The term "hardcore gamer" is bandied about a lot, but proper application can be tricky. Obviously, it doesn't fit someone who gets their interactive entertainment fill solely from games like Zuma and Bejeweled, but how about a gamer who enjoys both frequent Tetris sessions and kicking back with a little Halo?
Of course, there are certain game franchises the fans of which are automatically and justly tagged as hardcore players, and Sony's SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs series is a prime example.
These highly authentic military shooters attract players who are willing to rearrange their lives in order to make clan matches, who play regularly enough that they end up getting to know team mates scattered across continents as well as their friends next door, and who often find themselves playing red-eyed and hungry at four in the morning.
I can write with confidence on this subject because, when the first SOCOM was released six years ago, I became just such a player. It was my first-and to date only-real experience with belonging to a video game clan. I had no idea that within me resided such propensity for obsession. There were days during which all I could think about was finishing whatever I was doing so that I could hop back online.
Thankfully, my job as a reviewer forced me to move on to other games after just a few weeks, but even now I occasionally find myself unwittingly daydreaming of specific events that took place in those matches.
I have since approached each new game in the SOCOM series with extreme wariness, playing enough to get a feel for changes and improvements so that I could write about them, but stopping short of joining clans or playing too much online.
However, not playing online isn't really an option with the upcoming SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation. It's an online-only affair, taunting players like me with tournaments, clan ladders, and an unprecedented number of player stats and figures. It will be hardcore gamer heaven.
I've been toying with the public beta for the last couple of weeks-which, fortunately for me, lacks many of the more addictive features planned for the final release, including much of the clan functionality.
Still, clan or no, there's something about cautiously prowling through a dilapidated North African town with a squad of experienced, communicative players that holds strong sway over me. The satisfaction of sprinting through an abandoned shop to perform a flanking manoeuvre while my companions lay down a base of fire, or saving a team mate taking fire behind a car wreck with a well tossed grenade, is both strong and undeniable.
Right now all I can think about is how lucky I am that there are half a dozen other high profile games hitting shelves in the days immediately following Confrontation's October 14th release that will require my professional attention.
That, and how there's no way the woman I married would stand for the sort of shenanigans for which obsessed SOCOM players are notorious.