Has Hardcore Gone Soft?

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‘Mainstream' is a dirty word in the world of gaming. Call someone a ‘casual' gamer and that's tantamount to fighting talk. Casual gamers buy FIFA instead of Pro Evolution Soccer and think movie licenses are a guarantee of quality. They are the sole reason that the rest of us have to endure sequel after sequel of mediocre platformers and Bond games that aren't Goldeneye.

Why buy Rez when you can play another driving game? That's what the casual gamer thinks. Then they download all the cheats and use the walk-though like a step by step instruction manual. I mean, how lame is that!? Where's the challenge?

Hardcore gamers chastise these saps for dragging the industry down to their level of mainstream banality. Hardcore gamers sneer at the manual on first playing a new game. Pity those poor casuals who have to rely on it before they even have a hope in hell of even grasping the gameplay.

Of course the hardcore gamer does okay at the new game, but later realises that the weird number in the corner was a boost timeout, or they'd have been able to beat that end of level boss much easier if they'd known the purple gems award spell-casting abilities. Of course, all this is revealed on reading the manual when they get stuck on level five. But shhh, don't tell them I told you.

Yes, being a hardcore gamer is all about making it hard for yourself. It's a kind of cutting your nose off to spite the mainstreamers. Or a leisure time boot camp where you get yelled at by a drill sergeant if you can't make it over the mushrooms first time round. You have to drop and give him twenty if you tried to use the manual to find out how to crouch.

In fact, hardcore fervour comes close to asking shop assistants to remove the manual before putting it in the bag with the receipt, as a symbol of what little use they have for it. Pah, what use do I have for such fripperies, a hardcore gamer would exclaim.

No self-respecting hardcore gamer would think of playing a game on ‘easy.' Easy is for the uninitiated, or worse, the casual gamer who can't be bothered to commit. Hardcore gamers choose normal and work their way up to ‘hard as nails,' but only to get some replayability you understand.

Well, that's how it used to be. But I've noticed a new trend amongst hardcore gamers. ‘Easy' is the new ‘rock hard.' Has the hardcore gone casual? Are they spending too much time talking about gaming to actually get on with it?

No, it's none of those things. But I have noticed that hardcore gamers I am close to are playing games on easy!

My circle of hardcore gamers has suddenly realised that we all play our games on easy to have any hope of finishing them. It's not about an inability on our part; it's about time and patience. Viewtiful Joe is a case in point. Now there's a game that even the most absurdly able gamer is going to find"er challenging. Fact is, it invented hard, along with Ikaruga and even the hardestcore gamers are going to need some serious time to invest.

Me and my fellow hardcore gamers have discovered that games can actually be fun on easy. But the unique selling point of easy is that one day you may actually finish a game. Look at it this way, a hardcore gamer is going to have all the consoles, an SP and a PC. Now even if there's a game being played on half of them, that's a heck of a lot of gaming needed, not to mention heartache if they're all played on mega ultra hard.

There's a new brand of hardcore gamer and they've discovered that fun is better than bravado. They play games on easy and have fun. This means there may be some common ground between casual gamers and hardcore gamers after all. I mean casual gamers are kind of hedonistic, they only pursue an activity whilst they enjoy it and then move onto something else. Hardcore gamers have a more puritanical approach, which means they wear their gaming prowess like a hair shirt.

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