On the one hand, I don’t get the use of “casual” as an insult. “Casual” could reasonably translate to “sane,” particularly in the MMO world. They spend only a few hours a week playing? Yes, that’s a good idea. Games designed for casual players are more accessible, have a comfortable learning curve, and can be enjoyed in relatively small increments.
On the other hand, I completely get why “hardcore” players do not want casuals in their (our) games. Some games require a heavy investment to really pay off, and there are levels of play you cannot reach without practice. If I am trying to play at those levels, I will not be happy about having teammates or opponents who are just there casually. There is a difference between shooting hoops in the driveway and playing basketball in a competitive league. Relatedly, hardcore players reasonably scorn games designed for casual players because they are often shallow, with a low skill ceiling.1
“Mastery” is the concept I think I want here. Casual players are there to play, to have a bit of fun. Hardcore players are there to master the game, and that is where their fun is. Neither is a wrong way to approach playing games, although one might be ill-suited to particular game, and conflicts arise when you put both sorts of players on the same field, whether in direct competition or simple interaction from playing with the same toys.2
Many of the best games have both casual and hardcore appeal. They can be enjoyed with a minimal investment and enjoyed further with greater investment, without making the casual players feel like they are being excluded. But you know Sturgeon’s Revelation, and those relatively few games are “the best” because they capture that rare pinnacle.
(1) Casual players can reasonably scorn games designed for hardcore players because they are often unnecessarily complicated, with a huge investment required for limited reward beyond the cognitive dissonance that it must have been worth it.
(2) Good PvP matching systems help separate those two groups to make competitive games. Oddly, the market is one place where casuals and hardcores can interact to mutual benefit. Hardcore speculators love profiting off naive casuals, and naive casuals can immediately cash in for what they consider a decent price without even noticing that they could have gotten 12.4% more if they had researched market trends. Capitalism, ho!