Today Gamasutra is running a story named What the hell does 'mid-core' mean anyway?. It poses a good question, because the term is thrown around when people talk about making money on Facebook and iOS games. However, the origins of the term focused on a far more general set if games and features.
Back in January 2008, my brother Jeff blogged the following on 8bitrocket.com. It was picked up by all manner if gaming sites (and credit usually goes to those sites instead of ours) but the story orginated on 8bitrocket.com
Am I A Mid-Core Gamer?
Jeff Fulton, Jan.3, 2008
I hear the term GAMER all the time. Usually it is used with disgust as someone asks if I am one. By GAMER, they mean a sweaty teen in his parent's basement, or a sweaty 40 year old in his mother's basement. They really are referring to a biased term used by media know-it-alls, and clueless game company execs to describe hardcore gamers. So, my answer is sometimes NO and sometimes MAYBE. I don't really have a definitive answer because I like games and I play games, and I make games, but my total being is not summed up with that one title. Especially one that is used with such derision by so many in the media so often. Gamer to them is a sickness. I once even had a mild case of it. But the media and even big game companies seem to be prescribing either aspirin (casual games) or open heart surgery (Halo 3 online with achievements) to the ailment these days.
Hardcore gamers consider me a casual gamer and casual gamers consider me a hardcore gamer, so what am I? I used to play games all the time, every day. Those were the days of the 2600, the Vectrex, the Atari 800, the Atari 7800, and the Atari ST. I also frequented all of the local gaming hotspots ' Safeway, Castle Park, the arcades at the local malls. Then, I got older, and the game industry changed (and so did I). The Arcades disappeared and gaming systems became more complex (2 buttons!!!). That didn't stop my game playing though, as I had a Sega Master System, a Genesis, and PS1, and every possible combination of PC processor and gaming graphics card. I even had a Lynx, a Jaguar and a Dreamcast for god's sake. I bought many games for those systems, but my interest in playing all the time trailed off as more responsibilities crept into my life.
I currently have a decent PC, PS2, a Wii, a DS and about 25 various plug and play devices. I still don't consider myself a hardcore gamer. That label just doesn't describe me. I hardly finish games any more, and the wonders of 3D HD graphics, while awesome, don't excite me the way minor increases in resolution and color once did. My wife plays a few PC solitaire and DS word and puzzle type games. She also plays the odd Hot Wheels, Maisy, or Max and Ruby web game with my 3 year old son. She is pretty much a Casual Gamer. She would never buy a game though, so she doesn't fit the marketing profile of a casual gamer. Who fits it then? A 35-50 year-old woman who loves to MATCH 3 and serve virtual customers as much as a 8 year old boy (or 35 year old dude for that matter) loves to pretend to be a Ninja?
Today, the hot spots I visit are Digg, GameTab, Gamasutra, Flashkit, and various other game and game programming related sites. I play quite a few Flash Games to see what the current level of competition is like. I own 100's of PS2 and PC games, and play them occasionally. My Wii mote gets a pretty nice workout a couple times a week, and my DS sees the light of day when I want to kick some Geometry Wars ass once in a while. If you are like my buddy, Alan, you would not consider me a hardcore gamer. He plays online games every night against kids 1/3 to ' his age. He has a Wii, and a 360, and a brand new wife who, while not a gamer, has no real problem with him playing games because she gets some free time while he kicks the crap out of little kids in Super Mario Strikers. He is a hardcore gamer, my wife is a casual gamer, but what am I? He considers me a casual gamer and my wife considers me a hardcore gamer (if she only knew). There is no marketing term for me, and I am sure there are millions of us out there. We would love to spend hours on a game like Halflife 2 Episode 2, but we just don't have the time.
My current favorite PC games are Alien Shooter Vengeance, and New Star Soccer 3. I didn't pick these games because they are INDIE games (they are). New Star Soccer is the best, most entertaining, and fun to play sports game I have ever experienced. It doesn't rely on fancy 3D motion-captured player graphics, but it does look and play great. Alien Shooter is the best all out arcade shooter I have played since the early 90s. It cost me 20 bucks. I just don't need to spend $70.00 on a game. A good game for me should cost around $25.00. I couldn't case less where they came from, only that they are addicting, and that a play session lasts roughly 1 hour ' the exact amount of time I have while my wife gives my son a bath or the time is takes him to watch 2 episodes of Mickey Mouse Club House. If it's a 3d RPG, so be it. But make the levels about 45 minutes long and market it at ME. I would love to play an online roleplaying game, but I can't get sucked into 7 hour campaigns. I would go all LEEROY on the campaign every time it got close to my wife coming back in the room.
I am not an INDIE gamer. That term doesn't apply like it does with indie rock. A good game is a good game, no matter the source. I just have to be more selective in my play time. In any case, I have decided to call myself a MID-CORE gamer. I have no idea if there is another term for me or the millions like me, but I like this one and I'm sticking to it. I know it's not CATCHY or SEXY, but it is accurate. Accurate is better in my old age than sexy, so there!
I always hear industry people talk about CASUAL and HARDCORE, but never the in betweens like me. I have to search online and bargain bins for games that fit my needs. Why? Hundreds of good games come out each year and I never hear about them. It either has to be a SIMs clone, a Diner Dash Clone, or a Halo clone for it to even get a modicum of press and marketing. So, I am standing up for those of us in the MID-CORE! If you have a great action, sports, puzzle, RPG, simulation, or other type of game that costs about $20-$30 and can be played in one hour sessions, I'm your target market. I have a little extra cash and I don't pirate games. Bring it on game companies! I've got $20 buring a hole in my pocket and a free hour tonight. What have you got to show me?
We followed this story up with the Mid-Core Manifesto, and a web site (now defunct) named MidCoreGamer.com, but the idea just kind of died out. It appeared to us that game industry did not want or need a new term to classift gamers. We continued to use it from time to time, and followed up last year with a story called Mid-core, 3.5 Years Later.
Obviously these things take a life of their own, and something once thought dead (like a coined term for instance) might only be dormant until the day arrives that its' meaning takes hold. I myself have no strong feelings about the term "mid-core" these days, neither does my brother. The term brought us fleeting minutes of internet fame, but ultimately it wove itself into fabric of the web. Now it has resurfaced as an everyday term that defies definition and sources arguments. Still, if you are interested in what "mid-core" once meant, in the simpler, more innocent times of four years ago, well, now you know.