The goal of the current study is to further conceptualize and define the term “hardcore” as it relates to video game culture. Past research indicates that members of cultural subdivisions favor their own group versus others due to perceived commonalities (Durkheim, 1915; Tajfel, 1970). In gaming culture, the subdivisions of “hardcore” and “casual” games/gamers have become especially salient in recent years. However, the definition of what constitutes “hardcore” and “casual” is inconsistent (Adams, 2000; Alexandre, 2012; Jacobs & Ip, 2003; Juul, 2010; Kim, 2001; Kuittinen, Kultima, Niemelä & Paavilainen, 2007; Wallace & Robbins, 2006). Therefore, it is beneficial to better understand these terms considering the implications: less audience infighting, more accurately tailored game design/marketing, and less ambiguous/sensationalist gaming journalism/media.

A sample of 109 undergraduate students from a large university (19,000 undergraduates) in an upstate New York city (metropolitan population of 1.1 million) completed an online survey, reporting their perceptions of hardcore gaming. Values were then attributed to certain video game criteria based on the survey results and applied to popular games. The sum of these values produced a hardcore index for the “scorecard.” To assess the scorecard’s validity, correlations were run between our final values and an independently collected hardcore percentage publicly available on the Wii’s Nintendo Channel (327,818.45 average respondents per game).

Results suggest hardcore gaming is perceived as a harsh subculture consisting of long play times, challenging play, anti-social behavior, and content not suitable for children. The index produced by the resulting “hardcore scorecard” was significantly correlated (r = .765, p < .01) with the independently collected data on the Nintendo Channel. Thus, the current research provides tools the gaming industry (users, developers, journalists) can use to their advantage by better understanding and defining the term “hardcore,” as well as a valuable blueprint for future research to continue refining and improving.