The Development of Genres


“Street Cafe” by Raben Aas of Deviant Art

I’ve never been able to put my finger on why genres always seemed awkwardly named or labeled based on its core gameplay mechanic. Even Extra Creditz has sort of mused on this question, but I think I get it now and I also think it makes perfect sense to continue it the way it’s currently trending.

EC used the comparison of other media, such as movie genres, to show that the way we label games is …awkward, and possibly inappropriate. For example, there are horror, sci-fi, and drama genres for film. Games instead look at the core gameplay mechanic for names: First Person Shooter, Role-playing Game, Real Time Strategy. If we look at what’s being relayed via this naming mechanism we can see that games tend to name type of fantasy or simulation they do. And if it’s trying to describe genre of fantasy or to pinpoint the name of the simulation, then this is entirely appropriate.

When we view games as virtual worlds, even offline games, even single-player games — we can see that naming genres based on the experience is valuable. If I were to walk into a VR Bar 100 years from now, I may have to buy a ticket at the door and then choose from a menu the kind of fantasy I want to experience. Those fantasies might be named Sandbox Venus, First Person Shooter, Maze Sim, and so forth. Games are virtual reality without the peripherals (yet). Can genres be refined into even better descriptors of the fantasies they represent?

New genres seem to pop up every year, really. Developers are trying hard to really nail down precisely the experience the player will have with their games.  This might also be why the Action/Adventure genre continues to be one of the most ambiguous. This can mean so many different kinds of fantasies. After all, even an FPS is an adventure of sorts so what does the Adventure genre really indicate?

Anyway, there’s some food for thought. What do you think of the way the industry labels games?

Scree Tags: #virtualreality #gamertalk #aboutgenres

2 thoughts on “The Development of Genres

  1. I think the mechanics are a more important for games, and a part people look towards first before the search for themes and such. As an active medium, the way you interact is extremely important. Film has mechanical approach as well, and this are important for choosing a movie but here it is the opposite as your passive, so the mechanics mean less.

    Personally I think for games, since both are important the theme and mechanic should both be shown. Also, some of those genres, like first person shooter are just too big now and there are defining characteristics within that i think could become their own medium

    • I used to think genres were some what odd in the way they were named. But the more I think about it, the more the naming trend seems on the right track. They should describe the simulation type. Or at least as a gamer, that’s the only way I’d know which game is best for me.

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