can you really define "hardcore players" based on the games they play? Well, for me hardcore players are those who does not have any other life than their HPs in game.
I would define 'hardcore players' as people who are unusually serious about their game of choice compared to the average player. Just like falling prices aren't always deflation, I don't think a simple numerical value such as the hours spent on a game shows a whole lot other than that a person doesn't have much to do during the day.
To illustrate: for most sim-racing games there are applications to parse recorded replays with graphs about a car's speed, throttle input, lateral G-forces, its springs and tyre pressure etc. Hardcore players, in my definition, love that stuff. They'd rather spend 10 minutes watching those statistics and diagrams than driving another three laps to 'experiment and see if it gets better'. I wouldn't equate being a 'hardcore player' with spending thousands of dollars on hardware either: that always seemed more of a quality of life issue to me. You don't need a force-feedback chair, real steel USB wheels and six monitors to be very serious about sim-racing.
In the context of MMOs, people who have played World of Warcraft will be familiar with the folks over at Elitist Jerks. They are great guys, very helpful - but let's just say I'm more interested in the results of their work than the actual stuff they get up to. To those who don't know: the people at that site tend to be very serious about the game. This leads to Excel-sheets full of variables regarding item-stats, optimized movement patterns, guides on which talents to change on an encounter-by-encounter basis, etc.
I wouldn't define "hardcore players". It's a term that is sometimes useful, but mostly useless. The most precise defenition I would submit is "very dedicated gamer". There's really no need to be more specific.
Q: What makes a player "hardcore" ??
A: Big chest.
If you play any other than casual, dumbed down and mainstream games and play sophisticated games then you are hardcore.
What happens if you play casual games, dumbed down games, mainstream games, and sophisticated games?
I mean, Audiosurf is pretty casual, but ninja mono ironmode Sonata Arctica songs are pretty hardcore.
I fail to see where mainstream and sophisticated don't fit together.
... what was that? Sorry I can't hear you over all this Dwarf Fortressing!
Idiocy and elitism. Hardcore gamers largely operate under the idea that consumption and has inherent value. So they use the term to separate themselves from other people who like different games, and the term is an effort to legitimize their own activities while delegitimizing the activities of others.
I like trains
Big poster on RPS forum.
Pirate all their games.
Spend more time hating on games they steal and play than actually playing them.