There is an extremely good article on WoWInsider by Robin Torres, in her Azeroth Interrupted column, called Raiders Have Real Lives Too. Mark Crump followed it up in his latest Breaking News article, Casual Players Hard to Define, with a short piece that seemed intended to hit some hot buttons and stir up trouble, but brings up the whole ‘what is casual anyway’ controversy.
I’d like to talk about them both a little, so why don’t you go check them out. It’s cool, I’ll still be here when you get back. I ain’t got nothing else going on right now.
Back yet? Okay, let’s go.
In a nutshell, both articles seem to state that a Casual player is one that is irresponsible and selfish when playing as a part of the group. Sure, there’s more to it than that, but that’s how I’m reading it.
Robin’s article presents a number of examples of behavior that a Casual guild may allow while a Raiding guild will not, and how each behavior affects time spent trying to progress through content. She makes the point that Casual guilds can spend far more time actually playing in-game than a Raiding guild, but have much less ‘content progression’ to show for it because of these behaviors, and I certainly agree with how painful each one is to a guild. I have personally seen every single behavior she describes, and each one drives me absolutely nuts.
In the comparisons she makes, when a player in a Raiding guild acts responsibly in contributing their own time and effort towards achieving a goal, less actual time is needed to complete the guild objectives. In what she terms a Casual guild, the intent may be to do the same, but when key players act irresponsibly in terms of preparation, research, or being on time, and that behavior is allowed to continue, then far more time will be spent on ‘overhead’ rather than on actual playing.
In contrast, Mark’s article starts by flatly stating that anyone that plays more than 20 hours a week is not ‘Casual’. He then abandons time as an issue, takes Robins’ point on player behavior increasing the playtime needed for a guild to get anything done, and asserts that a Casual gamer is one that is hostile to taking any direction or making any changes to his playstyle based on the needs of the Guild. He seems to be channeling a lot of anger and hostility, and also seems to think that the term Casual is too vast to ever be accurately defined.
Let’s talk about Marks’ statement on ’20 hours not Casual’ first.
Mark says that if you play more than 20 hours per week, you’re not a casual gamer. That comment is probably meant to spark debate. It seems too intentionally inflammatory to be taken at face value, and where he goes with his examples of casual gameplay make me boil.
To say that 20 hours a week is not casual inherently means that your definition of casual is based off of time played. The statement tries to direct the argument away from any consideration other than ‘how much time is casual?’. I call bullshit, loud and clear.
I want to start this by addressing the question ‘What is a Casual Gamer’. And I’m tossing out the time standard. If we’re going to define what a Casual gamer is, we first need to look at the many things people mean when they call someone ‘Casual’.
I have seen Casual used to mean;
- Someone that does not know how to play their own character
- Someone that plays rarely, or when playing spends their time in ‘useless’ pursuits such as socializing or questing rather than in instances or reputation grinding for gear or heroic access
- Where a player is in terms of content progression compared to other guilds on a server
- The gear that a character currently has equipped
- Someone that acts immaturely or irresponsibly in game
All of these uses of Casual are generally meant to demean the player so accused, and are used to imply a lack of raw ability, intelligence, responsibility, maturity or commitment.
I can hear the anger already. I’m sorry if it offends you, but that is the way the word Casual is used. I never said I agreed with any of the arrogance behind it.
And that’s right, I said arrogance. The dictionary I use defines arrogance as ‘an offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.’ The key words there are offensive and overbearing. Saying something in a way to offend others, from a sense of self-importance and a feeling of superiority to others, is arrogance. The point of using a word like Casual is to slap a nice safe label on someone that lets you pretend that their opinion, their contributions and their efforts are less valuable or important than your own.
I reject these offensive meanings of the term, because I don’t think Casual stands alone in the label. We’re not talking about a Casual person, we’re talking about a Casual Gamer. And I define a Casual Gamer as a person that sets their priorities as family and work come first, and after those two, the game and related events.
I proudly call myself a Casual Gamer. And I will also admit that I play more than 20 hours a week on the average. And yes, that’s still Casual.
I do not consider my knowledge of my class to be inferior, I do not consider my gear to be poor for the tasks that I accept responsibility to perform, and I do not consider my content progression to be lacking considering the goals I have set myself.
I’m sure plenty of other people would… if they were wanting to judge how I play the game.
There seem to me to be many people that derive their sense of self-worth by being more advanced than others, and pounding that advancement home whenever possible. In order to do so, they have to find a measurable way of defining ‘advanced’. A higher Arena team point score, more Epic gear, or when comparing Epics, more difficult to obtain Epics. (I just love the term Welfare Epics that the lead game designer Tigole allegedly used about Arena sets at BlizzCon. It just drips that Paris Hilton level of arrogance and disdain for the lowly losers that can’t raid Black Temple, doesn’t it?). And of course, there is the grand high king of “I’m better than you” condecension, Content Progression. “How dare you suggest I do something different? I raid in Karazhan/SSC/Black Temple/whatever! I’m better than you!”
That’s all wonderful, but there is no reason why someone can’t attain any of those, depending entirely on how many friends they have, how flexible their guild is, how responsible it’s members are, and how organized guild leadership may be on arranging for standby members and backup plans in case family or work priorities create conflicts in a players’ schedule.
Because the only thing that all Casual Gamers have in common is that there are other priorities in their lives, and they have to structure their play time around them.
Okay, I’ve talked about my definition of a Casual Gamer, but what about a Hardcore Raider?
