Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 24, 2009
New York Times on hardcore vs. casual

Thanks to Changed for pointing this out to me: The New York Times posted a very intersting article on the hardcore vs. casual issue. They interviewed hardcores saying that casuals being able to participate at their own plodding pace "is a joke", and complain that "It used to be that it was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you did it, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’".

The casuals were interviewed too, and are quoted as saying: "The complainers are just a bunch of ornery, grumpy people who want it all to themselves and don’t want the slower. But too bad. The whole is fueled and funded by people like me."

Before we start the same old discussion here all over again, please go and read that post in the New York Times, before coming back here to comment.
Great article, thanks. The debate will rage on but as much as I understand where casuals come from, there is a tipping point when an activity becomes too 'casual' to be meaningful. Given enough time, almost ANYTHING can be achieved.
well, nice article but imho completeley different to WoW:

In WoW, Blizz cutted the 42km marathon to ~5km and everybody can feel like "running a marathon". Those idiots who know the old times can go on hard mode and run the 5km circle nearly 8 times just to get the old distance back (AKA hardmode...)

that´s the point: the hardcores are rly pissed off. And the casuals KNOW that the new distance is NOT the right marathon-distance. But somebody says its ok and great and fine....

The OLD system like it was in BC for example is the same as a normal marathon:

quite hard to finish, but the gates are opened 24/7 for several months, so you can easily finish it in your own pace.


Why should you allow a bad runner to finish several marathons within weeks (AKA raid-instances)?
If you can't race a race you should find something else at your own pace.

But there is a difference between casual mass events like a city marathon or LAN party that you do not need to qualify for and tournaments like the Olympics or World Cyber Games.

No one is born hardcore. If there would be no casual events to spark the interest in a certain discipline then there would be no hardcore either :).
The creative director of UBIsoft actually explains it as a generational issue:
If only the WoW casuals were like that:

But they don't think that slower is as good. They think that they need to get the epics as fast as everybody else - not half a xear later.
That is simply not true Nils. Casuals don't give a wet shit about server firsts and similar achievements. They are fully aware that if it takes 20 raid nights to advance to the next level, the guys doing 5 raid nights a week are going to be there a lot earlier than the guys doing 1 raid night per week.

What casuals don't want, and that is the same as in the marathon, is that the marathon ends before they got to the target line. They don't want to be kicked off the marathon after a few miles because their pace is too slow.
some other blogger had this linked yesterday...
In Classic and TBC casuals could get down any boss within time. They can go there now with lvl 80 and kill them.

InWotLK you can run 100x 1000m (the heroic way) and gain the achievement: "Run a marathon".

Casuals don'T care about server first. yes. But they do care about time. Beating something one year or an expansion after the server first is not acceptable for them.
It's a not issue anymore.
Hardcore players have more and more options on the market and if people feel that the WoW of today is second-life with a make-belief game (like i do) they can choose some of the niche games that are carving their own space on the MMOsphere.
Blizzard knows where the money is and they will continue to churn out bland entertainment with high production values.
The market has spoken. Blizzard has heard it.
Whether an activity is meaningful or not is only relevant to the person engaging in it. Others can view it as a complete waste of time and that's fine!, free speach ftw. On the other hand there is the value of an accomplishment seen in a broader perspective, on a global in stead of personal scale. For example, the first men to reach the North pole or the summit of Mount Everest did so without all the fancy 21st century tools and with gear (..) which would be seen as totally unsuitable nowadays. This gives their achievement a lot of extra shine, and gave them their deserved place in history books. Today reaching the summit of the highest mountain on earth is still quite a feat! (helped by the fact that the time component isnt as decisive as for example the marathon in the article). But only on a personal scale.
"Hardcore players have more and more options on the market"

Do we? I know I'm desperately trying virtually every new MMO that comes out and find them all lacking. Especially WoW's raiding experience (as shallow as it may be these days) hasn't been beaten by any competitor yet to my knowledge.

@topic: The only marathon (raid) that was ever closed in WoW so far was classic Naxx - and that still stayed open for more than two years (and reopened with conveyor belts built in.) And I suppose Ony now. meh.

We do. But theres a price to pay.
Being a niche game it will have more rough edges. You just can't afford huge teams and we all know that Q&A suffers most.

