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Is there such a thing as casually hardcore?

Anne Stickney

Once upon a time, I was an MC raider back in vanilla WoW. I raided six nights a week, three to four hours a night. My off night, Friday, was spent gathering plants in Felwood and other materials for potions and flasks. We busted our butts on completing progression content before anyone else on the realm, and if we couldn't manage that, before anyone else on our side of the faction fence managed to do so. Somewhere in the midst of AQ-40, the guild fell apart. People were just burnt out on way too much raiding and all the preparation involved in getting that raiding done successfully.

These days, I raid three nights a week, three hours a night or so. To me, it's far, far more casual than what I used to do. I don't spend a ton of time on farming materials, and I don't spend a ton of time on other things unless it happens to be in game holiday time. I don't usually run random instances unless I'm after something specific, and I don't really do PvP at all. I'd call myself casual, simply based on the time that I play and what I do with that time. Yet there are still plenty of people out there who fling the hardcore title at me.

When I look at how I used to play and how I play now, I can't understand why anyone would think what I'm doing now is anything but casual, and I'm confused as to why anyone would say differently.

Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings discussed this in a recent post in which she talked about the "in between" -- the space between hardcore and casual. And she also talks about the stubborn nature of players and their tendency to place people either under that casual or hardcore label. To Beru, that in-between space is far larger than most people realize, and what she's puzzling over is what exactly defines a player as hardcore. Is it the amount of progression? The speed that you progress? What you demand out of the players in your guild in terms of performance or time?

It's a really good question, and I don't know if there's really a defined answer to it because the question itself is so subjective. To someone like me who spent endless hours plugging away in Molten Core and trying to smush Ragnaros into a fine paste, what I do now is much less hardcore, far more casual, and just my speed. But to someone who's never stepped a foot into a raid instance in their gaming lifetime, even the little raiding I do must look like a lot.

I am on a tiny little realm -- so tiny that my guild decided to go back and grab realm-first Sinestra last month. Yes, we're that small. As far as my realm is concerned, my guild is pretty much the top guild on it. We're the only 25-man raiding guild. We're further along in progression than any of the 10-man guilds are currently. To all those players on my tiny little realm, I guess our guild must look pretty hardcore, but we're not really. We shoot for progression, but the overall guild atmosphere is pretty laid back and a lot of fun. We joke, we laugh, we have moments of silliness. We definitely aren't militant or strict in nature.

To our realm, maybe we look hardcore. To the rest of the world, I expect we look somewhat casual. It's all a matter of which perspective you're looking at the situation from, I think. As far as I am concerned, my guild and my playstyle is entrenched deeply in that somewhere in between, and I'm perfectly OK with that. It's exactly where I want to be.

I think what bothers me more than the definitions is the way that the terms casual and hardcore are thrown about like insults, to be perfectly honest. Having played both ends of the spectrum, I can firmly say that there's nothing really wrong with either, but I think that most players out there are somewhere in that in-between space. What I think is most interesting, however, is that WoW seems to be steadily moving, developmentally speaking, to a space that is neither casual nor hardcore. It's somewhere in between -- somewhere where all of us already are.

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