I’m not a casual player? (long)

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.


12 thoughts on “I’m not a casual player? (long)

  1. That’s a lot of good advice and raiding policy I agree with – whether you call yourself casual or hardcore, if you make a commitment to your raid, you should be expected to show up or let someone know in advance if you can’t make it (actual emergencies excluded). I disagree somewhat with your take on Mark’s article, though. I think he was being deliberately inflammatory, but I think he was doing so because people so glibly bandy about “casual” and “hardcore” like they have some actual standard definition, when in reality a player usually means “more hardcore/casual than me,” depending on which end of the spectrum he or she aspires to.You’re right that he jumps back and forth a bit between “casual and hardcore mean nothing” and “here’s what hardcore really means,” though. But I thought that was at least one worthwhile point in his column.


  2. @GMW… I just went back and reread that post by Mr Crump, to see if maybe I was way too harsh, or read something into it that wasn’t there.You are MORE than welcome to disagree with me. I certainly have no problem with that! In fact, my wife tells me I’m full of crap on a regular basis. She is usually right. Okay, she is always right. I can’t pretend to know what Mr Crump was thinking, or what his intention in writing the article was. The way it read to me, however, and the way it still reads to me, was a post that stirred the ‘casual versus hardcore’ pot in order to get a discussion started, was done playing up ertain tired stereotypes, eprhaps intentionally, and could have been taken as being intentionally sarcastic or joking if it hadn’t felt like there was a lot of personal frustration bound up in it.I thought there were a couple of good points in there, such as Blizzard often releasing content that makes it seem that they have no idea what the majority of their players’ playstyles are, or never giving casual gamers any love. Blue posters have addressed this issue in the past by saying that it takes a very long time to bring scheduled content into live use, and have said that there are things scheduled as far back as 2 years ago that only now are being released. I believe that. I think that the level 20-60 leveling changes, the new quest hub, the revamped loot lists and tightened original instance levels all point to massive changes that have been in development for a long time. But Mr Crumps’ observation on our perception that Blizz is unsure of the desires of the playerbase, and that Blizz favors end-game raiders over soloing re-rollers is very solid.I just think that the overall tone of the article is glib and will only serve to stir up some drama, and that’s not really what I, personally, look for from WoW Insider. The columnists write some DAMN good articles and I keep coming back repeatedly over the day, almost always in delight. But the following quote, “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.” just seems to set the overall tone. On the one hand, he slants the hardcore example with fascist overtones, and on the casual, he flavors it with selfishness and a refusal to even think of playing as part of a team.IMO those are tired stereotypes that we can all do without. But then, I overanalyze EVERYTHING.


  3. Le sigh… and my mailbox blows up, but not the comments. Lol. I do know that there are many people that object to being called ‘casual’, who prefer the term ‘dedicated’. They don’t raid to set schedules 5 times a week, but they put in 20 or more hours playing and know their stuff and just don’t see being called casual.That’s fine. I’d probably call myself dedicated too based on time investment and raiding and playstyle. But having to come up with a new term just highlights the BS around labels like casual and hardcore. The terms may have started out meaning ‘plays a little’ and ‘plays a lot’, but that’s not how they’re used now, and haven’t been in a long time. I’d like to reclaim the terms myself, but I know that, honestly, it’s a lost cause. That doesn’t mean I can’t take a tilt at that windmill for the hell of it.


  4. I appreciate the discussion. Personally, I see myself as a casual gamer. But I try to treat meeting my friends online the same as I would if I were meeting them IRL. As in, if my wife really wants to watch a movie with me on a night that I committed to running an instance, I tell her “sorry, dear, but I told my buddies I would meet them online”. But my family is still a much higher priority. If Thursday night is my night to run instances and I have a school function for my daughter, you’d better believe I’m going to my daughter’s function. But as BBB suggests, it isn’t going to be a surprise to anyone that I’m not going to be there — I’ll let them know first. Summary: I agree with BBB’s position and comments.-Shurlitimpul


  5. I’ve come around to the idea (not exactly sure when) that one cannot identify a single definition of “casual”, “hardcore” or “dedicated” in terms of one’s MMORPG playstyle. It seems others can’t find a single definition they like either: In my comment on Mark’s article, I linked one I wrote back in August. It had a whole bunch of new hits today. 😉