Try Vanguard for the PvE or Darkfall if you like PvP. Even Champions Online is an option if you can stomach the triple-dipping.
In Classic and TBC casuals could get down any boss within time.

Nils, I think you're completely wrong there. The hardest bosses in AQ40 and the original Naxx were, I honestly believe, beyond the capabilities of most casual players, regardless of how much time they had.

Ditto for Sunwell.

One would assume that Icecrown will not follow suit, but rather it will be tuned so that only the hardmodes are beyond the grasp of casuals.

But being able to beat all raid content, as a casual player, is not a concept that existed for the first four years of WoW's existence.
Both casuals and hardcore alike have to agree on one thing: the activity creator will create the activity, along with its rules, restrictions, and privileges.

Whether you feel the activity is too easy (hardcore view) or too hard (casual view), the cause should be taken to the activity creator, and not the other school of thought.

Think of it as buckets of stuff you can and stuff you cannot control:

What I cannot control: Other people, the activity's definition (directly, anyway).

What I can control: The activities I choose the engage in, the investment I choose to make to achieve certain things.

Everybody (hardcore and casuals) should focus on the latter.
there's a cutoff. glory of the raider anyone? if you run the marathon quickly - you get your drakes. sow down too much, don't keep the pace? and you are dodging traffic and not getting your drakes in the end. but you can still say - I finished this. I may have not done it as quickly as pros but I did it. and there's its own pride in that. there's pride in at least trying too. being given a chance to at least try...its a good thing.

hardcore players that complain? they want that exclusivity they want to not just feel like they are better then you are - they want to wave it in your face until you want to punch them, just being being stuck up, sanctimonious elitists.

IMO opinion the difference between vanila wow and Wrath, in terms of marathons is that you used to have to run on cobblestones, the running route wasn't as clearly defined, you didn't have little refreshment tables with cups of water along the way, and your running shoes didn't have the traction/support of the shoes you can aquire today. oh yeah, entry into marathon was a bit more exclusive, not everyone knew how, could afford it, etc..

but its still a marathon, without any sort of training you will not be able to finish it and there's still pride in finishing it as one of the first..even if you are running down the lovely comfortable surface with better shoes, better understanding of both route and running/breathing techniques that will make you most efficient.

P.S. Twin emperors still wipe groups to this day. even at level 60. living bomb in MC can still one shot your mates. if you, manage to get to C'tun, he can still wipe the floor with you. so can netharian (even if he is soloable by a protection paladin >_>) and Felmyst is still a raid killer.

as for modern raiding try doing twin valkyrs with people who are not doing what they are supposed to. try getting through trash before Loatheb, or killing Thaddus when people don't switch polarities when they shoudl (or don't kill zombie chow on Gluth) Try killing XT with people who have light/gravity bombs not moving out of the group. and I can go on. there area few fights n the game that can be bruteforcerd, yes. but its far from all of them, so if you are not a raider? you will not be able to get those kills no matter how much you outlevel/outgear them. if you are not willing to follow the marathon route you will not finish the marathon.
Thanks for linking this article Tobold.

I've been a long distance runner for while. Back in college I ran the Marine Corp Marathon a couple times, training recreationally, and managed to finish quite well, placing 2nd in my age group in my first go (time: 3 hours 2 minutes).

Though I approached the marathon as a race, I didn't and don't begrudge those who want to complete the 26.2 miles either for the mystique, for charity, etc. That the vast majority of people in the marathon will finish long after I have left the venue doesn't taint my experience. I still had the rush of adrenaline as I powered through the last few miles, trying desperately to hold on to a dwindling pace or picking off straggling runners as I inched closer to the finish.

Still, the emphasis on more casual participants has had deleterious effects. The Marine Corp marathon for instance costs upwards of 90 dollars and most of that is to secure road closures, concession stand staffing, and enough event space for the mass of people now participating. I have to pay double what I might have paid twenty five years ago, adjusted for inflation, because race directors feel obliged to offer the same sort of experience for the first three hours as for six, eight, or even longer.

