As I’m reading the latest issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly talking about Gears of War, I saw the words “hardcore gamers” in a sentence.  I scoffed at the notion of console gamers as hardcore gamers.  There’s nothing hardcore about console games and the gamers that play them, with maybe a very slight exception to fighting games, but I’ll get to that.

You see, there’s a reason there’s a very, very forgiving damage model in most action-packed console games.  It’s the limited control scheme that a gamepad gives you.  The gamepad are great for platformers like Super Mario 64 and Ratchet & Clank.

Here’s a case in point:  My sister’s boyfriend has been playing Call of Duty 2 for months on his Xbox 360 and has beaten it three times.  I watched as he took direct hits of 2 grenades and an ungodly amount of bullets, yet he still trekked on, oblivious to all the damage done to his on-screen persona.  I was amazed, becaused Call of Duty 2 on my computer was a lot less forgiving (not to mention I play on the hardest difficulty.)

Fast forward it 3 weeks later, as he watched me play Call of Duty 2 on my computer.  One direct hit from a grenade sent me to the Load Game screen.  He commented that he never died that easily, and then it dawned on him why.  Forgiving damage modelling for these games to accomodate the limitations of the gamepad and slow response time for these kind of action games.  In fact, it is utterly boring watching anyone play Call of Duty 2 on the console when it is much more fast-paced and visceral on the computer.

Now some fanboys will claim that there are tournaments for console games, but the reason is simple:  to make money.  There’s no talent or skills involved, it’s just to showcase the games and allow console gamers to compete against each other.

When Quake 3 came out for the Dreamcast, PC gamers and console gamers for the first time to my recollection, could compete against each other.  Suffice to say, even the sorriest Quake 3 player on the computer was heads-and-shoulders above those playing the Dreamcast version.  Ping wasn’t a factor, either.  This isn’t the console gamers’ fault, but as I mentioned above, a severe limitation of the gamepad, plain and simple.

Racing games on the console don’t count, they are just giant memory tests, where you memorize a linear racetrack to beat competitors, with a little twitch hand-eye coordination thrown in (drafting, avoiding collisions, etc.)  Fighting games are the only type of games that can be considered hardcore, but not many allow you to go online and compete on any considerable level.

On the other hand, there are numerous tournaments for PC games.  There’s the big ones, like Counter Strike (original and Source), Quake 3 and Quake 4, the Battlefield series, and a multitude of RTS games.  The mouse and keyboard control scheme allows for a much more fluid and responsive control than gamepads, and is the reason why online and offline tournaments on the computer are lightning fast and insanely competitive.

So as you can see, scoffing at the notion of console gamers as being hardcore has me wondering just what the editors at Electronic Gaming Monthly (and any other console gamers) are smoking when they view themselves as hardcore gamers.  Because as it is these days, it’s just not possible.