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Game Genres — Descriptive Or Restrictive? 87

An opinion piece at Rock, Paper, Shotgun questions whether the way we classify video games limits creativity and innovation in game development. "If the next Modern Warfare introduced dramatically different themes, there would be uproar. Sure, set it on the moon, but make sure I’m a grunt following the NPCs who get to play the game, or I’ll swear at you on the internet." The author suggests that the rise of casual games may in part be attributable to their creators' willingness to break with established themes and blend together different types of play. "There's huge risk to blurring. It makes the game more difficult to market, it defies customers’ expectations, and it requires educating the public. It’s safe to make yet another COD clone, because we all know them and what they do. And they're what we want! But like the child who's never tried a new food, refusing to eat it because it's different leads to a very limited and dull palate."
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Game Genres — Descriptive Or Restrictive?

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  • But like the child who's never tried a new food, refusing to eat it because it's different leads to a very limited and dull palate.

    I like my dull palate, thank you very much! (for food at least, not so much for games)

    But seriously, the real clamp on creativity is business. Publishers don't want to take risks developing increasingly expensive games only to see them not sell. They want a pretty good feel that they will make a profit and the best way to do that is to ape an existing, successful game. It's not

  • People dont like new right aways so companies loose in sales, thus people dont make them all that often. if you want new games vote with you wallets and dont buy remakes. to bad that is never going to happen. you almost have to trick people into liking new things by making gradual changes from the old stuff.
  • Yeah, if the next Call of Duty game was a third-person platformer or something there would be an uproar ... BECAUSE IT WOULDN'T BE CALL OF DUTY. It would be some other game with the name slapped on. That has nothing at all to do with genres limiting games. If you make a different game, call it a different name. That way names are actually useful information, y'know? Remember how language is for conveying meaning? Jeez.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      You know, Killzone on the PSP was an overhead isometric shooter instead of an FPS. Nobody complained, since it's an awesome game.

  • One reason why these "genre-blurring" games are not so popular could be that they're really hard to advertise. If you make a new FPS for example, it's easy to list out things which makes your FPS better than others. But if you make a totally new kind of game, there's nothing to compare it to. These games may become huge successes, but it usually takes time (like Minecraft - under 20k sales in the first year, 100 times that in the second), and companies rarely seem to think about the future - they want profi
  • COD may be what you want, but it sure isn't what I want. I would love something new and fresh, or even an update of OLD titles that were great but weren't from the same 4 or 5 different type of game. FPS games are not that much different from each other in the grand scheme of things.

  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @01:06PM (#35795900)

    Creator Strategy #1: Give people more of what they have demonstrated they want. Reality TV Show Model 7B, Over-Loud Snarky-Catch-Phraseful Hero Summer Popcorn Movie 6A, or the latest Honor Harrington book. It amuses me, you make it, I buy it, you get paid and feed your family. Repeat. It's called "The Entertainment Business," and Joss Whedon is secretly laughing at all of you who are writing deep existential doctoral theses about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Creator Strategy #2: Come up with something Entirely Brand New That Has Never Been Tried, convince a studio or publisher to invest millions into it, and hope to God someone besides you wants it. It's called "Art," it requires those dicey things "Risk" and "Vision," and lots of perfectly lovely and talented people who practice it are eating their one daily meal of ramen noodles as I write this. If they're lucky, their art catches on, it gets assimilated into The Entertainment Business, and the creator can kick back in preparation for becoming rich and laughing at the nerds earnestly considering writing deep existential doctoral theses about their game/movie/book/new Pez flavor.

    • Joss Whedon is secretly laughing at all of you who are writing deep existential doctoral theses about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

      Oh, I don't know about that. The "high school as hell" metaphor that the show was based on seems pretty danged existential to me, so further analysis by the fans isn't a huge stretch. Besides, he wouldn't secretly laugh - he'd publicly make a snarky yet witty metaphorical comment about the whole Buffy Studies thing and maybe weave it into a future storyline.

  • We've classified games into genres almost forever. The modern complete lack of innovation is a more recent phenomenon, probably brought about by the graphics arms race and the greater budgets which have resulted; the more money you're spending, the more corporates and committees need to be convinced it's going to bring in a return.

