Games (not MMOs) 7 Comments

The Casual Scrubs of Hearthstone

I’ve been in an interesting conversation on Twitter over the last day about Hearthstone’s place in the pantheon of online collectible card games. It seems, perhaps not surprisingly, that some serious CCG players are not impressed by Hearthstone’s fairly simple gameplay and casual rules.

Take, for example, this tweet by blogger Scree:

I kind of disagree with Scree here — I suspect Hearthstone’s gameplay is not as shallow as presumed — but more importantly his response reminded me a lot of… me, like 4 years ago.

Blizzard is dumbing down MMOs for a mass audience! They’re making raiding for the lowest common denominator! Ugh, why are you making WoW for tiny casual babbies ugh I hate it whyyyyy.

And now, years later, I still believe those things and I think I was right, just like I’m sure Scree and others are right about Hearthstone being a simplification of online CCGs. However, what I have come to realize over the last few years is that not everyone wants the same thing from their games and a diverse marketplace makes for happy players. The casual-ification of WoW is only a tragedy if WoW and WoW clones are the only MMOs available.

For example, my sense from blogs and podcasts is that Hearthstone’s playerbase is different from, say, the player pool for Hex or Sol Forge. Hearthstone seems to be drawing from past and present players of WoW, past and present players of Starcraft, and previous players of the paper WoW:TGC. In short, it’s a Blizzard property and has drawn in a ton of Blizzard players.

I could be wrong, but I feel as though most of these people are not leaving one CCG to play another. In fact, in the alternate continuity where Hearthstone does not exist and Garrosh runs free in Draenor (*cough*), many of these same people would not be playing a CCG at all. I know I would not!

(I also think that WoW’s audience has a lot of women in it, arguably moreso than the traditional CCG audience, and some may feel more welcome to dip their toes in the card genre now strictly because Hearthstone has a simplified ruleset and is set in the Warcraft universe.)

I have sympathy with the view of Scree and others, I really do. I can totally understand how Hearthstone seems like a step in the wrong direction for a genre that they like, and it’s disappointing to see a game you think is bad do well while games that you love languish with a fraction of the media coverage and players. But complaining about people flocking to a simplified card game is pretty much the same as complaining about casual scrubs who wants to raid.

For Scree, Hearthstone is “simplified garbage” while for me it’s the game that kept me up until 3am on Wednesday night. (Can’t sleep, winning arena…) That’s marketplace diversity in action! As long as companies are producing games for both of us, I am all for a range of both the complex and the simple. And yes, that goes for MMOs too, Liore-of-the-past.

PS: Links for everyone who is taking part in this interesting discussion on Twitter! Syl, j3w3l, Harbinger Zero, Jazz Panda, and Murf.

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  • Reply
    Wilhelm Arcturus
    November 15, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Scree’s blog post today on the subject of which CCG games deserve your time/money (not Hearthstone!) reminded me very much of that XKCD comic about connoisseurs.
    Wilhelm Arcturus´s last post: EverQuest II Tears of Veeshan Expansion Launches Quietly

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      November 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

      Oh gosh, I missed that post. Saying that anyone who enjoys Hearthstone is too weak or stupid to enjoy ANY challenging game is just plain rude. :P

      • Reply
        November 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

        Haha! Thanks for pointing out that XKCD comic. It made my morning.

        And a nice post Liore. I agree with you, as I mostly do. It IS interesting to watch this casual-ification (I think we just made a word?) pattern happen in a genre for which I don’t have a heavy emotional commitment.

        I think that when you compare it to the casual-ification of WoW, the analogy might be better if Wizards had suddenly decided that M:TG was too complex, and they were going to simplify it to a Hearthstone level. That would create some serious gnashing of teeth, but it would also open up the market for newer games (e.g., Hex) to be successful.

        So, as you identified, perhaps the take-away is that we don’t have enough decent MMOs to fill the gap between new-WoW levels of casual-friendly, and EVE levels of don’t-even-bother-unless-you-know-The-Mittani.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2013 at 11:37 am

    What I take away from that XKCD comic is that everything becomes more interesting, satisfying, fulfilling and meaningful the more attention you pay it and the more effort you put in. The guys in the box sound like they’re having a whale of a time.

    The counter argument, which would appear to be that knowledge, experience and judgment are worthless, doesn’t do much for me.

    • Reply
      Wilhelm Arcturus
      November 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

      I think that is you overlaying something that isn’t there onto the cartoon. It seemed to me to be communicating the far more simple idea that we care about the things we are immersed in or involved with and that we get upset when people who are not similarly involved don’t feel the same way.

      Example: Just about every article about MMORPGs in the mainstream press where, if any mention is even made, one might get the impression that LOTRO, WoW, EQ, and SWTOR are pretty much the same game with different skins. Yet a core of fans regularly argues about the good and bad, the differences, that lay between them all. But the average reader of the article doesn’t really know or care and probably just files the whole thing under “video games” and moves on.
      Wilhelm Arcturus´s last post: Thrawn Dies at the End

      • Reply
        November 26, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        I think both conclusions are valid, actually. The guy who buys the cheap wine appears to hold that deep knowledge of wine is meaningless and recommendations which spring from it are merit-less.

        I’m with you, though. I prefer the simple conclusion if only because I seriously doubt the author was offering some kind of insight on the quality of deep knowledge, heh :)
        Doone´s last post: The Sarkeesian Question

  • Reply
    Quote of the Day – Hearthstone, SOE, and Historical Inevitability | The Ancient Gaming Noob
    January 29, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    […] WoW ), so some serious CCG players have declared that Hearthstone is a shallow game only fit for casual scrubs, bitter that people are not playing “more deserving” games.  And so it […]

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