Also, the mystique of the marathon has changed. No longer is the announcement that you ran a marathon met with awe - or comments like, "You'd be crazy to do that!" It has become something anyone can achieve and thus has lost some of its cultural value as an accomplishment. That status is irrelevant to me and I suspect the same is true for most "hardcore" runners. However, for those who once looked at the marathon as an aspirational life goal, something to really work and strive for, that diminished status is significant. One might counter that it can still occupy the mantle of a personal goal with its own personal value. However, I doubt that even in our liberal culture with its emphasis on individual autonomy, we can ever divorce our values and projects from their cultural determinations. If to run a marathon was part of what it meant for you to flourish as a human being, one of the virtues constitutive of your character, maybe it no longer is.

"If to run a marathon was part of what it meant for you to flourish as a human being, one of the virtues constitutive of your character, maybe it no longer is."

If the fastest you could ever hope to complete a marathon in is 6 hours then maybe it still is.

And wasn't before.

Great analogy Tobold it shows how as things open up to more people they lost some value to the original core.

I do think WoW was sensible to broaden out raiding in WotLK even though I'm one of the original core who no longer enjoys the game. I can see that a lot of others are having a fantastic time so I've packed my bags, unsubbed, and have headed off to other games leaving WoW very healthy behind me.
So you guys think that your money is worth more than mine because I don't have the time to put into a game that you do? Seriously? I'm blown away at how many people here seem to have no respect for others not being hardcore. I know I won't get to everything that hardcore players do as quickly as they do, but I appreciate it when I can see the content that I have paid for without taking a week off of work to catch up. Geezus. And thank you to those few who left comments that weren't filled with disgust at people w/ real lives.
Wait...isn't it 2009? And we're STILL trying to have a debate about a supposed dichotomy that never, ever existed in the first place?

"Hardcore" and "Casual" are opposite ends of very, very wide spectrum. Anyone who has yet to understand that, doesn't belong in the discussion. (And no, Tobold, I'm definitely not addressing you.)

That spectrum can be viewed as a normal distribution curve, with the peak at a location known as "dedicated." Unless you're a 2-hour-a-week "casual" or a Top 25 Guild Worldwide hardcore raider, the odds are extremely high you fall into that middle hump.

If you are still stuck in 1996, check out this very brief entry at WoWwiki:
Clever )

As to WOW, there's nothing casual about it. Sure, there are plenty of things to do if you are new to the game, and not in a time intensive guild, but these things are hard to find, which means valuable time is wasted trying to establish practical long term goals.

WOW seriously needs to have a basic template for leveling and gearing up built "within the game", so new players don't have to do tons of "homework" trying to sort out what they have a legitimate chance at accomplishing, because the game is simply too overwhelming, too massive, with too many paths, to ever be considered newbie/casual friendly.

= # # =
I have no problem with slow people in marathons as long as they use accurate words. If you walked, you didn't run it. If you jogged, you also didn't run it. If you stopped and ate lunch, you didn't even fully participate.

Let the slow people join. Let them finish. This doesn't mean you have to leave up the water booths and all that until the last straggler.
In WoW it's more as if someone had set up a finish line at the 13 mile mark where you could continue running if you wanted to run a real marathon, but if you weren't ready for it or didn't have the time for a real marathon, you didn't have to. You still accomplished something, though it wasn't the accomplishment of the "hardcore" runners.
I really like the way that Blizzard does hard modes right now because I'm somewhere in between the casuals and the hardcore players. I'm not in a guild that is getting any world firsts or anything but we're beyond the normal modes. We've run past that 13 mile marker and now we're making a go at the 26 because it's still an accomplishment to do so, very few people ever get to do it.
Having a group of people who stopped running after 13 miles does nothing to reduce the achievement of those who run the 26.
It never ceases to amaze me just how much vitriol is involved when it comes to this particular debate. At the end of the day, we are talking about entertainment, right? Because if I didn't know better, the fate of the entire world was at stake! Innocents must be dying, families separated, and puppies euthanized, because the way people are willing to fight and the labels they thrust upon their perceived foes are really, really intense.
I thought that it was a totally relevant story, made me think of WOW just reading it. I linked the story on blog on Friday even
I think "don't give a wet shit about" is one of the most effective yet revolting expressions I have heard in a long while. Not sure if I want to use it myself or try and forget I ever heard it...
The comparison will become much closer the day marathon distance is nerfed down to >10mi to make it "more accessible", or when the WOW community changes the definition of hardcore to include only guilds that complete raids in >1hr.