    I think it started happening at about the same time that it started to become common for games to have multiple sequels. I remember once observing that you never saw fourth versio

    • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gravatron ( 716477 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @01:16PM (#35796056)
      Sorry, but this 'lack of innovation' is nothing new. even if you look back to the NES era, a lot of games were just generic shooter/platformer/mascot games. This is still true today, as most games are just clones with a small twist of some other game.

      New, untested IP is something you don't see a lot, but it happens. Sony, for example, seems to start each new generation with some new IP, and MS seems to like that as well. Ninetendo tends to stick with established characters whenever possible though, even if it puts them into a new genre.
      • Hordes of derivative and uninspired entries in the lower half of the market is a given in practically any media market and age. You ignore them, and pay attention to what the top guys are doing. And once upon a time, untested "IP" as you call it was frequently found. I don't know much about the console scene, but I'm sure today, if a game such as, say, Gods arrived, with rarely or never seen ingredients on the level of its "help bonuses" for struggling players, and monsters which avoid firepower and pick ob

      • with a couple exceptions, the 2600 only had 2 kinds of games space invaders and pac man.
  • No way! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @01:07PM (#35795914)

    If EA releases Tiger Woods Gold 2012 there would be complaints if it was actually a NASCAR simulator?
    If the next Modern Warfare was a turn based role playing game there'd be complaints?

    No shit, sherlock.

    But if the new game isn't given the same damn name and put in the same damn franchise then it can be completely different. If you want it to be "blurring" but within the same main gameplay then give it a name that indicates that and no one (well there will always be someone) will complain

  • Just Try (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arthus ( 2025474 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @01:10PM (#35795960)
    I try new genres every year and can never actually enjoy them all but it is important to try new things. It brought me to Shadows of the Colossus (the most amazing game). You should play it.
  • I feel LA Noire should be mentioned here. Combining a sandbox game with elements from classic adventure games, and releasing it as a pure single player only game in 2011 sure is bold!
    • by jakobX ( 132504 )

      But releasing it only on platforms that dont support the only sane method of control for that type of game is just awful. The same happened with red dead redemption and Alan Wake. I have an xbox but im not going to play such games on a controller. But then again its a rockstar game and we all know how awesome their pc ports are so maybe its good thing its console only.

      • by dingen ( 958134 )
        I'm not with you there. I have no problems whatsoever playing these type of games with a controller and I fully understand their choice of releasing it only on consoles.
    • Thanks for bringing that game to my attention, I've never heard of it. I absolutely love adventure games and murder mysteries. I recently just finished playing Heavy Rain and I absolutely loved it. I wish we could see more games like that.

  • It can be condensed to this. Try something new and it might bomb because it's either not delivering what it promised (Spore) or because it simply ain't what users are used to. Also, let's not forget 60 bucks is quite an investment for the average gamer. He is kinda shy to dump that on a game he doesn't know whether he'll enjoy or not. He has no problem sending those 60 bucks the way of Whatevergameheliked II. He liked the first, so he'll buy the second.

    Of course, the sequel MUST NOT diverge from the origina

  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @01:21PM (#35796120) Homepage

    When I was beta testing DC Universe Online, every new batch of testers to be allowed in had a hand full of people who would invariably complain: "If you don't add X, Y, and Z, you'll never be able to beat WoW!" or "Clicking in your own combo moves is ANNOYING! Where's the auto-attack?"

    While DCUO labeled itself as an Action MMO (heavier on the action), that MMO(rpg) label still carried with it some pretty hefty preconceived notions regarding game mechanics and even story progression. It was the basis of a massive amount of discussion which, in my opinion, would have been better used as testing the beta instead of arm-chair developing.

  • This is why Portal was packaged in the Orange Box - as a genre-breaking game it was too risky to release on its own (beside being too short). Interesting to have this discussion on the eve of the release of Portal 2 as a mainstream game.
    • by ifrag ( 984323 )
      Yes, but Valve is really one of the very few major developers actually doing any appreciable amount of experimentation. The vast majority of the innovation is still firmly seated in the Indie projects. That is until Valve hires them anyway.
      • It doesn't hurt that Valve has realized the advantages of making your software accessible so you can buy up promising unusual indie projects based on it and more than recoup your initial costs.
        And that's coming from someone who usually prefers the "nuke it from orbit" type of games (Fallout 3, Crysis, Doom, UT, ...).

