Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Ted Friedman - Chair

Second Advisor

Greg Smith

Third Advisor

Alisa Perren


As digital games have become increasingly significant in the entertainment media landscape, the terms “casual” and “hardcore” have become the primary ways to describe gaming audiences, genres, and gameplay. However, these terms are saturated with outdated stereotypes involving gender, age, and class. Focusing on industrial discourse, this thesis examines this dichotomy, emphasizing areas of discontinuity and overlap to question why these terms have become so ubiquitous in gaming discourse and what functions they fulfill for a variety of groups including the industry, advertisers, and audience members. Ultimately, I suggest that these terms need to be replaced in order to move beyond restrictive stereotypes, proposing a new framework for digital games that takes into consideration user motivation, personal investment, and historical specificity.