I spotted this article at Eurogamer this morning that reports that the NPD has defined “Core Gamers” as those people who game for an average of 18 hours a week. And here I thought that if you’re going to subdivide gamers into groups, a notion which doesn’t bother me in the least, that surely a guy who’s been gaming for over 30 years and has a dedicated gaming website of at least marginal popularity would fit the Core category. Apparently my measly 7-12 hours a week disqualifies me…
Per our podcast topic this week on the mainstreaming of games, I think gaming is widespread enough that having different classifications for different gamers makes sense. It’s not about one group being better than another anymore than having different words for snow (flurries, showers, blizzards) implies judgment about snow. It’s about describing how you game. Richie, who plays PopCap games like there’s no tomorrow, has no dedicated game console and never will. Lucy plays a torrent of fighting games and the occasional shooter on her 360, but has no interest in branching out further. Chris plays everything under the sun, but his time is limited to an hour a two a night during the week and few more on the weekends. Joel dedicates 20+ hours a week to World of Warcraft and that’s it. Different types of gamers, each of them, but all gamers.
The problem I have with what the NPD is doing isn’t that they’re trying to classify gamers, it’s that they’re doing it so stupidly. According to Eurogamer they can’t be bothered to define what a core gamer is beyond a basic time commitment and number of games purchased over a three month span (as if that can’t vary based on what time of year it is). Basing their classification on such illusory criteria as how much time per week someone plays isn’t helpful to anyone, be it players or those who try to make money on them. Pretend you’re a high-ranking suit at EA and you want to market a game to my friend, who I tell you plays games for at least four hours a day and buys no less than one game a month, you still know absolutely nothing about that person that will help you sell them something. The other classifications the article references are no more helpful: “Family and kid gamers, “avid PC gamers,” “light PC gamers,” and so on. How is an Avid PC Gamer not also a Core Gamer? Surely the the former is capable of putting in upwards of two dozen hours a week into their hobby? What does someone being a Kid Gamer tell me? My kids, 6 and 7, are playing a metric ton of the Lego games on our 360 the past couple months, but is that what they’ll be playing when they’re 12?
Part of the problem, to be sure, is there’s no agreed upon language for what kind of gamer you are. It’s also tricky because you can’t just lump people into platforms or genres. For every person that only plays RTS games on the PC, there’s five more that play in multiple genres on multiple platforms. Hell, most games you can’t really pin to a specific genre or platform. Basing it on time played per week, though, is too easy a way out. Even if it weren’t, somehow I don’t think we’ll be deigning to allow NPD to define us, nor do I think publishers and retailers will find their definitions particularly useful.
Yes, it’s Monday and I’m grumpy.