-A casual player earns his/her label by being seen as lax in their commitment to a game. They are the ones who only log on sparingly, mostly due to real life commitments, and spend their time doing non-progression activities, like pet farming, etc.
-A hardcore player is one that spends the bulk of their time ingame. Unlike the casual player, the hardcore player is almost never offline. They will even go so far as to schedule their real life commitments around their raid/game schedule.
Like I said, those are just VERY short summaries of the archetypes, but that is often the only division some people will make between the two groups.
Times change. At that time, maybe MMO players were tightly defined within the casual vs hardcore civil war. These days, with the explosion in popularity of games to the mainstream, players of all types are mingling and sharing space with the gamer old guard. As a result, the archetypes themselves have changed, significantly. You are just as likely now to find players jump roping with the casual-vs-hardcore line as you are to find people who fit neatly into either group.
That’s right, casual activities can be done with zeal that borders on fanaticism, just like activities once thought of as the exclusive domain of the hardcore can be done very casually.
Therefore, maybe it’s just time to throw out the old standard and start from scratch.
I am by no means an expert on psychology as it pertains to the MMO player, so all I can do is call it like I see it based on what I have encountered in my time as an MMO player.
Below is a list of all the MMO archetypes I have encountered in my game time. Take a look and see if you fit in here somewhere. If you’re like me, you may fit into more than one of these categories.
Archetypes of the Modern MMO Gamer
You love cash. EVERYTHING about the game is all about making more money. Cash Rules Everything Around Me—you want to be the one who best exemplifies that message. You want to be comfortable, which means having enough of whatever the game’s currency is to buy anything you might need—or even things you don’t. You play the auction house, you try to broker the best deals for your materials or goods, and you carefully watch the market for any shifts. If someone is selling something for less than its true worth, you are likely to buy it and repost it on the AH at a more appropriate price. You are likely to be the one who has that super exorbitant “Mechano-Hog”-type mount that everyone will envy you for because they don’t have your wealth.
You LOVE to fight. There’s nothing more that you enjoy than pitting your skills against another player. You love it so much, you don’t even have to really have a reason for it—you’re happy just hanging out around a populous city, picking fights with anyone that happens to wander by. You are likely to instigate violence in outlying areas, running into a town to slaughter all its lowly (or lowbie) inhabitants in order to draw out the more level appropriate blue boy heroes that will show up to defend them. On the flipside, you will drop whatever you are doing at the drop of a hat to jump into an open world PvP skirmish to help out an ally that is outnumbered—sometimes out of desire to help, but mostly out of your desire to fight. If you could spend 100% of your time in player vs player mortal combat, you would be in Heaven.
You are the gatherer. You love to go back to low level areas and just shoot the shit with your fellow guildies whilst picking herbs, or banging on mineral ores, or slaughtering innocent animals for their skins, etc. You do this for a number of reasons: the social experience – you can spend your time chatting up fellow guildies while you gather, and avoid many of the headaches that normally come with interaction while raiding; the cash – whether or not you are a member of the McDuck clan, you know your goods will earn a nice little dividend on the open market and that’s enough to spur you onward; the professional – you need the goods to max out your chosen professions. You want to be the best damn herbalist/blacksmith/leatherworker, etc, you can possibly be, and this is just a necessary evil.