I like the RL link though. It's good to see that the hardcore vs casual debate is alive and well outside the realm of MMOs.

Up next, speed readers think people should stick to TV unless they can complete Atlas Shrugged in under 5 hours?
I’m slow. I know. Get over it.


great post and it does add a lot to the longterm debate of the hardcore vs the casual gamer.

And once again, it's always the snooty and elite that try to look down on others. Some people need to validate themselves by putting other people down.

Granted I feel that Blizz has lowered the barrier of entry to WoW. It's looked upon as a "commercial MMO", but if you still put the time and effort into it, are you still "playing" an mmo even at a casual pace. Or does that mean nothing unless your covered in tier 104 epics?

I ran a half-marathon in 90 minutes. Other people I know do halves in 2.5 hours. I don't say to them, "I owned your ass. You are not a real runner.
Stop diminishing my accomplishment." I say "Good job! That headwind was brutal, wasn't it?" I say that because I am an adult, and I don't need to hurt someone's feelings to find value in my own accomplishments.

If you do something just to show the losers how awesome you are, you will fail. Whatever it is, 99.9999% of the time, someone else is doing it better than you anyway, so you are sort of destined for misery.
Hmm, Tobold! I think you have linked the wrong article by mistake, this is not an article about "World of Warcraft" or "MMORPG". It seems you have accidentally linked to an article about real-life things, which cannot possibly have relevance on a computer game!
Leah said:

they want to wave it in your face until you want to punch them, just being being stuck up, sanctimonious elitists.

Do you feel the same way about the competitors who win an event in the Olympics and proceeds to get an epic medal hung around their neck?

I've played WoW for almost 5 years now and I've yet to see an emote or a taunt where another player is able to rub their epics in your face(as you call it).

I'm sensing a LOT of jealousy in these types of comments, because NO ONE has yet to come right out and admit that there is always someone who is more talented, and thereby more deserving of the accolades that are bestowed upon them because they are the better runner, raider, race car driver, swimmer...ect.

The hardcore have earned the right to define what is a challenge to them. The casuals simply have no right to water-down that challenge into a microcosm version of the special olympics, and act like they are deserving of the same level of notoriety.
I see myself as a "casual" I set my own goals and try to achieve them. I set goals that the average person will not achieve to prove myself. I like to think that I am a little better at what I do so that it does not matter that I don't have too much time.

If I were to run a marathon I would have to train for 6-12month but I could walk a marathon as I am right now.

Runing a marathon could be my goal but once I realise that I (and everybody els) can just walk a marathon it becomes pointless for me. I realise that it is not possible to prove anything by achiving my goal not to myself or anyone els.

I would train for 6-12 months if my goal was to complete a marathon. My freind might be able to run a marathon after only 2months of training but I would'nt care because at the finishline I would know that the people next to me trained.

It is a question of setting the bar so low that the achievements become pointless. I think that many casuals would enjoy having someone to admire or something to inspire them to become better or to challenge themselves.

For me achieving my goals is not where I have the most fun it is all the stuff I do to try to achieve my goals. The harder it is to achieve my goals the more fun I have.

When looking at what makes a game fun there are ofcourse many other factors.
It's interesting to compare the culture of runners and MMO players. Most of the runners I know are incredibly welcoming and have Informis's attitude, trying to help others progress, rather than gloating over their own superiority.

Whist the NYT article shows there are some "we are l33t" types out there, I can't help thinking that that attitude is more common in MMOs. I wonder if that reflects on the relative self-images of the two groups?
@ Cris. no, I don't feel the same way about Olympic medalists who take pride in their they should.

however, If said Olympic medalist will wave aforementioned medal in my face, calming that getting it makes him/her better then me, and that my own personal accomplishments in that sport don't mean anything becasue I didn't win the medal for them, didn't beat some record, didn't come first? yeah...

someone who came 20tieth, or 30tieth, or even last - they are still an athlete they (hopefully) did their best and not BEING the best doesn't make them insignificant, not worthy, less. someone will always be better then you are. someone will always be worse. if you measure your own triumphs by how many people you can sneer at for not being as fast as you are?

you know all those people who hang on their rusted drakes in front of the dalaran bank, day after day? the ones who are not even playing at the time. they logged in for a pure purpose of showing off their "gold medals". they are just as bad as the traveler's tundra mammoth afkers.

when a friendly rival guild manages to down a hard mode and shares it with the rest of the server, and then moves on to more accomplishments. I have nothing but respect and admiration for them.

