My friend River, of High Latency Life, wrote a guest post on Syp's Bio Break about how he worries that there aren't any more hardcore gamers in MMOs. Hopefully mine will be up later this week. This is my response.
You know happened to all the hardcore gamers? They grew up and got adult responsibilities. This is not a rant, just an observation. Hardcore gamers are like "hardcore" high school athletes. You could extend that to college athletes, too, I suppose. When you're young, with little responsibility other than getting through school, you have plenty of time to play games. Maybe you're involved in football, or band, or tabletop roleplaying, or maybe even first person shooters or MMORPGs. Heck, maybe you smoke a lot of weed.(Don't do drugs, kids.)
Only a few very lucky people get to continue that utter devotion into adulthood, after they graduate from high school or college. Maybe they become professional athletes or musicians or gamers. That's hardcore. The rest of us get "real" jobs that restrict us to one degree or another from simply doing what we like. We get a significant other that, more likely than not, does not share our enthusiasm for our hobby. We might have kids or ill parents that demand our attention. There isn't time enough in the day.
We're lucky to get a few hours in the evening to relax and play our games. We may get bored with the same old games, and move on to new ones, forever trying to reclaim that feeling we had when we were young and playing hardcore with our friends.
But our friends have grown up, too. If they haven't or we haven't, then we probably grow apart as our interests and responsibilities evolve.
I was in the Army for about four years, and then was lucky to get a job where I knew a lot of the people from my tour of duty. However, the further I get from my time of service, the fewer new people in the office are friends I knew. That doesn't mean that people aren't enlisting and then getting out when their tours are done. I am simply ever more removed from that time myself.
I am sure there are just as many hardcore gamers out there as before, River. You are just no longer moving in those circles, and neither are your friends. There is also the dilution aspect. There may be just as many hardcore players. But as the genre becomes ever more mainstream, they become ever less prominent in the sea of casual gamers who only need a few hours of relaxation after work is over and the kids have gone to bed.