Published on: Feb 23, 2015 @ 17:18
I know what you’re probably thinking because I thought it too:
“No,” I said at first. “Of course I have no responsibility to these people. If they are randomly dropped into a strike with me, how is that my fault? They either keep up or get left behind.”
But my opinion has changed. After some self-reflection and research, I just couldn’t fight the feeling that perhaps we should be doing more. Read on and you’ll see why.
Crisis of Conscience
A few days ago, while jogging and listening to a podcast about Destiny (after listening to ours), one of the contributors made the comment:
“You know, I tried to get into Destiny, but I would join strikes and everyone just ran off, leaving me to kill everything. They were all these elitist hardcore players and I was just a casual. So I quit. It’s just not a game intended for me.”
My face became very serious. I stopped running and thought, “Oh no,” as something twisted inside me. Like holding up a mirror, I realized that I am that elitist hardcore player. That ass he’s talking about – the guy who runs off leaving new players in the dust – that’s me.
That doesn’t sit well with me. I’d prefer to be part of the solution, so I’ve tried to understand this problem. I’ve scoured the forums and talked with friends about this division between hardcore and rookie players.
All I wanted to do was answer two simple questions: What is a casual player, and do we have a responsibility to include them?
What is Casual?
I felt like understanding why casual gamer are casual was an important foundational step, so I looked to definitions. Despite what our grammar teachers drilled into us, words are fluid.
Defining casual and hardcore depends largely on context, so the most relevant context possible was in fellow players – that includes the forum here and Reddit, which I’ll include some quotes from:
“Greeting fellow guardians, I use to be a hardcore gamer but time and family got in the way. Now I am just a filthy casual.” – GLA KASSAD
“Sure, playing 40 hours a week could get tedious but playing ~ 2 hours a day (or less during the week, more on the weekend) is pretty casual.” – Mykle
“The PS2 and Xbox brought in many of what we initially called the “casual gamers”. Many of the franchises that are popular now began at this point (Call of Duty, WoW, sports franchises, Halo, GTA). Those “casuals” became the “core gamer” in the next generation. They make up the large majority of the buying power.” – Aoi
“I think there are plenty of flaws with the game, but I don’t think the balance between casual players and hardcore players is one of them… I’m not a gamer, really. Mostly I play this game to relax – I like the mechanics, and strikes and patrol missions are the kind of low-key gaming experience I enjoy.” – NedLumby
Confused? So was I at first. Never did I consider this search might raise more questions than answers – to the point where I didn’t know what I was anymore. Casual or hardcore, spontaneous or steadfast? I’d always considered myself hardcore, but there are things I refuse to grind and time I refuse to sink into Destiny.
So was all the searching a dead-end? Thankfully, no. You see, there is a pattern. Here’s the scarlet thread we can follow back to something useful.
From Casual You Come, to Casual You Return
What is the common theme? Elasticity, flexibility, and adaptability. The evolution from casual to hardcore and de-evolution back to casual is the link between all these comments.
And the truth is, being a casual gamer with Destiny is necessary sometimes. Life circumstances change, and as with most MMOs, the time you dedicate needs to change along with those circumstances.
But the transition doesn’t change. We all move along the spectrum between casual and hardcore, and I’ve worked up two definitions from the various comments on forums that I think will be useful for deciding where we currently fit.
As you read them, ask which best describes the phase of Destiny you are in.
Casual: A person either easing in, easing out, or on standby with Destiny. They have, perhaps, dedicated significant chunks of time in the experience, but they no longer spend as much time as they once did. They also may be trying out the experience for the first time, with or without prior MMO-esque games under their belt.
Hardcore: Some dedicating significant amounts of time in the game currently, trying their best to maximize their experience. This may include regular raiding expeditions, multiple characters, daily grinding and bounty work, and just generally going ‘all-out‘ by that person’s standards.
There is an element of subjectivity here, as we are often defined by how we perceive ourselves. One man’s 2 hours a day might be considered casual, while another might give the only two hours he has free in the day to raid or upgrade gear.
These definitions serve two purposes. First, they give us a measure by which to judge our standing with the game. We are less likely to look down on casuals if we discover, to our shock, that we share some common bonds.
Second, they show us that we are in fact, at one point or another, casual Destiny players. The time either has or will come when we all must step back from the game, which has implications for how we respond to those currently in that phase.
What is Our Opportunity?
The Destiny community never ceases to astound me. They are, beyond a doubt, some of the most passionate and patient people I’ve ever met, but let’s not pretend we are perfect.
I’ve had my fair share of frustrated outbursts playing Crucible and getting the thousandth shotgun slide to the face, or getting paired in a strike with someone who thinks cursed thralls just want a hug.
And boy oh boy, I’ve let some choice words fly and been on the receiving end of some gnarly private messages.
But the good times vastly outweigh the bad, and I’d like to see that continue. Those unique encounters with strangers make Destiny special.
Before considering our great opportunity, I think it’s important to ponder two key points:
Who Are We Playing With?