Most casuals don't want the notoriety. We just don't want an equivalent of a DAR. We want to play the game. We don't need to compete on national television, we don't need to be called professional runners, but we don't want to be told that what we did didn't matter becasue we didn't run as fast as professional did. We want to be able to run, even if its slower and we don't want someone sneering at us and saying "you didn't do it in 4 hours - so you might as well not have ran" We don't want to be yelled at for taking up road space/ server capacity and told to get the f#$k out and let the big boys do their thing just becasue we're not running as fast.

We just want our say.

Hardcore have earned the right to define what's a challenge for THEM. they have NO right to define something as insignificant, just becasue its not as much of a challenge to them.
The hardcore have earned the right to define what is a challenge to them. The casuals simply have no right to water-down that challenge into a microcosm version of the special olympics, and act like they are deserving of the same level of notoriety

sounds like someone is rubbing their epics in peoples faces to me.
I don't think casuals do feel entitled to the same level of notoriety. But they may stop caring about the hardcore achievements if they're happy with their own (which probably devalues them if you are the sort of person who gets a kick out of impressing the masses.)

Saying 'I killed Anub'Arak on hard mode!' isn't as impressive with the guy next to you killed him on normal mode - at least not as impressive as back when the guy next to you would never even have seen that mob at all in any mode.

"I'm sensing a LOT of jealousy in these types of comments, because NO ONE has yet to come right out and admit that there is always someone who is more talented, and thereby more deserving of the accolades that are bestowed upon them because they are the better runner, raider, race car driver, swimmer...ect"

Hmmm, I am a wow player and frankly there is not a lot of difference imho between a hardcore raider and a casual in terms of this 'talent' you mention.

Don't get me wrong - there are good raiders and there are terrible ones. But it is possible to have a good raider who is casual and prefers that as a play style.

The term "Hardcore" in my view refers to someone in wow that has played a lot more and is willing to put more effort and time into their end-game goals.

I certainly dont feel jealous about that...and kudos to the individuals and guilds that achieve what they do...but the question isn't necessarily that of talent, it is the willingness to put the time into it.
I was wondering why the NY Times would write about that until I clicked over to the article.

Hooray for metaphors!

Just goes to show you people are stupid everywhere.

Thank you, thank you and thank you again for that link.

Absolutely brilliant presentation. You sir can have one of my internets.

"Hardcore players have more and more options on the market"

Really?! Please could you point some of us in the direction of these so called 'hardcore' games. After trying out just about everything on the market today I'm coming up blank.

I'd love to know what you're basing this comment on.
however, If said Olympic medalist will wave aforementioned medal in my face, calming that getting it makes him/her better then me, and that my own personal accomplishments in that sport don't mean anything becasue I didn't win the medal for them, didn't beat some record, didn't come first? yeah...

All I can say is that there is a good reason that Olympic medalists are tiered when they accept their medals based on position. The Gold medalist cannot help that he or she stands on a higher podium level than the Silver or Bronze medalists, it's how it has been done for ages. Now, imagine for a second that while the medal winners are receiving their medals, that somewhere on the other side of the field a seperate, second awards ceremony is being held to honor the plodders who just showed up and didnt really "compete" on any real level. Can you not understand how that diminishes the achievements of those who have trained for years in preparation for this event?

Explain to me why the plodders cannot have their own distinct and seperate event by which to "have their say"? No one is denying them that, the same as WoW is not denying them that opportunity by offering them different modes of play.

Take your successes and acquired loot, medals, trophies or whatever, and feel good about your level of accomplishment. No one is saying otherwise, but dont diminish the accomplishements of those who -can- compete on a higher level by calling them "elitists" or whatever, as neither side benefits from that level of rhetoric.

I have numerous awards hanging on the walls of my home that distinguish my achievements, which spans decades of my lifes work, and I've heard comments whenever I have invited guests into my home that range from "ohh, look at this guys 'I love me wall', you can tell he is in love with himself", to "Wow, this guy really knows his stuff". Does it make me elitist if I reject the first comment and embrace the second?

I sure hope not.

