The In Between   33 comments

The seemingly black and white nature that exists between the mindset of “hardcore” and “casual” is something that’s been on my mind for a couple of months now. I think the first time that it tickled my thoughts was a few months back when I was having a conversation with someone who said “if you aren’t hardcore, you’re casual” and it stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t agree with that statement at all. In fact, I completely disagreed with it. I guess where I kept getting caught up in the logic was the immediate leap to the opposite, the complete black and white nature of the thought, with no room for the vast grey that falls in between.

The Space in the In Between

I’ve never really liked the terms “hardcore” and “casual” because of the stigmas that the community has associated with them and the fallacy of such terms, but whether I like it or not, they are terms that everyone recognizes and associates with. When most people think “hardcore” they think of guilds like Vodka or Paragon and when people think of “casual” they think of guilds who are content plugging through content at a much slower pace, often times not seeing things like “hard modes”. This is the black and the white. The complete opposites on the raiding spectrum. There is nothing wrong with either of them – they are just on different ends of the spectrum.

But I believe that it isn’t as simple as just black and white. I don’t think you have to be limited to being strictly “hardcore” or strictly “casual”. I think that there is a lot of room in that in between, a lot of grey that isn’t black or white. In fact, I’d almost wager that a great number of people in progression raiding find themselves in this in between area. Where they enjoy pushing content, but aren’t pushing it at a neck-breakingly fast pace – either because they aren’t capable of it or just don’t have the time to do it.

As I think about it more – I guess the question is “what defines hardcore”? Is it how fast you progress? Is it what you demand of your players? For me, I want to play with people that I enjoy being around and who have a vested interest in improving every night – even if maybe they aren’t always the best of the best of players. Does that make me “casual”? On the same token, I also expect them to avoid making repeat mistakes, to actively work to become a better player, to acknowledge when they’ve made an error and who want to progress through content while its current. Does that make me “hardcore”? Progression for me is fun. But playing with people who make the game fun because of who they are and what their personalities offer to that experience is also important to me. So where does that leave me? Can I have expectations without being “hardcore”? Can I have friends without being “casual”?

Honestly, I think it puts me pretty squarely in the majority of progression raiders and raid teams who fall on the cusp – somewhere in that in between. Do I sometimes desire more? Absolutely. But I also question the cost of such desires and ponder if paying Charon’s toll would be worth it when all was said and done.

So what do you think? Is progression black and white? Is there only “hardcore” and “casual” or do you think there is somewhere in between?

Posted February 15, 2012 by Beruthiel in Brain Dump, Deep Thoughts

33 responses to “The In Between

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  1. I’d be really interested to listen into this discussion at Blizzard. Were they to blithely categorize their customer base into two such disparate groups, they’d be neglecting what is likely the majority of their (endgame) playerbase. Labeling 95%+ of their level 85 players as “casual” because they don’t fit the mold of “hardcore” ignores wide spectra of ability levels, time commitment, and progression prioritization and would unfailingly result in content development that isn’t well-targeted or effective at maintaining subscribership (I suppose that some might argue that this has already happened).

    • I do think that it’s an interesting dichotomy, and I would honestly love to see how would Blizzard respond. It really does amaze me the way people define different things, and I honestly don’t know that Blizzard will ever get it “right”. I’m sure no matter what someone will feel the game is too easy/hard.

  2. I always felt that Hard core & casual were more like imaginary extremes on a continuum of play time & mindsets. It’s easy to pick apart the extreme cases, but the vast majority of people fall in the middle. 🙂

  3. I think you’re correct here. I’m not a fan of using a single spectrum of “hardcore” vs “Casual” to define what has many different axes that is can run upon. Progression is an end state that comes from the confluence of skill and commitment, and the social factor is another axis that has to be taken into consideration, sometimes at the expense of progression.

