The Definition of Hardcore Video Gaming
If you're a gamer, chances are you've heard this term being thrown around to describe multiple things. A "hardcore" game, a "hardcore" game player, a "hardcore" difficulty level. The word is normally associated with something that's not recommended for a general audience for multiple reasons. But what truly makes a game "hardcore"?
Labels such as "hardcore" and "casual" tend to be commonplace in the industry, but the reality is that both of these terms are fading away as developers adapt to a growing environment with multiple audiences. To understand what a "hardcore" game actually entails, we need to look at games that follow such rules to be classified as such.
The best example we can look at (and one that I'm sure a lot of you readers are tired of seeing me use) is Dark Souls. Dark Souls has a lot of things that gamers use to classify it as a hardcore game, particularly the high difficulty curve that it uses. Players going through this game need to use every resource they can to conquer the different areas they traverse through, and that's not even taking the unbalanced PvP side of things into the equation.
However, even Dark Souls has traits that help so-called casual gamers out and make the trek a bit less frustrating, keeping the focus on the journey. When you die, you don't lose any gear, instead losing any souls and humanity acquired, which you have a chance to regain. Bonfires also serve as checkpoints for respawning and are commonly placed near boss encounters to lessen travel time in the event of defeat. You can even summon additional players to help with especially challenging encounters, such as the infamous Ornstein and Smough fight. So even a game as challenging as Dark Souls has aspects that also cater to more "casual" players.
This sometimes goes the other way around as well. Taking Rock Band as an example, the series is known for being easily accessible outside of the price of instrument peripherals; it's easy to pick up, and the best party game one can have at their house. However, this game also has options that cater to more "hardcore" players, including advanced difficulty settings, ridiculously challenging songs such as Through the Fire and Flames, and even the ability to play with actual instruments. Do we then still classify the game as a "casual friendly" title or a hardcore title?
The point I'm trying to make here is that the actual line that determines a game being casual or hardcore is being blurred more with each title that comes out. This sudden appearance of such games can probably be attributed to the coming end of the "casualized" era of gaming, as gamers begin to get extremely tired of seeing games using things like automatic win button QTEs and the dumbing down of gameplay in order to appeal to a wider audience. While some companies are still guilty of this practice, players and critics alike are frowning on it more and more, telling companies that they want a more fulfilling game experience rather than a dumbed down or incredibly frustrating one.
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