They say first impressions are everything, but what happens when you can’t see or hear the person on the other end of your Internet connection? As Ursula the sea witch once said, “It’s all about body language.”
Our fellow players have tells, just like in poker – certain signs we can interpret to help understand where they’re coming from.
First, are they lagging behind in strikes? If so, they are probably new and experiencing that particular strike for the first time. Or they could be incredibly drunk, in which case you should absolutely get them into a party chat just to hear what their world is like.
Are they head-shoting everything with two legs? Yeah, you can probably figure they’re beasts at this game and have memorized just about everything that could possibly happen.
Are they tracking with you until right up to the boss and then hiding in a corner the entire time while you do all the work? Those people deserve no mercy from anyone ever.
But once you understand where that avatar next to you is coming from, you can successfully ask yourself the second question.
What Were We Like in Their Shoes?
It’s really no surprise, especially if you’ve ever peered into someone’s armory to see what weapons they’re rocking, but we judge people based on how similar they are to us.
A quote from one of NedLumby’s Reddit posts is particularly relevant here:
Look. I don’t have a Gjallahorn, Icebreaker, or Suros. I don’t have a VoC or Mythoclast or a Crota’s Whatever. You guys that have played significantly more than me and have raid groups have all those guns, and they look fucking awesome.
I see you playing with them when I’m spazzing out with you in Roc Strikes. I want them. I’m jealous.
And those of us with all those guns are perfectly happy that someone is jealous. We get the satisfaction that naturally comes with success, but it can also make it exceedingly difficult to sympathize.
I’ll be honest, there are times when I wish I was approaching Destiny for the first time again. I’m jaded and cynical now, numbly running through these PvE missions until it’s all muscle memory.
Putting ourselves back into the shoes of those we are playing with can refresh the experience and give us fresh eyes again. We tend to forget that we too were once level 20’s just praying to the cruel Destiny gods for a Legendary Engram.
But we have the opportunity to not only make the journey enjoyable for those level 20’s, but also revitalize our own time with Destiny.
How Can We Seize It?
Trying new experiences takes effort, but it takes far less effort than we sometimes imagine.
If you’re ready to try your hand at something new, and the opportunity to mix things up in your group and meet some fascinating new people is up your alley, try a few of these things:
Accept Those Friend Invites
This one’s a bit like rolling the dice. You’ll probably lose a lot, but sometimes you’ll win and win big. I don’t recommend accepting invites from people in the Tower that you stumbled upon, as pointing, dancing, and waving are all well and good, but just blinding jumping into a party chat with a random doesn’t usually end well (and believe me, I know).
If you’re playing with someone who is competent and fits your style, why not chill in the playlist with them a few rounds and send them a friend request later?
I’ve found a few raiding buddies that way, and raids are a blast – which leads to the next tip.
Do Raids with ‘Casuals’
Raids are some of the purest fun you can have in PvE, especially if you find a group that can dedicate a little time in the week to run Vault of Glass (because let’s be honest, it’s just more enjoyable than Crota in many ways – and lower levels can partake).
Seeing new players as a burden in raids is simply a product of our expectations, and we would benefit tremendously from overhauling our expectations. Most casuals miss out on them because they don’t have X or Y, which is truly unfortunate.
Sure, you may feel a desperate need for those last few shards to get to level 32, but which experience would you actually enjoy more: integrating another interesting person with a desire to learn and improve into your group, or jumping from 31 to 32 so you can take part in Crota’s End on hard, which might just destroy every shred of joy in your world?
It feels good helping others, and the weekend warriors would love it if they had people that were patient enough to show them the ropes.
Teach the Fundamentals
I understand wanting to get through raids and strikes quickly. It’s natural, especially if you’ve done something hundreds of times, to say, “I’ll run the relic and everyone else just shoot.”
But the first time I did Vault of Glass, I had no clue how what was going on. The people I was with literally said, “You stand here and shoot this until I tell you to run here and then you’ll get a chest.” If I were physically present, I would have nodded dumbly and slunk to the place they showed me.
But I’ve never felt better than when someone said, “Hey, do you want to try and run relic?” I also died. A lot. I’m sure my team hated me for it, but now I live for ground pounding those twisted harpies into dust.
Pass the reins every once in a while and act as teacher rather than leader – it speaks volumes and builds character.
Seek Out Newcomers
Don’t stalk them or anything creepy, but if you notice a forum post or raid listing from a “filthy casual” and you’ve got a decent raid group already, why not integrate that person?
There’s very little risk on your end, and if things don’t work out, they don’t. No harm, no foul, and at least you tried.
The truth is there are some people who would play more frequently if there were others to play with, so even “casuals” might only be that way because they haven’t found the right group yet. Plus, I’ve met some people on Destiny that, while radically different, are a blast to spend time with. So if you seek them out, chances are you won’t regret it.
I’d be interested to hear stories of how these things are happening right now, as I know they are. Destiny is built on its community, and there are tremendous opportunities here.
Believe me, it takes effort, but it’s effort well spent.