PvE Fantasy: Vanguard

PvE Post-Apocalyptic: Fallen Earth

PvP: Darkfall

PvP/PvE/Economy: Eve

Even Champions Online have an hardcore character creation mechanic that you'll need to know what you're doing in order to build a viable character. And they charge 12$50 per respecc, what's more hardcore than that, snark?

The bottom line is: no you can't have the exclusivity in WoW Raids anymore. Now move along. :)

One last word on casual vs hardcore: why is it that right-wingers, free market types in RL often become socialists when it comes to games? :D
"with some marathoners stopping for lunch along the course."

Look, your third priest just took a lunch break, 24 others get to afk for 30+ minutes.

“If you’re wearing a marathon T-shirt, that doesn’t mean much anymore,”

Sounds like 'epic' gear to me. Guess the marathon runners also had their definition shattered.

It's a good article though, and does get at what many have been trying to say about WoW and other games that have lowered (or removed) the bar. It's great that the 'just show up' crowd wants to jump in and feel like they are a part of something, but at the end of the day you DO need a clear distinction between those who are 'serious' about something, and those who show up for kicks. It's when you try to mix the two that issues arise.
"What good is running marathons if other people aren't jealous of you?"
"but I appreciate it when I can see the content that I have paid for without taking a week off of work to catch up"

This is the heart of *my* flavor of "casual". I don't particularly care about the race, since I'm only interested in the route and what I see along the way. I don't need full catering as I take in the sights, either.

When I'm concerned about "equality", it's rooted in what I'm paying for the content. When the pace of my consumption changes the price I pay for content (as in a subscription model), I'm less than pleased. If I can pay for the content and explore it at my leisure, I don't care AT ALL how fast others do so. (And it is no business of theirs how fast I play through.)
@ Chris

have you ever seen an olympic medalist strutting around wearing gold medal on his or her chest, doing every day stuff, flashing it at random strangers the way a shallow girl will flash her ostentatious rock of an engagement ring at everyone and everything, for the pure perpose of impressing them, in hopes of making them jealous?

As a semi casual raider, i don't even want an awards ceremony. i could care less about podiums or medals. you seem to have missed the point I was trying to make and I'm not sure if its your lack of desire to see it, or me not being clear enough.

allow me to give it one more attempt. lets take running. there are people who do it professionally. there are people who are not only talented athletes but they also put in enough effort to win competitions and medals. then there are Athletes who might not be as gifted, but they are still professionals and they give our gold medalist someone to compete against.

ad then there's amateurs. people who like to run and people who want to set goals for their running, maybe even participate in a local amateur competition or a marathon, accomplish something. they won't win any medals as they either lack the necessary athleticism and/or not investing enough time into their running to get anywhere near competitive level. they might even run the same track as the champion but they probably will not run it at the same time and most definitely not when competition is in full swing. but they don't even need to. they don't want to compete against the gold medalist, they don't need or want to be patted on a head. they just want to run it.

A professional athlete at worst will not care much about them, at best would encourage their progress out of the love for the sport.

An Elitist would discourage them becasue elitist wants to feel special, unique, one of the few. it doesn't matter that anyone can attempt to run and even reach their goals (running for half an hour straight without having to stop is a goal too, especially when you start out getting out of breath after less then 10 minutes). you see this people with their smaller goals are "diminishing" his or her acomplishments by simply participating.

if Elitist had his/her way - the running tracks would be fenced in, with entry granted only with a special pass card that very few are grated and only after rigorous tests and the amateurs wouldn't even dream to try running, becasue they would be hobbled in some way that would prevent them from it.

I admire the professional, the athlete, the winner. I aspire to reach even fraction of their ability, hopefully a bit more then a fraction. Elitist? well, elitist can go to hell.

Funny thing is "Elitist Jerks" are neither elitist nor jerks. they have high standards for people who post on their forums, but they are not blocking average players from reading, on the contrary.
The marathon analogy may initially appear to fit, but it is backwards. Marathons are a competitive event that has become much less competitive and much more casual and social. WoW is the reverse; some persons took a game that was designed as a fun, purely recreational moneymaker and pretended that it was a competitive environment by creating their own ‘contests’. It is kind of like comparing the Boston Marathon to grabbing some random people and saying you’ll have a ‘competition’ running around the block then awarding prizes as people argue about unfair shortcuts or getting chased off course by neighborhood dogs.

