Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why the “casual” word has lost its meaning

How do you define a casual player vs a (supposed) hardcore raider? Which group do you belong to, how did you end up there and what do you think about the other groups?

This is the shared topic for the week of Blog Azeroth of this week, initiated by 2nd Nin at Life of a Nin.

I used to call myself casual. Until the other day you could read in my "About Larísa" description that this blog is about “casual” raiding among other things. Now I’ve erased “casual”. I write about raiding. That’s it. You can judge from my posts what kind of raiding it is, if it’s something you can identify with or not. But I won’t label it, neither as “casual”, nor as “hardcore. Why? Simply because I think the words are unclear, associating to different things to different people.

What is casual always depends on where your own horizon is. If you’re spending five hours five or six nights a week in Sunwell, you probably think that Larísa is casual, only raiding for 3.5 hours two nights a week. If you on the other hand just log on spontaneously to play an hour or two a couple of nights a week, never planning life so that you can raid, you probably would consider Larísa extremely hardcore with an unhealthy obsession with the game.

It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.

Is casual bad or good?
To some players the word “casual” sounds pejorative. It’s associated with a bad slacking attitude and lack of knowledge. A bit “dirty”, as Isisxotic at Musings of a Raider says in her post on this subject.

To others “casual” is just the opposite. They use the word about themselves in order to make themselves stand out a bit, to brag a little, in a very discrete and intelligent manner.

How do I mean? Well, let’s say that you raid Karazhan or ZA regularly with some success, insisting on that you’re just a casual player. Isn’t that a way to hint that you’re in opposition to other players are so skilled and talented that you don’t have to spend insanely lot of time on the game to get anywhere? You can show off that you are cleaver enough to manage to progress and still always let real life come first. You’re not caught in the spinning wheel of grinding like the other losers. Honestly I think quite a lot of players who call themselves “casual” actually spend more time in the game or thinking about the game outside of it then they want to admit.

Think about it, how many players do you know who proudly announce that they’re “hardcore”? It’s like loudly announcing: “I’m a no-lifer, my job sucks and I haven’t got any bf/gf, this is my big escape from real life”. Who wants to do that? Not that many.

Different mindsets
While not liking those words, I still have to admit that there are different mindsets among players when it comes to ambitions, goals and playing habits. And that’s natural; it’s no different to any kind of hobby. Look at people who have dogs as pets. There those who are perfectly happy to just pat their little creature with unknown origins, feed it, walk it and enjoy its company. And there are others who dedicate every single second of their spare time to it. They travel all over the world at exhibitions, they spend hours every night cleaning and brushing their dog, they commit themselves to voluntary work in organisations and train their dogs to do the most amazing things.

You meet exactly the same variation in WoW.

Maybe the cutting line goes between those who have WoW as their major hobby on one side and those who just see it as one of many sorts of entertainment on the other side.

The former, the “serious” players, spend as much time as they can on the game (no matter if it’s a couple of nights a week or every single night). They will also put some time and effort while not playing to improve by reading forums, blogs, downloading addons and trying out macros.

The latter, “careless” players, don’t do anything of this. They just play when they’re up for it and avoid making any kinds of commitments in the game since it may interfere with other hobbies which they consider more important.

To make it even more complicated, you can be more or less serious or casual about different parts of the game. When it comes to PvP I’m definitely casual. I’ve tried (and succeeded) to like it a bit better than I used to, but you won’t catch me watching a PvP movie or even picking talents for PvP. I won’t make any plans for PvPing, it’s just something that happens every now and then. My raiding nights on the other hand are sacred to me. I’m anything but casual about them. I prepare in every way I can, in real life and in game.

The same goes with my pet collection. I’m pretty casual about that one. Of course I think my burning bird from MgT is cute and I love my fishing daily croc, which looks like a centipede, but I wouldn’t break my bones to get a special pet. My focus is somewhere else.
Final thoughts
I've think I've made my views clear by now, that words like "casual" and "hardcore" are pointless and should be used as little as possible. And still I know I'll probably keep writing them every now and then, without thinking about it. And they'll continue to be debated in forums and in blogs. How come? What's in those words that make them so sticky, why do we bother?
I think one reason is the constantly ongoing discussion about where Blizzard should put the most of there resources for develpment. The words are used to define the needs and wishes from different kinds of customers who all want to feel that they get the gaming they want for their monthly fees.
People who argue that most money should go to making easy available content like five man instances and quests tend to categorize as many players as possible as "casual", claiming that the majority can't be wrong. People who want very challenging and advanced 25 man raiding instances on the other hand will argue that the hardcore players aren't as rare as you may think.
We also come back to the labels over and over again, because we use them as mirrors. Every time we discuss them we relate them to our own gameplay, if nothing else unconsciously. We want to identify with a certain kind of player in order to understand where our mental home is in this huge and diversified world. It's a way to sort things out, to see patterns where there is chaos.
I have made my decision. I'm not casual, nor hardcore. I'm just a player who has lost her heart to World of Warcraft and the community connected to it. And that's enough for me to know.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE the dog analogy!

Fish said...

I love reading about the "casual" vs "hardcore" debate, because it's all a matter of perspective. To me, someone who admittedly doesnt raid at all, if you raid, you're hardcore. I think the fact that is such a completely arbitrary designation is why it doesnt have much meaning.