Researching: Casual Vs Hardcore Gamers
What is a Gamer?
Ever since I was a child, I have always loved video games. My first video game was the first ever Pokemon game that came out in 1999 along with a brand new Gameboy color. Ever since then, I have played on almost every single video game console, including one of the newest innovations in technology, Virtual Reality. But behind my crazy obsession with virtual worlds, there was a bigger question behind all this: What really defines a ‘gamer’? Was there really a difference between casual gaming and hardcore gaming? I wanted to explore this possible difference because I have always noticed vast differences between the two type of gamers in terms of behavior, energy, social interaction and more.
When most people think of a ‘casual’ gamer, they think of someone who might play games for shorter periods of time, maybe playing Candy Crush or Call Of Duty, where the games playtime is much shorter. These regular gamers don’t often play video games usually more than 2-4 times a week, sometimes only on their phones. When people think of a hardcore gamer, they think of someone who uses games as a hobby, plays for longer periods, maybe playing Destiny 2 or Skyrim, where the games playtime is much longer. Hardcore gamers seem to be more invested in the game rather than casual gamers who want to play at more selective times. Hardcore gamers are also very invested in the culture behind their favorite video games, they want to know everything happening in the community. But, I had only heard of these differences online, I never actually have never met these two different types of gamers before. Would it be possible to tell based off a series of questions around gamers & habits? I decided to try using a specific research methodology called Ethnography. This method is key because I get to embellish myself in the culture of gamers and try to understand the difference between a casual and hardcore gamer, if their even is one. I would also be using my survey and other questions too help find information to be able to answer my question.
In New York City, there are probably thousands of spots where I could find potential gamers, but I knew I had to be very specific. After some short research, I had found that the most popular arcade video arcades are actually all in Manhattan. The Barcade, VR World, and Laser town all seemed like good places to get information. Luckily, the Barcade was a popular drinking spot with young adults and the other VR World were both close to my neighborhood. It’s hard to know where a ‘gamer’ might regularly go out in New York City, so I assumed the Barcade or a Starbucks would be the best approach.
Barcades are a place unlike other bars. The atmosphere, music, and vibes are all focused around retro gaming. I began playing a few favorites – Galaga, Dragon’s Lair, Donkey Kong and more. I walked around and began approaching a few strangers, asking their favorite game and then if I could survey them. Surprising, it seemed half of the audience considered themselves a ‘casual’ gamer. I found the other half considered gaming a true hobby and some even stream games as a profession. A small percentage didn’t want to take the survey, but that’s typical New Yorkers for you. That small percentage would be considered the “Non-Gamer”. Nevertheless ,It was a very satisfying mix, but I wanted to find more people, so I returned the following night.
The following evening, I had discovered more people felt gaming to be a ‘hardcore’ hobby which needs dedication and motivation. People stream games 24/7 as a living and others post “Let’s Play” videos and gain money off these. It was very surreal to hear people being able to make a living just by playing video games. People spend 24/7, 365 days a year playing and streaming video games to appeal to a very specific group of people. Crazy? Maybe. But, it was more shocking to see that people felt gaming to be more “hardcore” and less “casual” than it was in it’s earlier years. Maybe it’s because our current gaming technology is growing and they requires a higher demand? Maybe people just loving gaming? All these could be viable options. I believe that people see video games as much more than just ‘games’ nowadays. Gaming helps people learn, socialize, and even grow as a person.
To my understanding, there are few differences between a casual and a hardcore gamer. A casual gamer is someone who actually puts some time and money into gaming and considers gaming one of his hobbies. Alternatively, sometimes they just play for fun. The casual gamer will play games fairly often and occasionally buy a console or an equivalently priced PC instead of just relying on his phone as a “non-gamer” typically does. Many casual gamers will put a fair amount of time into one specific franchise or genre, such as League of Legends or fighting games. (Note that this goes against the word “casual,” so I tend to prefer the simple word ‘gamer’ instead. On the other hand, these gamers don’t follow gaming news or pay much attention to gaming culture outside of their preferred subject if any. Outside of that subject, they tend just to buy whatever games their friends are playing or such game whose marketing catches their eyes, such as Fortnight. This is very different from your “hardcore” moviegoer who takes a trip to the theater most Friday nights and watches Netflix every night, and probably has a boxset and assorted merchandise for something like Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The hardcore gamer or as sometimes known as a “gaming enthusiast”, is someone who is deeply involved in gaming. Gaming is without any doubt their primary hobby, and they put a significant amount of their income into it. These gamers, funds allowing, tend to own all of the consoles, as well as a PC that cost at least a couple of thousand dollars that they probably built themselves. They own hundreds or even thousands of games of all sorts of different genres, regardless of who made them or how well-known they are to the casual gamer, and play them whenever they have the time and energy. When they don’t have the energy, they watch streamers play them instead. They follow the gaming industry closely and are intimately immersed in gaming culture. There’s a good chance that they have contributed something like YouTube videos, mods, or a game of their own. Sometimes, they even start their own streaming channel to make money from people tuning it to the streams. It really is crazy to think how fast gaming has transformed over the last 10 years. These results have shown that more people play video games today than ever before.