I myself have made fun of some of my friends by calling them ‘Hardcore’. I have used the term in it’s form of a stereotype, intentionally, as a joke. The classic stereotype of a Hardcore Gamer is the player that lives in his parent’s basement, never gets out to see the Sun or leave his computer, and plays the game seemingly 20 solid hours every day. And I use it that way as a joke, because that is not how I truly define ‘Hardcore’.
As Robin so correctly pointed out, playtime does not really make a person Casual or Hardcore. Playtime is playtime. How you set your priorities defines whether you are a Casual Gamer… or a Hardcore Raider. And to me, a Hardcore Raider is one that sets attendance to guild events as a higher priority than either work or family.
All normal non-hardcore raiders must structure their life so that they are on time to guild functions, prepare properly in advance of start times, and be relied upon to not have any outside activities interfere with a scheduled event. And all non-hardcore raiders must be responsible enough to maintain this level of attendance, preparation and timeliness for the benefit of themselves and their guild. Obviously, the fewer activities you are engaged in outside of the game, the easier it is to commit to and maintain such a schedule. However, I know several very active raiders that have a VERY active social life outside of the game. Just because a person commits to playing a great deal does not mean they do nothing else.
It may sound as though I am saying that all raiders value the game over their careers or family. And that is NOT what I am saying.
I am saying that those people that are raiders can arrange their schedule in such a way that they can ensure that they are available at certain set times, and that those times are enough to satisfy their Raiding Guild’s requirements. And to those gamers that do NOT have the ability to set such a reliable schedule, it can seem as though a raider cares about the game more than is healthy.
It is only when a player sets his/her priorities so that activities in teh game come before work or family activities, that it becomes, in my mind, Hardcore.
I feel that the majority of players that regularly raid DO set their families as the highest priority, but thanks to flexibility or open time in their schedule, a good number of responsible friends, or a lucky choice of Raiding guilds, they may find themselves able to raid often and reliably without any conflict ever taking place.
If you ever decided to skip a day of work because you wanted to grind rep, reach ‘just one more level’, or run a guild raid, then I think that qualifies as Hardcore. Likewise, if you choose to skip your daughter’s piano recital to play, whether it’s to raid SSC or to sit and level your fishing skill in Wetlands, you are Hardcore in my book. And yes, that applies even if you send your wife (or husband!) to tape it with the video camera so you can watch it later. You are putting your commitments or fun in the game above your commitments to your family or to work.
Whether the label is Casual or Hardcore, the serious use of either of them in conversation usually comes back to people wanting to feel superior to others, and finding a way to make their own playstyle somehow more valuable or healthy than someone elses’.
Now that I have defined what Casual and Hardcore means to me, and what it doesn’t, lets move on to the valuable part of the discussion.
The most important thing to me is what Robin says about the behavior that a Casual Guild tolerates. I only disagree in how the assumption seems to be that it is behavior that should be expected from a Casual guild, or that such behavior is typical of Casual gamers in general.
Such behavior is not about players being ‘Casual’, but instead about players being irresponsible.
If you are in a guild that is trying to advance in content, then in order to succeed it comes down to being a responsible person.
If you say you are going to be someplace at a certain time, it is your responsibility to be there. You made the commitment, and if you fail to meet it, then you failed. Period. If you show up late to something you said you would attend, you are telling the other guild members that you do not feel that their time or efforts are valuable or matter to you.
That you are playing a game does NOT make a difference. When you make a commitment to other people, whether in a game, in your workplace, or to a member of your family, it’s not about the type of activity, it’s about the fact that you made that commitment to another real living, feeling human being. If you failed to meet that commitment, then you failed. If you are faced with two conflicting commitments… guess what? That is where your priorities come into play.
If you tell your guild you will attend a raid at a certain time, and something comes up with work or your family that interferes… that is where you decide for yourself which commitment matters the MOST… and you are responsible for telling whoever you are going to let down that you will not meet your commitment.
If something comes up and you decide you cannot make a Raid on time, the responsible thing to do is log in as far in advance as you can and LET SOMEONE KNOW. This shows that you care about other people in your guild, and don’t want them to waste their evening standing around, waiting because you promised to be there.
If you are unsure whether you will be able to attend… the responsible thing is to not commit to doing it. Tell your guild officers that you would like to, and you will try to, but that they cannot count on you in their plans. And if that means that you show up and they made other arrangements to fill your spot, that is the way it works. A responsible player should be grateful to know that the guild would not have suffered in their absence, and should certainly not expect to have the replacement bumped just because you managed to show up. If you want to stay on standby in case someone else needs to leave during the run, that’s a wonderful thing to do.
If you know that you will need certain items to attend the event, such as a key item (like the necklace for entrance into Onyxias’ Lair), or consumable potions or food, it is your responsibility to bring them. If you do not get them ahead of time, you are, again, declaring that it is not important to you to do so, and that the time of the people that are counting on you to show up prepared is not important to you.
This includes logging in on time, but not being ready and expecting other members of the guild to wait around while you do bank runs and AH runs, and then summon you to the event. If you did NOT previously agree to run, if you were asked at the last minute, that is a different situation. But if you agreed ahead of time to be ready to go on a run at a set time, then it is your responsibilty to be ready to go on time… not 15 minutes later, when you’re done running around buying potions and food, and ready to be summoned to Deadwind Pass.
Again, to me, being a Casual Gamer or Hardcore Gamer is not about how much time you spend playing, or how knowledgeable or well geared or advanced in content you are. It is about how you set your priorities.
And being a good player is not defined by whether you are Casual or Hardcore… not by what gear you have, what bosses you’ve downed, how long you’ve played, how much time you spend playing each week, or what your Arena ranking is…
It is about whether you are responsible, and respect the people you are playing with, and whether you are true to your word.