    I think that progression is black and white. It’s pretty much the only thing in the complex world of raiding that is. Either a boss is dead, or it isn’t. But what your group’s goal is, is something that needs to be established, and it’s not always a progression based goal. My guild accepts that we aren’t going to be competing for server firsts because we only raid five hours a week, and despite the skill of our players, that’s not a big enough commitment to compete with guilds that raid three, four, or five days a week. But we’re working through heroics, and when we are raiding, we’re commited, bar the occaisional hiccup. We generally enjoy each other’s company during raid hours, and for the most part, we don’t log on outside those hours. Those are all things that weve accepted as fundamental aspects of our guild, and were happy with it. You could take a player whose priority is getting that server first kill, and put them in with our raid group, and they’d likely be very dissapointed with us. Likewise, a player who sees raiding as simply a loot dispensery that shouldn’t require things like optimizing his character, wouldn’t last a raid night before getting run out of dodge.

    That’s where my guild sits, in the middle of the road, and succesfully so.

    • I definitely think that the perspective of a player has a role in how they view raiding. I don’t know if I agree with progression being black and white, as I think progression is what often times defines where someone falls into many other categories.

  4. Personally, I think it depends on your end goal for the content. If you’re of the mindset to push World/US/Server firsts, then I would categorize that as hardcore.

    But on the flip side, just because you are one doesn’t mean you can’t become the other and still be in the same place.

    Personal Example – Current Heroic content is cleared, raiding Sun-Thurs from 7-11 is now done in 4 hours if not less. Play time is drastically cut in half, if anything I log in to work on side items that I have been putting off and then log off after an hour or two. At this point, I’m pretty casual. The ebbs and flows of what the community defines as casual and hardcore change so often, it’s not even worth the effort to define yourself.

    • Sometimes I wonder if taking a step up wouldn’t be worth those few months of really heavy progression just so you have those months of much more relaxed raiding once it was all done.

      And then I remember T11 and wonder if I could have done it for so long 🙂

  5. I’ve thought about this too and where I really stood. But what’s *really* in the middle pack? I’ve run alts in some friends’ guild raids, and their guilds were very casual- as in they were still working on firelands normal when Dragon Soul came out. They were still by the time I cleared Dragon Soul Normal with my guild’s main raid.

    I see guilds and know people who have progressed further than I have- is it because I don’t have the team with the time to do it? Absolutely. Back in Wrath, I wouldn’t have known the difference because I was in a casual guild and were okay with it. Until I joined a hardmode progression guild later, that was when I first touched the end spectrum of hardcore raiding. It was only then that I understood the distinct differences between casual and hardcore raiding. I started questioning where I truly was, as a raider and that’s a hard question to answer.

    If I had all the time in the world to raid, would I be at the very end vying for server first kills? Yes! Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of time, and it’s because I want to have a life. A worthy trade off for server first kills, and it puts me firmly right in the middle of the pack. I’m okay with that too 🙂

    • Sometimes I think it’s a common misconception to think that progression must mean hours on hours of raiding. In some extreme (the top .1%) I feel this is true – but I certainly know a lot of guilds who have taken a stance that you can still be successfully progressed on a fraction of the time who do quite well. I think we’ve fallen into an era where progression and time aren’t always synonomous terms – but what do I know, I’d crave more of both if I could 🙂

  6. Seems to me like the “hardcore” and “casual” labels are both so emotionally charged and vaguely defined that their only use is in putting people down (going both ways) and defining in/out groups. It’s a cultural statement meaning “We’re not like those ______ raiders.” The reality “on the ground” is a lot more complex.

    My current group is raiding one day a week for 2.5-3 hours and clearing normals. I expect we’ll throw in some HM attempts before long. We’re obviously not trying for top-tier progression but we take our raid time and performance seriously. We expect people to be on-time and prepared (gear, gems/enchants, class knowledge, encounter mechanics, etc). We encourage theorycrafting/experimentation, review WoL parses and people on our team do rank from time to time. I don’t really care whether this is hardcore or casual. It’s fun and it suits us.

    I just feel fortunate that we’ve found 10 people for whom this works.

    • I agree that the terms seem to be used with derogation more than anything else, and that is unfortunate. I suspect that the meaning of either term changes depending on who you are talking to and the experiences that they have.