Blizzard has come to encourage this ‘competition’ with achievements, but IMO that still falls far short of formal competition because there is so little formal control over the environment. There are various servers on different time zones with a huge degree of randomness in the ‘competitive raiding environment’ including bugs, server downtime, lag, hacks, random drops, and uncontrolled variations on the client side such as machine capability, add-ons, special hardware, play-time spent, and so on. On the other hand, their special Arena servers sound like they come much closer to an actual controlled competitive environment.
have you ever seen an olympic medalist strutting around wearing gold medal on his or her chest, doing every day stuff, flashing it at random strangers the way a shallow girl will flash her ostentatious rock of an engagement ring at everyone and everything, for the pure perpose of impressing them, in hopes of making them jealous?

Suffice it to say that you and I have VERY different perceptions on the "reasons" that someone would choose to display a medal, an engagement ring(really?), an epic mount at the mailbox, or what have you. You think that a certain percentage of people are cynical and do these things just to make you or others jealous. My perception is that they are proud of their accomplishments and want to display them to others.

People have a right to be proud of their accomplishments, regardless of how they achieved them or how they choose to display them. There is no shame in doing so, but I do know that perception plays a big part in how they are summed up by a small percentage of others, who for lack of a better word, will almost always be "jealous" of them.
I'm a casual runner as well as a casual gamer. I've run a couple of slow-ish marathons (~4 hrs), and numerous shorter "races".

IMO that whole Times article is crap, unless I'm completely out of touch with the angry "elite runner" community, which I suppose is quite possible. Although I have trained with a couple of elite/pro runners and they sure did't seem to have a problem with me paying them for training sessions. I think that reporter found a few cranky jerks with an axe to grind.

Casuals have absolutely exploded the running industry. A few repercussions of the quoted 4 fold increase in people completing marathons are:

1) vast improvements in shoe/apparel technology and availablity
2) safer (and more beautiful) places to run maintained by community funds
3) HUGE increases in the number of events available for hardcores to win MORE prize money
4) a larger pool of athletes to draw from AND fans who support them with higher advertising dollars, magazines subscribed to, etc.
5) community funds raised with annualy running events.

In WoW terms:
1) a greater variety of epic gear that are continuously upgraded and allow more interesting player specialization
2) regular patches/maintenance to improve User-Interface, environmental graphics and bug fixes.
3) MORE raid instances with hardcore achievements available, and multiple levels of difficulty.
4) more players paying subscription fees
5) more money to be had which entices innovation and excellence

Elite sports clearly benefit from youth programs and farm teams that give a bigger pool of athletes who begin playing younger and younger and get better and better training.

In WoW, casual guilds "send" (or lose)their best up the ladder to the next more HC guild.

What might benefit the true HC elites is some kind of system that would allow a "fan base" to form. Real heroes that could get PUBLIC accolades for achievements that we could watch in real time or at least hear about in-game (like town criers or posted bills).

Maybe a monthly world event that might require invitation based on public support and/or achievements to fight a NEW boss while their fan base could spectate and/or help in some small way.

Players of any level could be an observer, and each would have a tiny bit of influence on the outcome.

A public tournament would be fun for the observers, absolutely amazing for the player, and would bring people back to Vanilla WoW areas for the events. It would also give the socials something to do.

It may be preposterous to suppose that casuals would become "fans" of HC players. But there needs to be some way to bring the HC and casual together amicably, and create some mutual dependence/benefit, instead of feeling disdain for each other.
I was never a particularly fast runner, but I agree, the walkers are not completing a marathon, they are merely run/walking 26.2 miles. I don't think there should be a real time limit, maybe 8 hours, longer than that, well the longer you run the harder it is on your body. People that can't complete it in 6 hours should probably stick to half marathons and working out more, otherwise it's just an incredible stress on your body they can't handle.

However should they not be allowed? I guess not, if a race wants to allow it. There are plenty of races that require you to qualify. Runners that only want to do those can. Though actually the Chicago Marathon is a national favorite due to it being flat and cold and fast, and that's an open one.

