The Case of the Vanishing Hardcore Gamer

Posted Wed, Jan 26, 2011 by jeffprime

case of the hardcore gamer
What's happened to the Hardcore Gamer?

It was a dark, bone-chilling day at Ten Ton Hammer Investigations; the kind of day that makes you want to call off the dev interviews, procrastinate a little longer on that review deadline, and crawl back under the sheets. And that’s when she walked in. Framed in the wan light, she was eerily attractive, like some sort of 8-bit ghost of computer gaming past.

When she spoke, I half expected a syrupy female computron voice to complete her cold, clammy tapdance down my spine. “Looking for a case?” she said, and I looked down at the scattered browser-based games on my desktop. “Lady,” says I, “if you’ve got something more interesting than World of Ersatz Manga Online, I’m your man. I’m sure I can’t make it any easier than that.”

But, just my luck… she’s attached. Attached to one Hardcore Gamer. Not surprisingly, she hadn’t seen him in some time. More surprisingly, she thinks he’s gone missing. She’d been hanging around the dev studio lunchrooms, official forums, vent servers, even in-game voice chat channels. Nothing turned up.

Her man’s business was online gaming, and business had been good for some time. Lately, however, some shady characters had been popping up, stealing the limelight and, she suspects, the almighty development dollar. Once, he was the king of the MMOG jungle, but now he no longer seems to rule. She suspected some of his… associates had rubbed him out. I took the case, and without so much as a good day, she despawned.

The Victim: Hardcore Gamer

I dug out the dossier on one Hardcore Gamer. I needed to see what made him tick. Hardcore Gamer had been a part of the MMOG scene since it began. He was definitely the old school style of player. He didn’t log into a game for a few hours to blow off some steam or chat with some friends. No, he logged in to not only play, but to beat the game every way to Sunday. He learned the best possible way to play his class and he demanded nothing less of compatriots. A game had to be challenging to be worthy of his time and effort. Seeing your character die with little to no penalty to advancement - where was the risk in that?

He lived for epic gear won in massive raids. He lived to take down that raid boss, pushing though 4 to 8 hours of dungeon crawling to get to the supreme badass, and said badass only dropped said epic 5% of the time is the stuff of legend.

According to Hardcore Gamer, crafting should be more than gathering a few resources, hitting a button, and walking away. Good crafting resources should be rare, require travel to dangerous places, and force the player to face dangerous foes in order to acquire them. To sift out the wannabes, make crafting and research gathering occur in real time. Make it hurt.

case of the hardcore gamer
Hardcore Gamer - "This is what crafting should feel like!"

Likewise, advancement should be a challenge as well. Getting ten levels in a single night? Zooming through to the end-game content in a matter of days? B.S. Why play the game if there’s no challenge? The difficulty, the challenge, the struggle of it all was the reason to play.

As I completed my dossier on Hardcore Gamer, I realized that, to him, the challenge and difficulty of the game was fun. He didn’t want blind, repetitive grinding, he wanted the recognition that comes from getting to the top of the MMORPG mountain and knowing required a lot of patience and effort.

But times change, and online gaming was become increasingly easier. Aside from a few games, few devs made more than token concessions to Hardcore Gamer. Rewards were handed out not for winning, not for completing, but just for participating. Quests had become tasks on a checklist complete with step-by-step instructions and locations, raids dropped from welcome-all-comer affairs, to 40-mans, to 25 mans, to 10 mans, death had become an excuse to call your girlfriend on the runback rather than a experience draining, level dropping catastrophe.

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