  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @01:30PM (#35796244)

    Why are genres restrictive? Adventure, first-person shooter, role-playing, platforming... Those are all extremely broad. They're as broad as genres in movies or novels might be. Just because Hollywood as chosen to restrict sci-fi to alien invasions the last few years doesn't mean the genre itself is limiting. What's limiting is the creativity of the developer.

    But then the real problem is that those tired old themes evidently sell. We can harp on how derivative games have become but the fact is that as with Hollywood blockbusters, they sell. It's no secret developers and publishers are risk averse. These games cost a fortune to produce, with their bloated production values, but they're guaranteed to sell. And every couple of years someone takes the plunge and does try something different which turns out to be a big success. And that's inevitably followed by everyone else jumping on the bandwagon. However, the fact is that different and creative isn't always better, especially in gaming where gameplay should always be the core focus.

    My fundamental problem with a lot of American gaming is the over-the-top machismo, guy with gun trope. I think it's this obnoxious ego-fueled culture which has inhibited real creativity. Although, Nintendo has been a nice balance to all that. However, I'm convinced that in Japan you'll find far more creative gaming because culturally they're not so fixated on ego. And it's certainly not restricted to gaming, look at popular music.

    That said, there is a massive amount of variety out there, probably more than we've ever had before. We do get a lot of gaming from Japan. And indie gaming has dramatically expanded our gaming options.

    • My fundamental problem with a lot of American gaming is the over-the-top machismo, guy with gun trope.
      Yeah, you raise a good point, I really can't stand those films by that American Director John Woo. Why couldn't he be more sophisticated like those Asian directors. Instead of an over the top machismo, guy with gun, I prefer the androgynous, emo guy with big ass sword trope. PS. Dragon Age 2 is consolized crap, which is what happens when you try to blend different genres quickly and under budget.
    • Probably for the same reason that people hated FO3, it wasn't a Fallout game. The same reason that I hate the "new and imporoved" Lara Croft, it's not the same character as before.

      It doesn't mean that it's wrong to do it, just that people form expectations even before they start playing, and if those expectations don't set them up for the game, you can ruin a perfectly good experience.

  • Music Genres, Descriptive or Restrictive?
    Movie Genres, Descriptive or Restritive?

    We all know that human beings try to fit everything into different categories as a way of discerning and understanding. This process can be positive for many things such as science, but negative in other aspects such as social (leading to racism or discrimnation). Artistic genres exist so people will watch, play or listen to something they understand, something they are most comfortable or familiarized with, or simply, that
  • Mass Effect - what is it? RPG? FPS? Adventure? It didn't matter - it was awesome. However, taking CoD and turning it into a Mass Effect type genre would be a disaster only because people expect a certain genre from the CoD series. Example - Sim Societies. If you want to create something new, make sure it is good and has an original title. So yes, Modern Warfare shouldn't be taken in a new direction, but naming it XYZ, from the creators of Modern Warfare, might do extremely well if its a good game.
    • Mostly I have to agree with you. You need a story and a basic premise which supports the choice of game types. Like turning the newer Fallout games into a FPS with close integration of RPG elements.

    • by dstyle5 ( 702493 )
      The first ME was more RPG than FPS, while ME2 focused more on "streamlining" out the RPG features and making it more of a FPS than an RPG. I hope they bring back more of the RPG depth of ME1 to ME3 since in their haste to streamline they overdid it, IMO. I also hope they focus the story more on a few central characters, I found ME2's to be too broad and therefore bland. Quality not quantity please BioWare.
      • Personally, I found the elements that were streamlined in ME2 were the ones I disliked in ME1. Mostly micromanaging your team's inventory. That spreadsheet aspect of most traditional RPGs can go fuck itself as far as I'm concerned. I also felt like ME2 had a bigger main story but less side quests. I personally liked this, as it meant that I saw most or all of the game more easily. In ME1, I was bombarded with random side quests triggered by overhearing announcements on elevators that I didn't give a sh
  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @01:46PM (#35796496)

    Any classification system, whether its writing, movies or games is inherently limiting. There have been constant attempts, even by big companies to blend genres. The 'action -rpg' which has more or less replaced the pure RPG of years ago. All of the first person shooter technology folding into action/rpg games. Then there's the whole notions of strategy, grand strategy and so on. Even older games like X-com blended economics, tactical games and a strategic overview (sort of a crappy RTS) with city building. Star wars galaxies glues space shooter onto whatever you want to call the ground combat side of things. Those are more combined genres, it is both A and B just in different places. But something like dawn of war is half RPG half RTS at the same time (Warcraft III did this as well, and to a lesser extent WC2).

