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Breaking News: Casual players hard to define

Mark Crump

Let's take a poll. If you consider yourself "casual" raise your hand. Yes, even you in the back-and you thought that webcam was off (and put some clothes on for God's sake).

Ok, that's quite a bit of you. Now, if you play more than 20 hours a week keep your hands up.

That's what I thought.

At the last two Dragon*Cons I've asked that same question on my panels. The numbers come out like this: 90% of the room raised their hands at the first question and 80% of them kept their hands up for the second.

You are not a casual gamer if you fall into that spectrum. Since I am laughably a games journalist, I am eminently qualified to use the word the industry uses to define "casual gamers": Peggle. We also have a word to describe people who play Peggle too much, but since AOL owns us I probably can't use it here.

When you wonder why Blizzard doesn't do enough for the casual player, or why they focus their attention on the hardcore raider, the answer is simple: Blizzard doesn't have a clear delineation between the two groups any more than you do. It used to be that casual players refused to put in the time to get ahead, while the hardcore raiders were a bunch of catassers who had no lives. WarCraft has drastically blurred those lines. Robin Torres wrote an excellent piece on the differences between casual and raiders here. Let me say I agree with her, but she was a tad too polite.

If, when asked to respec your class to better serve the raid, your immediate response is "screw you!" you just might be a casual gamer. You gain bonus points if you offer up a 2000 word essay on why there's RP reasons you specced the first third in all trees. I'll admit to writing something similar when told I needed to switch to Kael faction in EverQuest.

If, when told exactly what do to and when to do it in a raid, you stand at attention and snap off a quick salute, you're a hardcore player. If your response is to snap off a one-fingered salute, you're a casual gamer.

While Robin's point that hardcore players are just more organized is probably accurate, mine is casual players are independent and take any attempt at direction as a personal affront that requires manifestos to be posted to guild boards. Lord knows I've written my share. Nothing gets a casual player's hackles up like the word "mandatory."

The game industry refuses to classify MMO players as "casual." Blizzard sure can't because "casual" players often play more than "hardcore" players, while often doing the exact same raids as the hardcore players.

Blizzard is not releasing a new 25-man because they are ignoring the casual player; they are doing it because Tigole's guild has Kara on farm, and if he doesn't release a new zone it's gonna get ugly on their boards.

What do you think? Is the definition between casual and hardcore even definable, or are those hardcore gamers still large men living in basements?

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