Casual Vs Hardcore Gaming: Is it actually the same thing?

Posted: December 22, 2010 by CptToffer in Features
Tags: , , , ,

Hello everyone, welcome to antiherogaming!

First off a big thanks to everyone that’s visited so far. The response in the first week has been staggering with over 4000 people coming to see what the fuss was about! A special thanks to those of you who took the time to comment. I’ll always make sure I respond to each and every one of you. If you want to contact me directly you can use the new email address of Speaking of which it isn’t just me now. I’d like to introduce my best friend Fitz who will be acting behind the scenes to make this place as user-friendly as possible, while ensuring the articles get out. This place would have all the appeal of a rusted old car if he wasn’t clearing up after me, so when you look at the shiny blog,  think of him won’t you. It will make him happy.

Onto today’s thoughts, which revolve around “Casual and Hardcore gaming.” As far as topics go, this has been talked about more and more in recent times, and while the difference between the two groups maybe very clear to some, I believe there is a grey area that is being all together missed. Let us begin…
We should start by actually getting a clear picture of what “casual” and “hardcore” actually mean in the gaming world. This is very much open to individual interpretation and so on that basis I’ll try to keep it as mainstream as possible for the basis of the blog. A simple google search and quick click throws me this little nugget:

“A casual game is a video game or online game targeted at or used by a mass audience of casual gamers. Casual games can have any type of gameplay, and fit in any genre. They are typically distinguished by their simple rules and lack of commitment required in contrast to more complex hardcore games.”

Wow. I didn’t think it was going to say that. Ok well basically this is how I think the majority would describe casual gamers. They basically don’t stick to any genre or any gameplay type. I’d be lying if I thought that a large amount of casual gamers were playing first person shooters or action adventure games, as they generally require time or commitment and can boast various rules or gameplay elements that require time to be spent learning them. First person shooters can also be quite unforgiving (but hey that’s what regenerative health’s for right?) I’d like to add to the above statement that I think casual gaming also represents something people dip in and out of, and they are the type of gamer who doesn’t wake up in the morning wondering when they will get to play some games today. My girlfriend is a casual gamer.

So what’s a hardcore gamer? People at this stage to look back at the above quote and remember “They are typically distinguished by their simple rules and lack of commitment required in contrast to more complex hardcore games.” For the record I don’t believe that just hardcore gamers play hardcore games. Due to its popularity and general time requirements World Of Warcraft maybe considered a hardcore game, although it has many very basic elements that a casual gamer could enjoy without going to the very depth that seasoned players enter.


“A Hardcore gamer is a widely used term applied to describe a type of video game player. There is currently no unanimously agreed upon definition for the term. Some describe hardcore gamers as those whose leisure time is largely devoted to playing video games. This type of gamer prefers to take significant time and practice on games, in contrast to a casual gamer”

Wow, I’m even more stunned. I find it fascinating that there is no unanimously agreed upon definition for “Hardcore Gamer” and yet a “casual gamer” which in my eyes has only really become mainstream in the last ten years has its own definition. I’m aware there were games that could cater for both sides as far back as Tetris in 1989, but I believe casual gaming has gaming as exploded in the last eight years, with everything from mobile phone games, to internet games, right through to major console’s such as the Nintendo Wii. So to me a hardcore gamer is someone who spends a lot of their free time gaming. It is also one of their main hobbies and is something that will expand past the gaming onto things such as forum participation, joining clans and focusing their skills on certain games to reach high levels of skill. This is not typical of all hardcore gamers but is merely various trends associated with them. I consider myself to be a hardcore gamer.

With such broad definitions that go deeper than the little inserts I’ve given you, how can their possibly be any overlap? In some ways they are complete polar opposites. I’m going to use myself and my girlfriend as examples (well spotted for those that already guessed this) as to why they are very much alike. My girlfriend is the most casual of the casual gamer definition. Before she met me she had no interest in gaming whatsoever. She hadn’t owned a console, a handheld or a PC. She had a laptop for work purposes. Unless she’s leading a double life (it’s possible, I’ve got the self-awareness of a melon) she has little to no interest in gaming. When I met her, I was entering my six month in a Call Of Duty clan, which I’m still with today. I had tickets to attend a gaming museum, and I was wearing a Nintendo t-shirt. Before anyone ask’s no she’s not blind, and no I’m not rich.

Anyway, fast forward to today and she plays the occasional game but is still very much in the casual camp. She owns a Wii however. (lets face it who doesn’t) She also partakes in the odd PC game. I found her one day playing the addictive Plants Vs Zombies. She seemed very captivated by its simplicity, by the fun and also by the idea of having her own Zen Garden. To get the garden you need money, and the money is best earnt from the survival mode. The survival mode is a tough son of a bitch at the best of times, but this didn’t stop her. She tried various strategies, different plants, different formations and ideas. She even went online and looked at some of the more successful ones to try to replicate them. She would do this, when she visited me for 2-3 hours at a time. She specifically asked to play on occasions. Now as good as this game is, I wasn’t too fussed about the bloody garden, and once completed I didn’t play it an awful lot. I casually played it to fill in time between doing other tasks. It only occurred to me recently that there had been a slight role reversal, and not only that but it had come from something that by definition is a casual game. Puzzle games are listed as something that generally is a casual genre based on their simple demands and lack of constant commitment to maintain skill level. I found this undeniably fascinating. A game aimed at a casual audience had turned me into its target and my partner into something of a hardcore gamer.

I thought this might be just a reaction to Plants Vs Zombies and its Zen Garden and colourful premise. However this continued onto Peggle. Peggle, another puzzle game, has bought an almost identical reaction from her. Insistent on completing every level one hundred percent, she can be found playing it at least twice when she visits. She even ( I hate admitting this as it makes me feel dirty) holds the top score with one shot on my version of Peggle. This is my girlfriend. If I asked her what the Master Sword was, she’d probably tell me it’s the trophy given to the people who win MasterChef.

No Im not telling you what her highscore was.

At this stage she still fulfills the criteria of a casual gamer. She has no desire to go out and buy loads of games, nor devote large amounts of time to games. Yet she also fulfils the loose definition of a hardcore gamer as she’s honing skills, focusing on completing goals that to the casual gamer is unattainable. She further confuses me buy purchasing “Pikmin” and “A Boy And His Blob” for the Wii. Neither of these are easy or casual by definition. In fact they are both quite unforgiving at stages requiring a deft amount of skill and patience.

Overall I’d be lying if I knew what all this meant, but it does suggest that it is not that easy just to categorise gamers into two groups. My girlfriend has clearly muddied the waters by displaying a hardcore gamers approach to games that are aimed at a casual audience, while maintaining her casual identity. To this day she has no real interest in gaming that is “Hardcore” by definition. She does however play casual games with a feverish commitment that is seen in Call Of Duty players. One cannot argue that is simply because the games are easy or simple, because for the most part what she is trying to achieve is not. It is because of this that I would argue that there is not a lot of difference between the two concepts. I should imagine there are a lot of people who play casual games with tenacity that a hardcore gamer plays hardcore games.

What are your thoughts behind the concepts of “Casual and Hardcore Gaming?”

Hope you enjoyed this article


  1. John says:


    I would argue that the difference between a casual and hardcore gamers are those who use games to kill time (casual) and those who use their time to game (hardcore)…

    Simply put, if you set aside your evenings to game or plan your day around it, then it is a hobby. If you think “i have 30 minutes before im off to do something else so ill play solitaire” then you are casual.

    Consider also the characteristics between the two. A hardcore gamer will have his/her systems set up as the center piece of the room. a big tv, the consoles underneath in full view, a massive pc rig and enough desk space to command a battle. whereas a casual gamer may have a tv in the corner of the room, with last gens consoles (note: im not saying hardcore dont play last gen) and the focus in the room will be something else.

    its like if you were a mechanic or a petrol head, your car would demand the most attention in your garage.

    the games themselves cant really be distinguished as to what is hardcore and what isnt simply for the fact that given enough time on a game you will become an expert…im not sure if you devote enough time to a game to become an expert, does that make you hardcore?

    the criteria also cant be focused on being an expert in one field or genre so this is a tricky issue.

    ultimately its all on a spectrum. gaming is now mainstream and easily accessible to all ages and perhaps the hardcore gamers who see this as a lifestyle get frustrated that the money in the industry is now geared towards including more people. maybe thats even an excuse for regenerative health 😉

    • CptToffer says:

      Hay John

      I think the time aspect is an important one. It clearly is a main part of it. However I think there is a very valid point in saying that the only reason I play things like Peggle and PvZ so frequently isn’t because I’ve got only 30 minutes to spare, but because the other games Im playing don’t allow that sort of quick accessibility.

      You are also right and while hardcore gamers don’t play next gen, I would bet good money a number of them have moved their old consoles away and opted for the virtual console or XBLA options that are being presented to us.