    None of these classifications in gaming are particularly firm. One could also envision different (presumably better) classification systems. But changing how you define games comes with a huge consumer cost. I think you see more genre innovation in the casual space because 95% of them can fail. If you do that with call of duty, you take a big risk. Consumers have come to expect a particular type of experience, that's why they bought your product, don't mislead them into something else. And creating new IP is both hard and risky.

  • I'm not sure it's quite as dogmatic as the RPS article makes it.

    "Genre" descriptions are just that, generalizations that give you SOME idea of what you can expect in the package. If someone designs, say, a "racing" game, then yes, it's going to follow some of the genre tropes of racing. If it doesn't, then it self-evidently wouldn't be called a 'racing' game, no matter how much you wanted it to be so.

    If you design a racing game that's in a persistent world, where you level up your toon by participating i

  • Is a Tree a Tree, a Rock a Rock.

    Sorry to get all philosophical on you, but that is basically how we identify stuff and communicate with each other. Pretty basic stuff.

    The question if a good description is a good description is left up to the user.

  • I found it amusing that the key example the author of article chose as a game that cannot change is the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. This is one of the recent success stories of mainstream genre blurring! The Call of Duty series was growing stale, then the Modern Warfare branch was created which introduced persistent RPG elements (leveling, etc.) into the FPS genre (peanut butter meet chocolate). Far from an uproar, there was wide acclaim and commercial success. This is why Modern Warfare and it
  • Magic Carpet is, or was, a good example for a game that really was unique and would neither fit the FPS tag or the flight simulator tag or strategy tag.

  • Just like music, classification of a style allows artists to peruse that style within a set of guidelines to refine and perfect that style. When blues was first introduced, it was very much flapping in the wind with little form. Over the years it has become very ridged and an perfected.

    There is still plenty of room for experimentation and much like music there are indy artists trying to push the boundaries. Most sounds/plays like crap. But eventually something new and interesting will pop up... Which will a
  • I use to find it hard to imagine the type of person who seriously gets excited about each and every single realistic first person shooter that comes out, thinking that it was just the game developers who were out of touch with reality, then more and more I found there was a huge overlapping audience of people who are basically just gun nuts. They get off on the realistic sounds and models based off real fire-arms in games, and that is seriously enough for them to want to play these games.

    Speaking for the r
  • If they wanted to change the motif, instead of calling it Modern Warfare X3, they could just call it, "World of Modern Warfare"

  • by crossmr ( 957846 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @06:44PM (#35800724) Journal

    RPG hasn't meant RPG in..well..basically forever. Very few games that carry the RPG do so for any other reason than to try and lend credibility to their game. A very long time ago there was a great definition of RPG in a magazine, paraphrasing it went something like "An RPG is a game where you can make choices that have a meaningful and lasting impact on the game world"
    Buying a chair doesn't count.
    nor does picking whether your character uses a sword or a staff.

    From TFA

    “What if we were to include a way the player could develop their conversation skills, and open different paths?”

    This unfortunately is also not an RPG, but is what is passed off as one these days. Choosing to go down the left or right hallway isn't much in the way of roleplaying. Roleplaying has basically come to meant that you have stat points or a skill-tree. These unfortunately have nothing to actually do with roleplaying. They're a mechanic often used in a genuine roleplaying game, but roleplaying games exist without them, they don't make the game itself a roleplaying game.

    So if we've blurred genres, it may be because we have no idea what they are. Some are a very simple definition "First person shooter", but what if we're not shooting? What if it was a first person melee game?
    I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with genre blurring or games belonging to more than one genre. I think genres often simply describe the main gameplay mechanic, except for RPG. RPG gets passed around like a party favour at a biker rally, and garners about as much respect from the game industry.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger