Eulogy of a Hardcore Gamer

I have skipped school to craft weapons in Dark Age of Camelot. According to my Steam profile, you can actually count the time I’ve spent playing Team Fortress 2 in weeks and I can’t even imagine how long I played Team Fortress Classic before that. Tribes, Half-Life, Mass Effect, World of Warcraft, FIFA and Virtua Fighter have all eaten up insane amounts of my life. There has never been a time in my life that I didn’t own a home video game system, but lately things have started to change. It’s now a rare occurrence when I stay up later than I should to finish that one last level or play through one more map. My life is dictated by a job and responsibilities, both of which I have shirked in the past in favor of gaming. Times are a changing and so am I. I am a hardcore gamer no longer.

Before I get too far in here, lets define the term “hardcore gamer.” There will be some that will likely disagree with me, but to me a hardcore gamer is a person that dedicates themselves to the pursuit of gaming greatness. Hardcore gamer isn’t so much a skill set or a gauge of ability, but rather how you approach the hobby of gaming. A casual gamer is someone that will play a game if they have a little bit of extra time in their busy day, but a hardcore gamer will make time to play a game. The hardcore masses will go out at midnight to get a new game or will load up a private game to practice crouch jumping just so they can exploit a map’s design against an unwitting opponent. Much like your grandmother might take her apple pie to be judged at the county fair, a hardcore gamer will push themselves to the limits to prove they’re something beyond a normal gamer.

Lately, it became perfectly clear to me that I am no longer a hardcore gamer. My gaming habits have changed and so have my expectations of what my gaming experience should be. No longer am I consumed with a blind drive to crush strangers into the dirt with my superior gaming skills. Now I simply want to have fun, and to be honest, I should have seen it coming. Every year I get a little less excited about the newest first person shooter and a little bit more excited about the latest Bioware game. Even though online advancements have taken multi-player out of the arcade and into the home, I am finding myself venturing against other players less and less. Regardless of how awesome the multi-player may be, a game that has a six hour single player campaign is of little interest to me. I want a fun experience, not an uncomfortable chore.

This point is perfectly illustrated by my recent experience with Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Anyone that talks to me about games will know that I’ve been excited about the newest installment of the MvC franchise. I am a long time lover of fighting games. In my youth I spent an idiotic amount of time playing Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Primal Rage and Virtua Fighter games. I loved Marvel vs Capcom 2 and played it all the time at my local arcade. So naturally when I heard they were finally producing a sequel I could hardly contain my excitement.

Fast forward to February 15th, 2011. My work day can’t end soon enough as I know I would be able to finally play MvC3. After what seemed like days, I was able to return home and begin playing. Let me say, it was brilliant. The removing of three punch and three kick buttons to three generic attack buttons and a special attack seemed inspired despite my initial reservations. The game looked sharp and played like a dream. I took my time playing through the arcade mode, experimenting with different teams and practicing the team aerial combo system. For that first hour, I was the happiest person in the world. I knew true joy, and it came in the form of a quarter circle forward and a strong attack.

Then it happened. Having beat the Arcade mode with very little effort, I decided it was time to take my show on the road and fight some other players online. The first fight was terrible, it was clearly both our first time playing this game online. It was slow paced, but balanced. By the end of the match it was starting to resemble an actual fighting game. After narrowly defeating my opponent, I searched for a new challenger. After a couple more matches that where pretty balanced, it all started to go wrong. I couldn’t find anyone at my rank to fight. So after a few failed attempts at match making, I decided to open up the search stipulations to allow me to fight anyone of any rank. I just wanted to play and I didn’t care who it was… or so I thought.

I finally found my opponent, who just happened to have the rank of “Seventh Level Lord.” I had no idea what that meant, but it was clear that I was in trouble. Mere hours after the game had launched and I was now fighting someone that had nearly 100 wins. How is that even possible? Clearly this person decided that they should stay home all day and do nothing but play Marvel vs Capcom 3, a choice I joked around with my co-workers that I should have made. Within a minute or so, I found my entire team defeated and my opponent standing over their bodies in total victory. I had not even knocked out a single one of their fighters.

