On the label "hardcore" gaming and demographics


Editorial Team
Nov 21, 2005
United Kingdom
Floating around the internet reading random news stories I saw the term hardcore used once more in an article pertaining to games however it went one step further and subdivided again which I found odd. For the more part I side with those that despise the term and all it does not represent (seriously nobody has ever managed to define it well enough to get anything even close to a consensus and I have not even seen one I can even partially agree with*). However I did decide to think about it and although I am inclined to treat all that has come before as so much alchemy (basis for something good but largely ignored with a few things picked out at a later date) there might be something to it.

*I do not even want to try reconciling it with terms like hardcore applied to other entertainment fields (take a moment and try to think how things have been applied to art, music, films, TV, board games and then try to reconcile those and a handful of the options available for games).

Now the idea underpinning what I am pondering goes back damn near 100 years although it was a bit later that it came to the fore for the sorts of things I am presently pondering. Various people tried various things but for the most part history recognises Edward Bernays, it was a fascinating story and although it gets a bit dark at times I highly suggest Adam Curtis' The Century Of The Self as it covers a lot of it.

For those that want a summary in short one Mr Bernays (nephew to psychology luminary Sigmund Freud although most now consider his actual stuff not so good and for good reason) applied some of the techniques of and observations from the then nascent field of psychoanalysis to advertising which led to him making a packet, becoming very influential as it was great for selling a lot of stuff for a while at least. The even shorter version of this that is redefined demographics (the process of subdividing groups of people according to various things) to something closer matching psychology than previous techniques which tended to focus on age, sex, race, income and such and it worked spectacularly.

Now I do not doubt there are some consultants making a fortune doing similar things and in some ways the groundwork is already there (see stuff like metrics for games with an online component) and the increase of the use of psychology in the process of making games however such techniques are well known to be used in other fields and data broken down according to them can reasonably be found by members of the public and especially trade press and the trade itself. However with a few minor exceptions (stuff like educational games, training/serious games, ARG type games and similar things but despite some thematic overlap that is not quite where I am heading for) I have yet to see any real attempts to create demographics beyond age, sex, race and maybe location none of which are that useful. As genres become ever less defined (no bad thing) I have to wonder if it is worth exploring such a concept... my first thoughts are not necessarily towards demographics but perhaps more towards labels that get applies to films and music with stuff like a "feel good" game, "inspiring" game or "thought provoking" or something else from a film poster that I usually ignore.

Personally I am up for an experiment so I am going to try working it into things I do to see if it works. The only real downsides I can see right now is that there is a bit of residual defensiveness and apologist mindset at play (something I would posit explains a lot of the attitude regarding certain figures and news) but that is a different matter for a different musing.

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