To be honest, I was not expecting the results I had gotten. I would have completely expected the young adults are bars/arcades/coffeeshops starting to dedicate life to more serious practices. I was expecting to hear everyone as a ‘casual’ gamer and not want to take my survey. It was riveting to see how many young adults are still ‘gamers’ at heart and want to pursue gaming as a serious hobby/job. You could tell from the love in their voice how much they love video games and interacting with other gamers around. The gaming industry has truly changed how people play video games since streaming can be considered a profession now.
It’s interesting to see such a rise in “hardcore” or otherwise known as “serious” gaming. People are putting time in streaming, playing games and interacting with viewers in order to make a stable living. You could not do that 10 years ago, the demand for watching video games was at such a lower rate. Today, you hear famous Youtubers such as ‘PewDiePie’ and other streamers making millions of dollars thanks to their fans. Twitch, a popular streaming platform, has quadrupled their numbers of users and streamers thanks to the rise of ‘hardcore’ gaming. More and more people are becoming gaming enthusiasts and getting involved in an ever-growing community.
All these major changes in the gaming community are allowing for more streaming, customization and social interaction between communities. Studies have shown in the past 10 years, video games have had a profound effect on human health. Video games can excersize your brain and improve problem solving skills such as Multitasking or social interaction. No matter what kind of gamer you are, video games definitely increase various skills.
If I were to approach this research study again, I would do a few things differently. First, I would have of added more questions to my survey to really be able to differentiate a casual and hardcore gamer. If a survey is too short, you cant learn anything. But if a survey is too long, the participant will be impatient and not answer 100% to the best of their ability. So when I approached each person, made some small talk then asked to fill out my survey, I’d feel better knowing they wouldn’t feel like they’re wasting time. Another approach I would have preferred to survey people online, while they are playing popular video games. This would really put me in their shoes and allow me to understand their gaming habits. Also, it would allow me to survey people faster since I could invite groups of people to a single party chat. Another thing I would have changed is the time duration of the survey. I would have like to have surveyed and monitored different kinds of gamers to see various differences. This would help understand the differences between casual and hardcore gamers in terms of behavior, health, social interaction and more. A lot of people switch between casual and hardcore gaming due to many reasons, so an extended survey could help distinguish that.
Some things that I could have tweaked with the benefit of hindsight would definitely be my audience. Interviewing people at a Barcade or Starbucks is not very ideal, but it works. I would have preferred going to VRWorld or a regular arcade out of the city where I can meet more people under better circumstances. Barcades and Starbucks are great places to interact with young people, but they are very loud and often packed. Also, I would have tweaked my survey to a few more specific questions really differentiate between a casual and hardcore gamer. Most people don’t know if they’re a ‘casual’ or ‘hardcore’ gamer sometimes, but their answers and behaviors can decipher the differences.
At the end of my research, I discovered a bigger split between casual and hardcore video gamers than previously thought. Most people enjoy playing video games for a few hours a day, sometimes reading about upcoming games and more. While others truly dedicate each day to spending time gaming, learning about games, consoles and other great upcoming innovations in technology. Some even go to such an extent to dedicate each and every day to playing, streaming and interacting with others gamers. Personally for myself, I consider myself a “hardcore casual” gamer because I truly love playing video games, but not for 12 hours at a time. I engulf myself within the culture for certain video games, but not all. I do not stream video games or take the time to interact with a community. I do not consider myself a “hardcore” or “casual” gamer because I just enjoy certain games and take the time to dive deeper into other games. If I had the time, I would definitely consider becoming a full time streamer or even ‘pro’ gamer to make some money back. Video games are a major part of life, they help us learn and even help gamers grow together as a community.