You are the achiever–if there is something to achieve in the game, you want it, desperately. Maybe it’s that new pet that has a 0.00000001% to drop from a mob that has a 0.0000001% chance to spawn? Maybe it’s that boss that nobody has been able to kill yet with less people than the encounter calls for? Maybe there is an achievement that only a small percentage of the game’s players will ever have the time, patience, and diligence to achieve? What matters is you want to be able to say you did it, and so you will keep chasing that carrot until you get it. The beauty of MMOs is, if you chase that carrot long enough, you may actually run it down. However, the ugly side of MMOs ensures that, sooner or later, another juicier-looking carrot will come along to replace the one you just caught. And the chase continues…
The Role Player/Lore Hound
You are the type of player who falls in love with the lore behind the game. Moreover, sometimes it sparks an inner theater lover in you that compels you to break out your old english dictionary and quote Cyrano de Bergerac. For you, it is all about the story—and you don’t have much tolerance for people who discard it like spoiled milk. Therefore, you can be found most often on an RP server, where other like-minded role players will appreciate your subtle turns of phrase and mannerisms. For the few who brave regular PvE & PvP servers, you learn to blend in, but your love of story never dies—and so it makes you a sad panda when you see how little story means to some of your fellow players. (Them: “Who is Arthas?” *gets ready to storm Icecrown Citadel* You: T_T)
Numbers, careful calculation, spreadsheets and equations = fun to you. You take pride, and also joy, from knowing that you are THE heaviest hitter in any group…Or the best healer…Or the best tank. You know this is fact—because you ran the numbers more than a handful of times. You are always geared, specced, gemmed, and enchanted to the absolute pinnacle of efficiency. Whenever new gear becomes available, you immediately rush to your spreadsheets to calculate how much the new equipment will affect your numbers. If the improvement is significant–or even if it is not really–you will go on a crusade to get these pieces on you. It doesn’t matter how long it takes—you are willing to hit that raid dozens of times to get those pieces. (Similar to an achiever, but while an achiever sees the achievement as the end, min-maxers see the numbers gained from the reward as the end.)
You are an explorer. Scaler of mountains, the first one to jump into a chasm just to see how deep it is, the first to run across a desert dismounted just so you can make sure you didn’t miss anything before. Finding new things makes your heart swell. While other players are off gathering materials, or sitting around waiting for heir raid groups to show up, you are content to just wander aimlessly and listen to the music of the various zones you encounter (or the music from your ipod). You enjoy seeing new things, finding little hiding spots that you can return to later. You may even find a sweet farming spot that nobody knows about as a result of your tireless exploration. Uncovering the entire map gives you the same kind of chills that others get from their raid encounters.
The Pet Whisperer
There is not a pet in existence that you don’t want, and you will often invest great time and patience into obtaining them. You are the first to jump when word of a new pet comes up. You already have a stable of pets, and though you may have one that is nearly identical to the one you are chasing, the extra horn, glistening eyes, or slight difference in the color of fur is MORE than enough to have you camping the pet’s normal drop zone. If a rare pet drops from one single type of monster, you will annihilate the poor son of a bitch into near extinction to get your pet. You may even find yourself frequenting the auction house with the sole intention of watching the pet listings, hoping that a coveted pet is being sold at a bargain price. (If you are also a McDuck, you may even be willing to pay the luxury price just to have these pets.)
The Social Butterfly
For you, the only real reason to play an MMO is interaction. You live for frivolous chats in cities and with your guild that contain no substance. Often, no substance just means more fun! You hate being by yourself, and would rather sit at a fountain or meeting area surrounded by people rather than go off and quest alone. You don’t always have a ton of ingame ambition that doesn’t have to do with other people. For you, it’s all about doing things with your fellow players. For this reason, you aren’t phobic of any particular playstyle—usually—as long as it requires large groups and some sort of social interaction. You love being the life of the party, and more often than not you are. However, certain aspects of the game are lost on you. Knowing WHY you’re going into a dungeon or raid encounter isn’t as important to you as knowing WHO you’re going in with.
The Average Joe/Jane
The name says it all. You will never be at the top of the dps or healing charts, you will never be the greatest crafter on the server, or have the most pets. You will never be the best at PvP, organized or open world. But you know what—you’re cool with that. You play the game to play the game, and as long as you are having fun, you’re fine. You are far from bad, but not quite great. For this reason, you can slide into just about any aspect of an MMO. You want to PvP? You can be a good PvPer. You want to raid? You can hold steady at the center of the charts. You won’t accumulate as many pets as the Pet Whisperer, nor collect as many mounts or accolades as the Achiever, but you will have a good time doing what you do.
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As you can see, the dividing line between these archetypes is much more complex than just “casual vs hardcore”. These archetypes don’t even begin to classify every single person that sets foot in an MMO. It is impossible to accurately separate and categorize MMO players wholly into one or two categories. If the MMO game is a soup, we are each one of millions of ingredients that give it flavor.
In my time in MMOs, I’ve found that people tend to exhibit one or more of these characteristics, in some way.
For the record, I consider myself a McDuck, with a little bit of Explorer & Role Player/Lore Hound thrown into the mix.
Where do you fit in?