past?

The term "hardcore gamer" may have changed a lot over the years, but to me it doesn't exist in the modern gaming world.

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.

In my opinion, best played without a headset...or really any volume at all.

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.

Published Feb. 5th 2014
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    I like to think I'm a hardcore gamer because my current PC is worth more than my car. If it's friday night, I'm not sleeping (most likely because I'm playing video games, with the occasional out and about). I also like to think that I'm "hardcore" because I like to think deep about strategy in games, single or multiplayer. I love strategy and love to use it to make me better than most players. But like you were saying, maybe hardcore is just not a useful term anymore. Maybe there is a better word to describe the type of gamer that I am. Maybe Strategic or Competitive, or maybe just passionate.
  • Krystophermander
    Featured Contributor
    I think its self identified. For example my mom plays mobile games on her Ipad everyday for hours but she doesn't consider herself a hardcore gamer or even a gamer at all. Then there are some people I know who go play call of duty for an hour every now and then and call themselves a hardcore gamer. A hardcore gamer is what ever you want it to be.
  • Graduated Gamer
    Featured Contributor
    Good point, and one that alluded to above. I'd be curious to see if my mom considers herself a gamer since she spends tons of time playing Candy Crush. It's actualy funny to think about how "far" she's come from her high school days when she spent hours playing Centipede and Galaga!
  • oScience
    Hardcore gaming to me is winning... I've been playing games since Duck Hunt and although the landscape of games has changed drastically since then, the term is far from dead. I enjoy hyper competitive games such as Halo and playing them with better teamwork and strategies than the next team. I think you need to take off your rose colored glasses that you look at games with and realize that gaming can be more hardcore now than it has ever been in the past. It's all in your perspective.
  • Graduated Gamer
    Featured Contributor
    I agree with you that it's all in your perspective. To you, hardcore is winning, but to me winning isn't necessarily what makes one hardcore. I'm glad you disagree with me because it shows how gaming affects us all differently and how we in turn view gaming through different lenses as well. Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading!
  • Lindsey Weedston
    In my experience, the definition of hardcore gaming is whatever the person you're pulling some gatekeeping on hasn't played. I once saw a guy asking another gamer what her favorite games are when accusing her of not being hardcore enough for him and she listed WoW, Bioshock Infinite, Gears of War, CoD, one Zelda game, and a couple others in various genres that bespoke a wide range of tastes and he was all "see you're not even hardcore!"

    That was the moment I realized that the term had lost all meaning.
  • Graduated Gamer
    Featured Contributor
    Definitions aside, nothing irks me more than when gamers use this hobby that we all love and cherish to put others down, especially other gamers. I know that every subculture has its factions and cliques, but one's taste in games shouldn't be something to use against them as a weapon.
  • Chai Chien Liang
    Everyone has their own definition of hardcore, though for me a hardcore gamer would act a bit like someone with OCD, collecting everything and exploring everything in a game, but I think hardcore gamers shouldn't throw insults and whine in CoD or Battlefield (ruins the fun for others)
  • Graduated Gamer
    Featured Contributor
    Absolutely. It was one of the biggest turn-offs for me when playing Battlefield with my dad. However, if you have a friend or 2 to play with and thus avoid the idiots, it makes the experience so much more enjoyable. Do I have 40 hours a week to game? No. Does that make me any less of a gamer? No. It's simple. Thanks for the comment. =)
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I agree with your definition of hardcore. To me that is what hardcore is, doesn't matter the game, it's how you play it.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I've always considered "hardcore" to mean that video games is your primary hobby, and that's it. I never really associated the amount of time someone puts into the hobby as defining "hardcore," and I'm not big on "qualifications." I.e., you have to go to conventions, complete all games at 100%, etc.
  • Graduated Gamer
    Featured Contributor
    That's not a bad definition, and by no means am I trying to state that someone isn't hardcore if they think they are. I'm all about subjectivity and letting people enjoy games as they want and define it as they will. I think my biggest issue honestly is when the term is used to put other gamers down and make their interests or playing styles seem "less worthy" in the gaming community.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Yeah, that's always stupid. This is entertainment. It's supposed to be a good thing; using it to put down others is embarrassing.

    As far as I'm concerned, when people do that, I'm inclined to tell them to go search for a life.

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