Almost everyone is a gamer. In fact, 65 percent of households in the United States own a gaming platform. That could be a computer, a tablet, a phone, or a console. Consoles are everywhere: 48 percent of U.S. households have one. So it’s no surprise that gamers come in all types. Americans of every race, gender identity, and age play games on the regular. The sheer number and diversity of gamers mean that gamers have wildly different habits.
What’s a casual gamer?
You might have seen those labels—hardcore gamer and casual gamer—opposing each other. However, the numbers suggest that there isn’t much difference between the two categories.
The main difference between casual gamers and hardcore gamers is how they view themselves. It’s a question of identity. According to a Pew study, of the 49 percent of U.S. adults who play video games, 10 percent self-identify as gamers. Of that 10 percent, men are more than twice as likely to identify as gamers. That’s especially true for young people: men aged 18 to 29 are three times more likely to identify as gamers than women.
All in all, that means that 39 percent of Americans play games casually but don’t identify as hardcore gamers. The Pew study also doesn’t calculate how many hours people spend playing games. We do know that frequent gaming is common, however: 67 percent of U.S. households have a member who plays at least three hours of video games per week. (6)
Hardcore gamers and casual gamers both play games during large parts of their free time. Of the most dedicated gamers, 48 percent of frequent gamers play social games like Words With Friends or Farmville—or World of Warcraft or Halo.
Essentially, if you build a social game, they will come. The internet’s social gaming platforms, like Facebook, Battle.net, or Xbox Live, have allowed more people to develop connections with fellow gamers. That’s why so many casual gamers play as much as self-identified hardcore gamers.
Now, old friends or family members who live in different cities can connect via online gaming platforms. If they set aside the time, casual gamers can catch up on the happenings in each others’ lives in the game lobby or during downtime on a mission or match. They can build bonds and enjoy activities together, via headset and the internet, that they wouldn’t be able to experience via a text or phone call. Gaming brings all kinds of people together.
Hardcore Gamer Culture
Time isn’t the difference between a hardcore gamer and a casual gamer. The difference is how the two groups spend their time when they’re not gaming.
Hardcore gamers are more likely to build friendships around gaming, rather than the other way around. Casual gamers might spend a lot of time playing games with friends, but they don’t necessarily meet friends through the game. Hardcore gamers build affinity and connection with each other via online gaming platforms. Some of their most meaningful friendships might form online.
Hardcore gamers also organize events and meetups where they can socialize with other fans of their favorite titles. Hardcore gamers have even started their own conferences and conventions, like PAX West or GeekGirlCon in Seattle.
Here’s another way to think about it: do you know any “hardcore readers?” They’re the kind of person who burns through the latest prestigious novel as soon as it comes out. Maybe they were English majors in college. They can quote Shakespeare, Proust, and Dickinson on a whim. Yet they might read less than your friend who gets through three or four romance novels a week, or always has their nose in the latest Jack Reacher or Tom Clancy book.
At the end of the day, gaming is about entertainment. It’s an escape from the mundane. So if you enjoy gaming - then game. Titles don’t matter.