  7. Lumpin’ everyones inta “Hardcore” and “Casual” assumes what there be a right way fer ta play, with thems what do it sufficientlies close ta 100% right bein’ the “Harcore” and thems what do it too much less than 100% right bein’ the “Casual”. Is utter and complete bullfeathers. Adventurers don’t fall inta a nice neat line runnin’ between two points – is closer ta a 5- or 9- or n-dimensional sphere. How many raid nights a week? Do that include mandatory LFR or no? How many hours per night? Swap in alts or just mains? Pay 30k fer BoE epics? How big a roster? How many houra a week farmin’ pets? How many hours a week farmin’ mog gear? Tell jokes on vent? Talk at all on vent? Attendance requirements? Age requirements?

    Everyone fits inta one of two categories? Yeah, right. Pull the other one – is got bells on it.

  8. I think, like most dichotomies in life, there are an infinite number of shades of grey between the “black” and “white” of the extremes.

    I don’t think anyone fits definitively in either extreme itself. There are definitely guilds you could label as “hardcore” and “casual”, but they are not at the absolutes. As hardcore as any guild is, there is always conceivably “more hardcore” guild… Imagine a guild with hundreds of members each with geared 85s who rotate through shifts in a single raid with varying compositions until they hammer through every kill with variations of every character…. that would almost epitomize “hardcore”… it would also epitomize “insane.”

    The same exists on the opposing end of the spectrum… where the question lies is, at what point in the spectrum do you start labelling guilds as “hardcore” vs “casual”? There’s no definitive mathematical formula for a subjective term… what a Paragon member considers hardcore might differ considerably from what a 1-day-a-week “friends and family” guild member might consider hardcore.

    I think it’s a subjective decision by each person, as is each person’s decision as to where they want to be within the spectrum. Most people are going to judge the rest of the raiding population against their own position… a large percentage of those below them will be “casual” while a large number above them will be “hardcore” … there may be some overlap, but for the most part the fulcrum will balance around each individual’s position on the scale.

    • I, personally, which the terms just didn’t exist. Of course, I also wish that things that help perpetrate the terms (like ranking sites, etc) also didn’t exist. I’ve long felt that people would have had a lot more enjoyment in the game if they were less concerned about how other people were playing and more concerned with themselves and enjoying how *they* were playing. I miss the days before cross realm content existed and people were invested in those that they spent their time with 🙂

  9. I label myself causal because to me raiding with friends and people I enjoy is more important than loot/progression/server first. That said, the black and white part of raiding is still important and something we have to live with. Not sure if you are familiar with the geek code, but I came up with this and thinking of maybe using it as a recruiting tool in the future.

    Mine is
    -H A 100w Pr(H)D Wr(T) 4h 2d DS-8/8N

    At least when I am looking at someone to recruit, not from the personal level because to me that is a given (I would not want to be in a guild with someone I would not want in the social aspect of my gameplay.) I still want to know that I am working with someone with at least common goals and wipe thresholds as mine. Some night it might be too much to wipe to something 3 times, but when learning a fight 15-30 wipes are just part of the learning process. Now, to me a hardcore is willing to wipe 150-300 times on a fight.

    • Love this…. haven’t seen the raider code before…

      Loosely calculate mine as:

      H -A 200w Rg Pr(H)D Dr(TD)Bal 4h 5d DS-4/8H

      If I’m not mistaken, this translates to:
      I want to complete most heroic modes (if not all).
      I don’t really care about achievements
      I’m willing to wipe 200 times on a fight (though I could honestly say I’d probably do more if needed)
      I raid on a rogue, a disc priest, and a Balance/bear druid
      I raid typically 4hr/raid night
      I raid up to 5 days a week (among the 3 characters)
      I’ve completed 4/8 HM in Dragon Soul

      I like this code 🙂

    • I disagree that black and white raiding is important. I think it’s only as important as we, the player base, makes it. Sadly, for many people, playing the “rankings game” has become more imperative to their fun than overcoming the challenges of the content in and of itself. And that is unfortunate. I think a lot of people would have a lot more fun if they just took the content at hand and took the player-created competition out of the equation.