The Boston marathon is an example of this, the older age group runners do not need to get as good times to qualify, so the race is now full of older runners with fewer younger faster runners than ever before.
Glad to see some non-hardcore people come out. Yes, we appreciate those who got Mando pre-nge, yes we appreciate those who write the wikia's that help us get through quests and instances. Yes, we feel that our money is worth the same as yours. I speak of swg stuff because I avoided EQ b/c it required the hardcore-ness to get good equipment. I love AoC but I will never hit cap there because I run around looking at views. I'd like to hit the higher level some day, but I don't have the time to give to it.

All we casuals ask is that a) we have a shot at hitting good content without 1)being a college student/hs student w/ time to spare or 2) being able to take time off of work because we have RL that interferes with leveling; b) that we not be hated by hardcores for not being devoted like nuns or monks.

I wasn't going to come back here, thinking I was already too close to flame/troll land, but I have been happy to read the comments on my blackjack. Wow, people with lives like mine. Nice.
If someone cannot set aside 2 or 3 evenings per week to devote to a supposedly loved hobby then I think the term "casual" doesn't cut it anymore.

3 times a week should be enough to complete most content if you're not in a guild comprised of numpties. As it is, the hardcores will beat the content, publish the strats and the rest of the community play simon says. Is that so hard? The cycle still applies, only is much shorter.

Often "not having time" means "i have better things to do." If so, why do they try to shape an entire game to their needs?

The analogy with the marathon fails a bit. In the marathon, they still have to go the whole distance even if casuals take 6 or 8 hours. In WoW they've reduced the marathon to a 15km run.

Good business plan for Blizzard. Good for all those who seek entertainment. Bad for those who seek a game. Sid Meiers definition of game is not where the industry is going.
If you're just going to walk the course. Do it on the sidewalk!
Game != Race
Unfortunately I always felt there is a huge difference here between the marathon picture and WoW.

If you buy WoW it doesn't say on the box that you have to compete... with anyone. You can choose how to play the game. If you prefer to cooperate over competition you can.

The problem only comes in when hardcore insists that everybody competes and casual players are not worthy to see some content if they don't put in the same amount of X as they did.

The whole debate always has been nothing but an expectation mismatch, and I don't expect it to ever go away. A better comparison is to people who see the career as a competition to those that see their work as cooperation with their peers. There too you get both sides of the coin and their attitude leads to clashes that are unpleasant for both sides.

As for the marathon, everybody signs up for a race there... I can see putting some restriction in if it means keeping the event viable. But at least marathon's truthfully advertise that it's a competition you are entering.

Even entering a raid instance does not mean you signed up for a race against anyone who enters the instance with another group, or everybody who does so. It's a social construct that created this aura of competition, and it's not by unanimous consent, but by those who want it to be such.

And yes there is the whole other problem of spite and referential self-worth ("it's only worth it if others fail around me and I succeed in comparison to them" combined with "they don't deserve to see content they paid for because they didn't do what it takes"). Raph Koster once called Schadenfreude the only example of social fun in games. For the above profile that makes sense, but for a lot of people the truth is that achieving stuff together, exploring the new in a group, sharing, helping, and friendship are all also qualities. In fact they may conflict with Schadenfreude and they may pick helping a friend over gloating all over him.

Very often I find the difference between self-identifying "casuals" and "hardcore" not how hard they play the game or if they succeed, but rather their attitude towards the other. I know quite a few "casuals" who for all purposes play hardcore, but are not hypercompetitive in attitude and dont require others to fail for them to feel good about themselves.

The real topic here is attitude not level of play.

The thing with epics is not really that they are too easy to get but that some people don't want others to see content. Having epics will not hand you server firsts anyway. All it does is actually allow you some progression and access.

But in case of WoW blizzard has created the expectation mismatch (transported from EQ). Epics used to be the marker of achievement. They realised that doing this has the problem of fragmenting the population. A non-front-runner group in EQ would never catch up exactly because of the lack of access of items. It was a "super-spite" system where you'd kill bosses not because it was progression for you but because it would prevent progression for others!

Now there is transition to a more gear insensitive system, where the markers of progressions are achievements and ranking web pages. On paper this allows for more people to get to content on their own good time than before, but in practice the attitudes haven't changed.

We still have this attitude today. It should be hard to catch up for anybody, apparently. That they don't want to compete, just see content they paid for kind of gets lost in the psyche here.
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