If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might already know that. But let me try to make this clear: World of Warcraft is designed to be fun for both group players and solitary players, in spite of being a MMORPG. By definition, a MMORPG is a type of game that is played online with other people. Wikipedia defines a MMORPG as follows:
Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (commonly abbreviated MMORPG) is a genre of computer role-playing games in which a large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world.Notice that this definition, although it mentions "a large number of players interacting with one another" does not imply that these players must actively group with one another all the times. Although there have been (and perhaps still are) MMORPGs in which solo play is strongly discouraged (mostly by how the game is designed), thankfully World of Warcraft is not one of those. WoW manages to offer a lot of fun things to all manner of players.
Bear in mind that in WoW there are some downright anti-social people, who will not group with anyone under any situation. Some will even put you on their ignore list if you try to interact with them in any way. You know what? It's all fair. In a way, WoW can be likened to real life. Not everyone is an outgoing, life-of-the-party character. Some people like being on their own and like being left alone. Others believe that life without partying, going out to bars and otherwise socializing isn't worth living. Both these types are perfectly happy with their lives. So why discriminate in WoW?
It's wrong to draw a sharp line between two imaginary groups in WoW: the raiders/PvP-ers and the casuals. The reason is simple: because there's a gray area between them. There are casual raiders and there are hardcore solo players.
What is a casual player? It's hard to define because although normally a casual player is someone who doesn't invest much time in the game, some people consider solo players to be casual. If we go by the time "invested" or time played, again this is not a good measure. Some people might accomplish a lot in a very short time, while others may languish for months at the same level.
How many hours a week should a player spend in WoW in order to be considered casual or hardcore? How about 2-3 hours during weekdays and 8-10 hours on Saturdays and Sundays? Is that casual or does it fall in hardcore territory? Coincidentally (or not) this is about how much of my time I spend in WoW during the typical week.
If we consider hardcore players to be those who engage in PvP and/or raids, we reach another gray area. Some of these players hardly spend 10 hours a week in game, yet they manage to raid/PvP/socialize just fine. Others spend a lot of time logged on but they don't accomplish much. Instead, they fill the trade channel with garbage or strut around Dalaran or Ironforge trying to impress noobs with their 1337 mounts and gear.
Speaking of gear, does gear make a player hardcore? It could certainly be a measure of hardcore... ness. High-level gear isn't earned easily so it is presumed that people who wear it have played through the highest-level dungeons in order to acquire it, or are Arena champions. More power to them, I say.
The point I'm trying to make is that World of Warcraft can be played in so many ways and each of these ways is filled with fun and satisfaction for a certain group of people. You can: level an alt, raid, PvP in battlegrounds, PvP in arenas, PvP around the world (like Southshore/Crossroads), farm, play the Auction House, collect mounts and pets, explore, chat, level up skills, help other people, quest, solo content such as old dungeons, search for rare items or mobs, acquire the best gear, role play, pursue achievements and so on and so forth. These are but a fraction of the ways in which this game can be enjoyed. There are people who excel at one or more of these activities. I am fairly sure they can be termed "hardcore".
To my mind, a casual player is one who doesn't treat World of Warcraft as their main hobby. They will usually play for an hour here, another there, and will never attain perfection in most of the activities listed above. Either their interest in the game isn't strong enough or Real Life doesn't allow them sufficient time to indulge in it. A "true" casual won't have the best gear or the most gold. They won't have time to engage in all the interesting activities in depth. It is sometimes unfortunate but that's the reality of the situation. Casual players are just as welcome to WoW as all others.
Blizzard has been accused of making the game easier and more trivial in order to accommodate "casuals" but I disagree with this opinion. I believe they have done a great job of making WoW more accessible to everyone, and as a result there are more fun ways to enjoy the game than ever. Let's not kid ourselves. Blizzard is a business and a business' sole purpose is to generate profit. They will generate more profit by pleasing the 90% of players who aren't diehard hardcore than by creating content narrowly aimed at the 10% who consider themselves "true" players. In any case, this 10% elite usually runs through all the content very quickly and then starts complaining that the game is boring and too easy. So yeah, Blizzard will continue to try to please everyone and I don't see this changing, ever.
A very good example of solo-but-not-casual is yours truly. I consider myself pretty "hardcore" as far as solitary players are concerned. As I said earlier, I usually play at least 2 hours a day during weekdays but normally around 3. Weekends I play around 8 hours or sometimes even more, depending on what stuff I have on my Real Life plate. So that's a total of around 30 hours a week, at the minimum.
Playing time aside, I also have 3 level 80 characters which are decently equipped, 2 level 70's, 1 level 66 and a slew of other low level alts. As a solo player I've completed the quests in all the zones of Outland and Northrend with my various characters. I have my own guild, only for my characters. I have purchased all 6 guild bank tabs and they are mostly filled with various mats. I have much maxed out 4 crafting professions on my characters, not to mention gathering skills which are obviously maxed. I am comfortably wealthy in spite of the fact that I've spent thousands of gold on mounts, gear, vanity pets, guild bank tabs and other stuff. And yes, even though I play WoW on my lonesome, sometimes I suffer from burnout. Oh and hey, I've even got a fairly successful WoW blog to top it off!
I ask you all now, do you still think that someone like me is casual? I would think not. I don't want to brag in any way; I'm merely pointing out that I am hardcore in my own kinky way. And there are countless others like me. So please, dear elite WoW players, think about this: solo is not always casual.
Sometimes I wish I was 1337 so I could get tired of it all quickly and search for other ways in which to entertain myself. But I'm not, so I will continue to enjoy World of Warcraft at my own perverse pace. In the end, we all coexist. Elite players drive Blizzard to create more content, while "casuals" give the company the financial incentive to do so. One cannot exist without the other so we might as well get along.
Over and out.