      • I don’t think that it is realistic. Our society has moved more towards the status mentality than really the community mentality. While there are some guilds that do provide a community for raiders (at least mine tries) in the end it is all about the end result (loot/mounts/titles/first kills).

        I would love it if we could have more people interested in the journey, or finding new ways to complete content instead of (OMG Guild X is using X strat, we have to do that if we want to compete.)

        For me it is more about the journey and awesome adjustments and strats than being server first, but even in my casual arena people look at rankins… its inevitable for some to compare.

  10. Didn’t you put 400 attempts in Heroic Ragnaros? I’m having trouble envisioning a universe where that is not hardcore.

    Besides, Hardcore is everyone above you; and Casual is everyone below you

    My classification (of PvE anyways) can be found here. Royalty, Aristocracy, Gentry, Bourgeois, and Proletariat. In my experience, guilds within a category share more characteristics and expectations than they do with guilds outside that tier.

  11. I’ve always said the difference is not between hardcore and casual, but Progression vs Casual…

    There are players who never raid that the folks in Vodka or DREAM Paragon would call total casuals…but these players are on 7 days a week, playig the auction house, have 52 alts on different servers, multiple 85s, and have maxxed out every profession (even Archeology YUCK!). If THAT is NOT hardcore, then we need to redefine that word.

    However, players in guilds like Vodka are definitely PROGRESSION minded. They want to move forward and inch closer and closer to “completing” the game. The levels of gray between casual and progressive are numerous to say the least when you are talking about raiders, and I think you nail the truth of the matter Beru…Enjoy the PEOPLE you play alongside…regardless of the gameplay you indulge in. Get that settled and you have the best and most solid foundation for long term success in the game. Regardless of how you as an individual define that success.


  12. I always thought there were a couple more categories than that… “serious” – the level between “casual” and “hardcore”, and “elite” which is how I’d classify Paragon etc.

    Elite: exceptional players, raid heaps during the race to kill bosses first, then very little the rest of the time because stuff falls over dead so fast that they don’t have to.

    Hardcore: insane raiding hours. Determined and prepared, but not quite as skilled as the elite.

    Serious: sane raiding hours, real life matters too, still determined and prepared though, and come very close to hardcore guilds in progression.

    Casual: mostly there for the social aspect. Don’t mind if they kill bosses or not, and are just as happy to call it a night if the wipes get boring.

    • I think there are definitely many different “classifications” that can be assigned, but I’m not sure it helps clarify anything and I still think there is a lot of grey area in there 🙂

  13. Both terms have become used to insult those either above or below a player on the progression. What I find interesting is how players who consider themselves at the casual end of the specturm have increasingly seemed to adopt the term casual and wear it as a badge of pride. This reminds me of how the N word has been adopted by segments of black American culture as a term of endearment amongst each other.

    There is also a strong sense of snobbery involved in many players who call themselves casual, this seems to stem from a fairly extreme view of what a “hardcore” guild is like. In the comments to this thread several players calling themselves casual have subtly implied that hardcore players don’t have a “life”, logtar even choose to identify himself as casual despite being 4/8H. I would ask if this is casual what isn’t?

    Players are often reluctant to define themselves as “hardcore”. My guild is currently 6/8H and I am sure not many of our members would call themselves or the guild hardcore however I suspect that a lot of players on our server view us as a hardcore guild. I wonder if this reluctance to take up the name is because once you do you have to own your raids failure to progress as fast as better guilds. You can no longer blame it on wanting to play with friends or not having enough time because by calling yourself hardcore you have defined yourself as someone for whom progression is the most important thing. This has resulted in the self defined hardcore being only the very best leaving a vast grey area in between hardcore and casual.

    Then again as we all know the rule of WoW is that anyone less progressed than you is a retarded casual scrub and everyone more progressed than you is an elitist hardcore no-lifer…..right? 😉

    • Yes! There is nothing more insulting that someone coming around and saying “Well, I raid ONLY 6 hours a week, and that was EASY”. Hey, fuck you buddy! Way to be an insulting asshat – even if it’s backhanded! God that drives me absolutely insane! haha

      Honestly, I hate definitions in pretty much the same way I hate saying “we will be a top xxx guild”. Because if you define yourself by a number or a term, and that is your only defining factor, the second you falter you have just failed. And guilds should be so much more than numbers – and they should be able to weather challenges when things are a little rough. At least that’s my take on it anyhow.

