This article is ripe with death; real death that is truly a bit sad to read about. However, I surely would not include this view into the window of my personal history if I did not think that it contributed to my point. Comments of sympathy are not necessary, as I have mourned and embraced it.
Why Does Anyone Care?
This article sprang to mind because of conversations that I had begun to have with co-workers. Not the ScrewAttack crew, but my co-workers at the restaurant where I work. One of my co-workers, let's call him "Steve,” speaks of his adventures in Skyrim all day long. His 200 hour trek through Bethesda's world led to his maxed character and him claiming to destroy dragons with a single arrow. With the release of Kingdoms of Amular, he jumped with excitement. Talking my ear off about how it is even more enjoyable than Skyrim. Another co-worker let’s call him "Hank,” speaks of his Modern Warfare 3 exploits, and his glorious ascension to the top 100 in the "Free for All" game type. I sent him a friend request to see just how long he has played as of last month. He had logged over 300 hours. The third and final co-worker that games, let's call him "Lloyd,” never initiates talking about games. He will come up and surprise me every now and then and say, "Hey Shaun! Are you excited about Borderlands 2?" Since I have played through the first with all characters, I say, "Hell Yes!" We then discuss this for the duration of the shift.
Steve, Hank, and Lloyd all love games. They all play for likely more than 20 hours a week, and are very passionate when engaged in a conversation about their games. That is why I was so surprised when I tried to talk up some hype for one of my favorite games this year, SSX.
When asking each of these guys if they were excited for its release, they simply replied, "What is that?" The same thing happened with Max Payne 3, when I approached them with my excitement for that game. It was then that I thought to myself, in all of my pompous arrogance, “Wow, these guys aren't hardcore like me.” Although, when I humbled myself, I realized that these 3 gamers are JUST as hardcore as I am. I used this lesson to try to think about what makes a gamer a hardcore gamer, and I truly think that my definition for the term should go without argument. It can be applied to any lover of any art form, including paintings, music, or cinema.
Here We Go:
Hardcore Gamer: A person that can correlate all of the most important events of their life to the specific video games they were playing at that time.
Now to prove my point; here is a timeline of games and some events they correlate to in my life:
- NES given to me by my brother- I played Super Mario 3, Goonies II, and Donkey Kong on an old Zenith that had a thumbtack with a pencil eraser for a power button. During this time I stepped on a wasp, played with Jurassic Park action figures, and had my first dog, Rowdy.
- Genesis given to me by my brother- I used to wake up before the school bus got to my house to play The Lion King, and Mortal Kombat. Later, I would meet one of my greatest friends, who would bring a stinky backpack full of Genesis cartridges to my home. We played Road Rash and I watched him beat Splatterhouse.
- Playstation given to me by my parents for Christmas- I played the Tekken 2 demo all the time, as well as Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. I specifically remember finishing my first full can of soda. The Playstation would later house such characters as Gabe Logan and Crash Bandicoot, and after my grandfather's funeral, my friend and I would mourn by completing Syphon Filter 2.
- Playstation 2 I purchased after the price drop to $199- I offended a friend because I called the Nazis "Germans" during my slaughter of them during a Medal of Honor: Frontline session. Games like Airblade and Smuggler's Run occupied the black box, until a small, unknown gem entitled Grand Theft Auto 3 found it's way there. It never left until Vice City, which never left until San Andreas. My friends and I spent days on end killing cops, and my mother thought we were all going to go crazy and kill our classmates. Later, God of War dominated, and on a sad note, my first dog Rowdy passed away at the age of 77. I was playing Half-Life on PS2 when I got the news.
- I worked 4 weeks with no days off at the local Dairy Queen to purchase my Xbox 360 (it was two hundred dollars cheaper than the PS3) which was attractive to a seventeen year old. With it, I purchased Dead Rising and F.E.A.R. When I played Dead Rising, my girlfriend watched and laughed enthusiastically while I spun around with a chainsaw. She waited with me at the helipad at the end of the game for around an hour, only for us to find out that I was supposed to be somewhere else, and received the worst ending in the game. Five years later, I would ask her to marry me. The final summer before my friends and I all headed out to college, we banded together and played Stranglehold while anticipating the release of Bioshock, which we nearly completed in 2 sessions. We are talking 6 friends, spending the entire summer together and doing nothing but gaming, eating hot wings, and staying up until 5 in the morning. It was one of the best times of my life.
- In the middle of this console's cycle- I played the likes of Left 4 Dead and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 with my best bud. We would go home after working out and watch Spike's Ultimate Fighter and Surviving Disaster, then play RSV2 or Borderlands until dawn. Can you say, "Perfect Evening?"
- Around this time my brother (who had given me the Sega Genesis 11 years prior) told me that he had been diagnosed with cancer. So he started treatment, and I started Trials HD. Due to it's simple, leaderboard driven racing, It gave me a great opportunity to play and think at the same time. I thought about my brother, and I believe I involuntarily prepared myself for his hypothetical death. I climbed the leaderboards, breaking the top ten on most tracks, and getting platinum medals on all races. I was playing Trials HD the day he called to tell me he was going to die. I cried, and played. A few weeks later he passed on, and ever since I always think of him when I play Trials. I don't get emotional, or freak out when I hear the announcer say "It's Trials Time!" It is just that Trials HD is the game that reminds me of my brother's battle with cancer. Strange, but true.
- Now at ScrewAttack, my experiences here will always be remembered with Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, and Skyrim. The uncertainty of the city, the uncertainty of what I am going to do with my life, will be in relation to having the opportunity to hang with the ScrewAttack crew. Getting hyped for Max Payne 3 will be remembered with waiting for Brian's impressions from PAX East. Finally, the early stages of the married life will be reminisced alongside my time with SSX, and Burnout CRASH!
This very brief history of my gaming life is indicative of my "Hardcore" status. You can call Nintendo Wii players casual players all you want, but I am sure that if the Wii is their favorite console, and they are having a blast with New Super Mario Bros., who is to say that they don't experience the game and the memories in the same light as others? Going back to the examples of gamers that I used at the beginning of this blog, what kind of gamers are they? I'm sure Steve, Hank and Lloyd, for whatever reason, will remember this time of their life, playing Skyrim, or Call of Duty, or whatever the hell game that Lloyd plays is and match it with working at a restaurant and going to college or simply trying to get out of the food industry. The fact that they may purchase or play only two or three different games a year should not put them into a "casual" class of gamers because they love and are passionate about what they play. Generally speaking, I believe that most gamers are pricks (myself included). Mostly due to the fact that they are so involved with the experiences they have with their games... so we are all quick to judge other gamer's merits.... details which I will explore in a later post.
The point I am attempting to make is that in essence, almost all gamers should be classified as "hardcore" in their own right. Everyone has their game, and everyone has the experiences of playing that game in memory. Whether it be the first experiences with the future love of our lives, or hanging out with your best friends in a last hoorah of video game glory before the time to move on arrives. Even Stuttering Craig himself has Vietnam flashbacks of getting his ass kicked by Mike Tyson in Punchout! Those memories are what make gamers hardcore. The stories that we tell each other, based off of our personal experiences.
If you disagree, don't just sit there, or blow up the comments with snyde remarks. Blog about it! or throw it into the forums! What peers of ours should we consider "Hardcore?"
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