I was frustrated, but that happens in games. There will always be people that are clearly better than you. It’s the same with sports, games or any other activity that has a clearly defined winner and loser. So I decide to soldier on and keep playing. “Clearly this is a person that just knows his way around fighting games and has a leg up on me,” I tell myself. Over the next hour, with few exceptions, the same situation plays out over and over. It was quickly becoming clear that I would have to practice if I want to get anywhere in this game. Then I asked myself “Why? Why would I want to practice a video game?”

At the end of a long day, I don’t want to load up the Danger Room and practice air combos. I don’t want to work on perfecting my break moves and interrupts. I just want to play a game and have fun. Practicing often isn’t fun and usually involves repeating boring actions over and over. That’s just something I really don’t have an interest in at this point in my life.

So where does this leave me? Am I now a casual gamer? Will I become the dreaded enemy of the hardcore gamer that plays nothing but Bejeweled and Farmville? Are my gaming systems doomed to becoming nothing more than glorified Netflix streaming devices? Maybe, but I doubt it. I like to think of myself as being in a demographic called “The Passionate Gamer.” While I am not as likely to drop $180 on a special headset or a pair of sunglasses (Seriously folks, they’re just blue blockers. Come on!), I am every bit as passionate about my gaming. I will still prepare for fisticuffs if someone claims that Call of Duty is better than Battlefield or that Halo is better than Half-life. There will never be a time in my life that there isn’t a video game system in my house, even if it gets a little dustier than it would have if I were younger.

Sure I will be playing my games a lot less, but I think the quality of the time I spend will be better. While some of the games I have always loved are focusing more and more on the competitive multiplayer aspect of gaming, there are still plenty of developers out there making games for people just like me. Games like Mass Effect, Fallout, LA Noire, and Batman Arkham Asylum focus entirely on the single player experience which allow me to jump into a fictional world and enjoy things at my own pace. No need to compete or practice, simply just a man having fun with a past-time that has been a large part of his life.

I’m sure that there will be people that will have something to say about, but I believe soon I will be part of a larger gaming demographic. A group of people that have gamed their entire lives, found great joy competing with other people but now simply don’t have the time and/or desire to keep it up. Hardcore gamers, feel free to mock or feel like you’re superior to me as a video game enthusiast. Just remember, I was once like you and I will be right here waiting for you when you take the turn. ‘Til then, excuse me while I play through Elder Scrolls: Morrowind again over the next six months.

4 Comments

  1. Posted February 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well I was never a “hardcore” gamer, but I must admit that in recent years I’ve become less engaged in video games. Part of the reason is that I’m simply getting older. I have a job, a wife, a mortgage. These things do keep one from loggin 150+ hours a week in COD.

    That said, I think another part is games in general have fundamentally changed. Growing up with the NES, most of my games were solitary games like Zelda. Like you, I still play games with stellar single-player games…but my LIVE Account is moldy. Every so often I think about cancelling it but something always stops me.

    I think it’s okay to grow and mature as a gamer, which is what you’ve done, Carl.

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted February 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, we’re a little older than these kids today… with their walkmen and high tops…

      Seriously though, I don’t have the time to dedicate to so many of these games any more. I am seriously attempting to juggle at the very least two full time jobs. I have my 40 hour retail job, editor/contributor here and then attempting to freelance. I simply don’t have time to practice a game. Today I spent my lunch break unsuccessfully trying to proofread a short story at Taco Bell. I don’t even have time to read outside of the bathroom. It’s a sad state…

  2. Posted February 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Getting older sucks, more money for video games but no time. With the girlfriend and my little boy hard to squeeze in a couple of hours with the Xbox. Waiting for the little boy to get old enough that I have a co-op partner.

    With my kid growing up I have to say I’m more excited about Double Fine’s Sesame Street game then I am the new Gears game. Getting old is weird.

  3. Posted March 4, 2011 at 2:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    Gone are the days of playing Counterstrike til 3am and getting up at 7 for work… Like you guys the wife and children has put a stop to that!

    I still massively enjoy gaming, but it’s taken me 6 months to finish Red Dead Redemption. Massively looking forward to The Elder Scrolls V though..

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