  14. What Rohan said: “Hardcore is everyone above you; and Casual is everyone below you.” (And masith above me, too)

    For me, if someone isn’t gemming right, speccing right, doing their research, they’re casual. But if they’re raiding more than 9 or 12 hours a week, they’re certainly more hardcore than I am. I find that people who will spend 15+ hours a week raiding are almost CERTAINLY gemming/speccing right, because they care enough about their characters to be like “oh man, how can I eke out just a bit more DPS? A bit more healing?” Whereas I feel that the more casual player won’t necessarily do that.

    I call Apotheosis a semi-hardcore guild. We have a light schedule (9 hours a week, 3 hours a night, 3 nights a week) but we do expect you to play your class at a fairly competant level and there’s a lot of pressure inside the guild to do better, even if it’s not explicitly stated. For me, it’s not fun to play with people who flat-out don’t care as much as I do.

    Then again, I think many of us who have been in the same guild for quite some time can be caught up in how we play and how our guilds/raids operate. We are so entrenched in how we do things that we sometimes forget that others do things differently and that it may not be “bad”. (But I’ll still say that there are certainly bad players out there, so there’s a limit between “not-optimal” and “bad” in terms of “different”.)

  15. I think casual vs hardcore depends on so many factors it’s going to be different for each person who views it. What I mean is, take my server for example. As a server we are slow to progress. Our top guild is 4/8h. My guild is currently 1/8h. But even our 1 heroic is enough to make us number 5 horde and 12 overall. We were the 3rd guild to clear DS on normal. We only raid 2 nights a week and push progression for 1-2 hours on 1 night, then we just clear the place and get some people upgrades they are missing. But to many people I have talked to, they consider us hardcore. We consider other guilds ahead of us hardcore and so on. I have said for years I am casual hardcore. I will put in the time to learn how to play my class. I will learn the boss fights and I will do everything I can for the group. But I’m only raiding my 3 hours a night. 2 nights a week. I’m not going to sit there and smash into a boss for hours on end. I don’t have to have the BEST players ever in my group. I think most guilds are more like this then even they realize.

  16. Congrats on being featured on WoW Insider Beru on this great discussion topic!

    It’s something that I find myself arguing with fairly often. I’m told my mindset is “hardcore” and that I’m not cut out to be a casual raider. And a lot of time I feel that people use the word “casual” as a crutch to not improve on themselves. “Oh we are casual, so it’s okay if we repeatedly screw up a mechanic.” They use it when they can’t do numbers relative to their gear level, that they haven’t invested in gems or enchants (maybe they have, but they aren’t the best ones). They may be the people who don’t sign on beyond a raid night (whether it be progression, farm, or even LFR).

    People call me hardcore because I research my spec, I read up on boss fights before they are done, I run numbers and do detailed notes for reforging and specific fight requirements. To me that’s not being hardcore, it’s me being respectful of the other 9 or 24 people I’m playing with. I want to bring my best to help the team.

    I describe myself as a “Hardcore Casual.” Yes, I raid 7 hours of current content each week, I do LFRs, I cap VP on multiple characters. And then I go back and raid old Cata content for at least 3 hours a week.

    I enjoy raiding and I enjoy doing my best. I don’t define myself as truly casual (I mean, I raid!) but I’m not truly hardcore like the World First guilds. I’m this gray area in between that you describe. Maybe I lean more towards the hardcore end of the scale, but I’m still gray.

    Either way, we should all play how we want to play. Some day I hope these labels that are applied to the different player cultures within WoW will just fade away and we can all just be known for our enjoyment of the different aspects that the game offers.

  17. It all just seems like insecurity to me. Why do people need to put themselves or others on that spectrum at all, except to justify their own performance? If you’re having fun you’re doing it right, whether your guild is 1/8 or 8/8hm.

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