You Are NOT Hardcore

I promise that after this post, I'll get back to bitching about movies.

You are not hardcore. You think you are, you probably say so on forums and youtube videos and your crappy web page, but you aren't. I'm specifically addressing video game players/hobbyists/fanatics. Because in all my years as a fan and collector of obscure movies I've never come across this attitude among the people I trade movies with in the same overwhelming quantity as I have with video gamers (although I have seen it, usually among collectors and idiots on IMDb's general film board). And while I'm very much aware that the world of popular music is the same way, with emo kids and scene kids and posers and hipsters, I don't care. Music can burn.

I read pretty often in forums that "If you're a hardcore gamer, go with Microsoft," or something to that effect, usually followed or preceded by a rant about how Nintendo abandoned their hardcore audience and the PSTriple ain't got games. And while I could say quite a bit about the awfulness of the Wii's library and how Sony screwed up, I'm perplexed by anybody thinking that the Xbox 360 is somehow "hardcore."

Let's take a moment to define our terms. Wikipedia actually goes out of their way to avoid defining it, although they are correct in stating that there is no universally accepted definition. It doesn't really matter one way or the other, because -- as with pornography -- we always know hardcore when we see it. Beating Gunstar Heroes without dying -- that's hardcore. Setting the world record in Donkey Kong -- that's hardcore. Taking several years to translate ROMs of Japanese games that would be unplayable without knowing the language -- that's hardcore. Learning another language for the sake of playing video games -- that's hardcore. Spending hours upon hours unlocking achievements that require no effort and trading insults with twelve year old boys and frat guys who had not touched a video game until Halo 2 came out -- that's not hardcore. Yet so many keep on insisting that it is.

People who claim to be "game journalists" actually repeat this claim. Since nobody can officially agree on the meaning of term, how can somebody who makes a claim to journalistic integrity take himself seriously when stating that, "A true hardcore gaming experience is delivered on the Xbox 360... The Xbox 360 is a gamers system." It's even sillier when the writer of that article explains that Xbox won the hardcore title because Microsoft charges a subscription fee for Xbox Live support. Apparently, multiplayer is now the deciding factor of being "hardcore." I was under the impression that being a hardcore gamer was simply being so fond of video games that you knew the history, the best of what was available, the best of what would be available, and probably had a genre or a developer or a series that was particularly appealing to you. What exactly is it about paying money for something that hardly costs Microsoft anything to maintain, which attracts all sorts of kids and loud adults who sound like kids, which features games that play better on the PC and exists more and more for the sake of micro-transactions (meaning you pay extra on a game that should have shipped with the content you're paying to download from a service you already pay a subscription to) hardcore? Even if you think it's worth the money, Live doesn't have anything to do with being "hardcore." The number of rubes and obnoxious children who will probably be able to keep up with you in Halo 3 proves that.

I'd say that the guys that run Hardcore Gaming 101 are pretty hardcore, even if I disagree with some of what they call great games, but they sure as hell aren't debating whether the Genesis is better or worse than the SNES. And there's the rub. If you're really hardcore, you'll want all three home systems, because you'll want all of the games that are worth playing. That isn't to say that you might not prefer one to the other. I hate the 360's controller. That doesn't mean that I don't want to play Star Ocean 4 or Last Remnant (although I'll wait for the PC releases). Even then, if I could afford all three consoles and both handhelds, I would. As it stands, the newest piece of hardware I own is a DS Lite, which I'm satisfied with. I'd rather play the Final Fantasy remakes and old school dungeon crawler revivals than the watered down CRPG lite and JRPG dreck that's taking up space on the Xbox 360. But I'm also not a hardcore gamer, even if my tastes skew a bit towards the obscure and more difficult end of the Role Playing genre.

Finally, I should also say that if you're a genre newbie who really likes Mass Effect or Halo or Fallout 3 or any of these newer iterations in established genres and franchises, you are not hardcore. Stop pretending that you are. If you are a retro-gamer who's played a million different games through emulation; you are not hardcore, so quit saying you are.

There's so much variety and so much raw material that's been produced in the past thirty years that it's highly unlikely that anybody can honestly claim to be acquainted with all aspects of video games and video game culture. Aside from the language barrier between the US and Japan, there's also games that come from China and Taiwan (not just pirates, but computer games and licensed console games) from South Korea, from eastern Europe and South America that have very little presence on the internet. GameFAQs hardly acknowledges the existence of Chinese PC games (from what I hear they have no desire to catalog them) and the fan translation scenes for these are as tiny as the audience for them outside their native countries. And what about homebrew and doujin games and ROM hacks? Are you not a hardcore gamer if you haven't played all of these? Perhaps it's more likely that somebody who has doesn't think so highly of your achievments or the gamer score that you so proudly display as your forum signature.

By claiming to be "hardcore" you cheapen the word, especially if the only reason you think you're hardcore is because you're playing games that are roundly praised by sycophantic game journalists and fans that emphatically post their opinions on the internet.The Wii has MadWorld, Baroque, and soon Muramasa: The Demon Blade. One is a bloody action game published by Sega, one is a Roguelike RPG (hard to get more hardcore than that), and the last is from Vanillaware, the respected developer of Odin Sphere, and one of the few 2d action games to have been developed for the 7th generation of home consoles. Halo 3 is designed to be picked up and played by anybody, while even most old-school, console RPG fans probably couldn't put up with the harsh difficulty and steep learning curve of a game like Baroque. You who herald the Xbox 360 as the home of the hardcore: which of these sounds more "hardcore" to you? It isn't about the systems themselves, but about what you're playing. After all, the Xbox actually has Spectral Force 3.

If you are hardcore, we'll be able to pick you out. Saying that you are kills your credibility. Claiming that Nintendo abandoned you makes you sound stupid. Claiming that Microsoft cares about you makes you sound even stupider. So stop.

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