      Thanks buddy


  2. RSxcore says:

    I think the difference with hardcore gamers is the amount of time they spend gaming, over a sustained period of time. I’m not saying casual gamers won’t strive to fully complete games still as you’ve mentioned above, as i believe most would, as games are designed around this; to make you want to continue playing and complete the tasks within. Whether someone is ‘casual’ or ‘hardcore’ doesn’t come into that too much i would say..

    What makes a hardcore gamer i think would be the fact they are continuing to play for several hours, day in day out. As i think most casual gamers, although dedicated to the game they are playing, might complete the game and then not really be looking to play another for a while after this, and won’t have a list of games they want to play next, and probably won’t be aware of release dates for any games they may be interested in as much as ‘hardcore’ gamers. Whereas a hardcore gamer will be playing constantly, month in month out due to gaming being one of their main pastimes.

    Also, a key thing stated before me, is that a hardcore gamer would be planning ahead when to play, whilst a casual game would just adopt the attitude of playing spontaneously – this is one of the MAIN differences.

    I don’t think any game is more ‘hardcore’ than another, generally, as like i stated, they all have a common goal to keep you playing. Although generally console/PC games are going to be more ‘hardcore’ than handheld games, as all i see handheld is for, is to play on the go. Although i have started to see how handheld devices are trying to tap into ‘hardcore’ gaming by the way Apple has introduced ‘Game Center’ on the iPhone – basically trophy/achievement support. Which is… interesting, but that won’t drag me away from my console as i prefer more indepth console gaming.

    I guess i’m pretty ‘hardcore’… due to how seriously i take clan battles. lol… 😐

    • CptToffer says:

      Hay Matt,

      Good feedback mate, generally how I feel about most of it to. I do like this bit you wrote: “Also, a key thing stated before me, is that a hardcore gamer would be planning ahead when to play, whilst a casual game would just adopt the attitude of playing spontaneously – this is one of the MAIN differences.” That was one of my main arguing points that despite playing the game more and more, there was little or no desire to adopt specific time to it, it was literally it happened when it happened.

      Thanks for stopping by


  3. Shogun says:

    I would argue that it could be defined, the difference between the two is the first word. Then all you need to do is look at how it applies to the second.

    The dictionary definition for Harcore:

    1) the permanent, dedicated, and completely faithful nucleus of a group or movement,
    2) unswervingly committed; uncompromising

    For Casual:

    1) without definite or serious intention; careless or offhand;
    2) seeming or tending to be indifferent to what is happening; apathetic; unconcerned
    3) occasional or accidental

    I have edited those for relevancy; but I guess that both could apply to all of us. whenever I’m stuck with things to do and I’ve check my social stuff I will chuck on a game, a game that I’m not passionate about but just fills the time. But if I’m home and have enough time I will wipe the floor with you on any game of your choice 🙂

    • CptToffer says:


      Ha. Keep dreaming buddy. I would say though that even in that context I fill both slots, as does Julie. I think people are both casual and hardcore gamers. It merely depends on what they are playing!


  4. Benjamin says:

    I feel like you hit the nail on the head here, I have been quite upset about the rapidly growing amount of people who claim to be a hardcore gamer. It really irks me, people think because they play Call of Duty religiously that that qualifies them as a hardcore gamer. Negative. I believe that to be a hardcore gamer you must devote a part of your life to gaming entirely. Any person can go to Walmart and buy Halo or Call of Duty. The overwhelming popularity of these games has actually turned me off almost entirely to the FPS genre.

    With that being said, the love for gaming that I have, I feel like is a dying think. Not that my love is dying, but that the love for gaming I have is part of a dying group. We are getting overrun by bandwagon gamers. Sure you have Black Ops, and you maintian a healthy Kill to Death ratio, but where were you when I was playing COD 3 online? Do you know about the history or the difference between Treyarch and Infinity Ward? Do you contribute to Kotaku or other gaming forums?

    It just seems like more and more people are getting exposed to Video games, and good for them, I am glad that people are starting to share my passion. But please do not call yourself a hardcore gamer, when all you do is play the most popular games and know nothing about the industry.

    And thanks for providing space to get this off my chest!

    • CptToffer says:

      Hello Benjamin,

      Thanks for getting back in touch! I understand what you mean exactly. It’s great that people are getting into gaming! Fab! More money for the industry in theory means more games (quality not assured) However it is tiresome that some people who claim to be hardcore because they can pwn at COD don’t then have the slightest clue what’s going on elsewhere.
      That said we all started somewhere and when I picked up my first COD game I had no idea of it’s history or what was going on generally.

      If you still wanted to chat about things, drop us a line. Merry Xmas!


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