There's a buzzword going around the internet these days. I read it on blogs; I hear it on podcasts; I see it on guild websites. This word is, "casual."
In the case of WoW, casual tends to be a term used to deride a perceived class of players, or to describe the direction some people think the game is moving.
"Casual vs. Hardcore."
"Blizzard is pandering to the casuals."
"WoW is becoming too casual."
These are all quotes that we've seen before.
The best example of this increasing perception of casualness in WoW came just the other day, as Nihilum, considered by some to be one of the best guilds in the world, quit WoW. While there is a slim possibility that this is an elaborate April Fool’s Day prank, the evidence points towards it being true. Nihilum stated, as one of the reasons for their disbanding:
"It seems like we are fighting a multi-million dollar company whose sole purpose is to destroy every last bit of fun hardcore guilds can have. We’re a bunch of fishies swimming against the current. A rare breed of little fishies that don’t want everything given to them on a plate and are happy when they accomplish something that is a challenge."
In this quote I see an idea spelled out in plain text that I feel warrants challenging. This is not just the idea that Blizzard is pandering to the casuals by making, "phat epic lewtz," easily available to the slack jawed masses who think the only tank that's ever been in a Blizzard game was the Siege Tank, but the very concept of a casual/hardcore duality.
I feel that the hardcore vs. casual concept is not a reality, but a duality that has been imposed upon people's manner of thinking. I argue that there is no such thing as hardcore or casual, and that people, in fact, display some aspects attributed to each. I will take myself as an example.
I have two 70s. More than half of my gear is epic and the rest is blue. I've cleared Kara and downed High King Mulgar. I have my epic flying mount. I do not have my crafting profession at 375. I have no Badge of Justice loot. I have never been in a 40 man raid (excludes AV). I've never been inside of any of the pre-BC raid content. I will never see the Black Temple or Hyjal. I read at least 10 WoW blogs and listen to six WoW podcasts (as well as write my own blog).
Everyone who reads this post will attribute a different label to each of the above descriptors. Some will think that the above demonstrates that I am a hardcore player, while others will take the above as proof of my casualness. The truth is that I am casual, hardcore, and neither, all at the same time. The casual/hardcore duality ignores the wide middle ground between them, where all manner of players spend their time. This duality also ignores those who may demonstrate extremes from both ends of the spectrum, such as someone who plays eight hours a day but never raids.
Where I feel that this false duality has caused the most trouble, however, is in creating an environment where the "hardcore" and the "casuals" feel threatened by each other. So called casual players rail against Blizzard for designing endgame content that only 1% of players will ever see, let alone clear. The hardcore complains about 2.4 badge loot or arena gear that comes close to matching BT/Hyjal loot, claiming that this invalidates their hard work.
One of my main problems stems from the idea that making content that your guild has surpassed easier, or making epic loot easier to attain, invalidates the work that you have put in. WoW is a game, and should be fun. If I had a choice to leave my guild, which is just starting Gruul’s, and join a guild that is moving into the Sunwell Plateau, I would never take it. My guild, and the activities we do together, is where I derive my pleasure from. And, while I understand the pleasure some take from clearing content first or getting that awesome drop, WoW is not a zero-sum game. Giving better gear to other people does not diminish the value of your own gear or your accomplishments. Blizzard is only trying to help people see the incredible content that they could never otherwise see. In addition, the 2.4 badge loot are not things that the “casual” stereotype could ever attain without weeks or months of playing.
In the end, people should play WoW however they want, and not have to worry about how other people are enjoying themselves at your perceived expense. There’s enough content out there for everyone, and more coming all the time. If you like "hardcore," fast paced end game raiding, there are others out there who share your passion and will play with you. If you like 10 mans and Heroics, and screwing around with your guild, there are others who will be happy to screw around with you. If you like pugging, please quit before you lose you mind (just kidding). Just enjoy the game, and don't take is so seriously, or it will no longer be fun. And why else do we pay Blizzard $15 a month if not to enjoy ourselves.P.S. I'd really like to make this into the best essay I can. If you feel that I've made a mistake in my reasoning, or am ignoring a certain viewpoint, or misspelled something (probable), please feel free to contact me via comments or my e-mail address (in the sidebar). I'd like to improve this and strengthen my arguments however possible. Everyone who helps will receive a cookie, or at least props and acknowledgment.