  6. @ Kestrel… I’ll go read your post, I’m sure I’ll learn quite a bit from it, I usually do when I’m reading your posts.This one served it’s purpose at the time. One of my hot buttons is people using labels to put other people down, and of course in WoW Casual and Hardcore are used with rabid intensity in the official forums. They can go hang there for all I care, but when I turn to my favorite WoW reading resource to chill out and catch up, and I see Casual and Hardcore being thrown around to describe irresponsible asshat behavior, it puts me in full on rant mode… which frankly I’m sure no one here cares to read.If I had it to do over again, I’d post about my guilds’ first shot at Gruuls this Saturday, like I originally intended.It’s days like today that make me rethink my whole blogging thing, since I’m sure all this post did was waste folks’ time.I hope your Hawaiian vacation is going well, and that you and Mrs Kestrel are having some quality time. Have fun and take care.


  7. Wuh-oh. I go away for a few hours because my raid leader demands a list of upgrades from now ’til Black Temple out of me (what do you call that, casual or hardcore?), and apparently I miss an entire to-do here on the BBBlog.Anyhow, I was discussing to discuss, and I actually liked the post (hence the commenting), so don’t give up on deciding to write something different or debate-worthy!Also, I like “dedicated.” I’ll use it the next time this issue shows up on my guild forums, which is the only place I *actually* get bothered by gaming philosophy drama.


  8. I believe that “casual” or “hardcore” are both very flexible terms. Not just for raiding, or gaming, but for me and the way I look at my priorities. I find myself on a constant cycle in WoW, or for any other thing/hobby that I am currently involved in. I have a way of starting off “casual” in my play style/committment then slowly progressing towards the “hardcore” mentality again. For me it is casual when I am playing the game because I want to. I am having fun, be that with a brand spanking new level 1 alt, my level x9 twinks, My 70 questers, or when I raided. I have come to the realization that I have to keep myself in check, because for me becoming hardcore does in fact hurt my family. I neglect them, but this is my failing not just a label. I like to keep the game casual, I do play more that 20 hours a week, but I am not committed to others so if I need to log to see what my son found in the backyard.. I can. I do not throw the labels around, as to be honest it is really none of my business how you or anyone else plays. I am here to have fun, and that is all the matters.


  9. lol, even with your definitions, I still fall into both categories.I have taken time off work just to play WoW and have skipped a parent teacher meet/greet in order to play WoW. And I definitely play more than 20 hours a week.On the other hand, I’ll probably never raid or see the end game content because the cost is too high relationshipwise. I can get away with one night a week “I’m doing an instance with my online buddies”, but a 3-4 night a week commitment would probably break my marriage.I really could care less about what other people see me as whether hardcore or casual. I play to have fun, and fun’s what I have!


  10. Casual and Hardcore often seem to get used to try to determine winners and losers in the absence of any objective standards. Usually in terms of “I wins and you loses ’cause I’s casual/hardcore and you ain’t. So there.” Bugger that. The wowinsider articles you mentioned seemed to want to support this pattern while hoping to appear not to. Double bugger that, I says.On de other hand I fully support anybody’s right to proclaim themselves to be casual, hardcore, non-aligned, semi-hardcore, semi-casual, dedicated, go-with-the-flow or just-do-me-own-thing. I’s a live and let live (unless someone’s paying me for to kill you) kind of orc.I think that means I mostly agrees with you. maybe some details here and there not so much, but that’s to be expected. That said, /cheer you for taking the time to write about somethin’ that’s clearly been bothering you.


  11. BBB,Part of the privilege of having your own blog is that you get to rant when something pushes your hot button. Rant away! If you didn’t have an occasional rant, you would probably be the only blog in the universe that didn’t. We can all discuss with you like mature adults that have various opinions. That was your intention, after all. Anywho, don’t get discouraged if you got a few flaming e-mails.-Shurlitimpul


  12. Very good discussion by all. Defining casual or hardcore or anything in between is very difficult without a long set of rules or measurements. I think that your right when you say that you can be either and still have priorities outside the game/guild. It is in fact a club you have joined, you just never seen the other members in person (usually). If you make commitments and don’t follow through that is just rude whatever you call your play style.On the lighter side I think that a casual player is one that has his/her chair reclined back, drink and snack on the table listening to music and maybe dancing while the character is drinking and eating…. but that is just me. (dripping of sarcasm)Conquernfool


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