[Click for all books]
Armchair ArcadePromote Your Page Too
Keep in mind, however, that one of the beauties of gaming is that many games donâ€™t fit neatly into one specific category.
No kidding! It seems rare these days that a game comes out that doesn't claim to have elements from dozens of genres.
I've often thought about genre in relation to videogames, but there's a whole subfield of literature called "genre studies." I found a nice introduction to the subject by Daniel Chandler that looks quite interesting. I think this quote from Robert Stam really asks the right questions:
A number of perennial doubts plague genre theory. Are genres really 'out there' in the world, or are they merely the constructions of analysts? Is there a finite taxonomy of genres or are they in principle infinite? Are genres timeless Platonic essences or ephemeral, time-bound entities? Are genres culture-bound or transcultural?... Should genre analysis be descriptive or proscriptive?
I've tended to see genre as more essential for marketing purposes than critical analysis. It's nice to have a convenient label to group together similar games--that way, if you like Game X, you may also like Games Y and Z, which follow the same formula. It's also a nice way to get a bunch of information about a game rapidly. If we hear, "Oh, it's a platformer," we already know a great deal about it from our experience with other games of that description.
There seems to be a constant tug-of-war between originality and innovation regarding these genres. No developer wants to call his new game "just another first-person shooter." There always has to be some gimmick that distinguishes it from the competition. On the other hand, consumers always seem to want more of the same, since they don't want to take a big risk buying a game that doesn't meet their expectations. It's really interesting how each new game in a series will meet with varying degrees of enthusiasm and hostility among the fan base. Is it "true" to the series, or has it "ruined" it?
It's also intriguing to think that "genres" seem to be constructed by imitators rather than innovators. A popular new type of game comes out (say, Garriott's Akalabeth), and eventually dozens of imitators appear that mimic it, often making subtle improvements (or new mistakes). Eventually, for the sake of convenience, all of these imitative and derivative games are slapped with the same label.
At any rate, it's nice to ask the question, "Where are genres?" Are they in the minds of players, developers, critics, retailers, or some combination of all of these? At what point does a CRPG cease being a CRPG and become something else? What are the "essential elements" of each genre that simply must be present? Is it enough, for instance, for a game to have some kind of experience point/leveling up system to be classified as a CRPG? Does it matter whether the game's theme is sci-fi, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, or Western? Are fantasy based games perhaps "truer" to the genre than games like Fall Out and Wasteland? What about that Gauntlet series?
At some point, it seems that all attempts to classify games under discrete "genres" are doomed. There is just too much blending and merging going on for such a scheme ever to work. At best, they can help us see games from different perspectives. For example, looking at Tomb Raider as an adventure game yields one set of criteria, whereas looking at a 3D platform game yields another, and puzzle game yet another. Likewise, to what extent is any game NOT some form of "simulation?" Even Tetris might be a realistic simulation of some "otherworldly" machine, and arguably all arcade ports "simulate" the original arcade game. At worst, I think, such efforts can actually hurt our understanding and cause us to ignore or even condemn what we see as deviations. For instance, calling Cinemaware's Wings game a "flight simulator" really seems to conceal what the game is really about. I could point out many other instances, such as calling The Last Ninja a "fighter game." Sure, there's fighting, but is that really the most important part of the game? By the time we start having to use two or three labels to identify a game, I have to question the usefulness of any of them. Well, it's a sports/action/shooter/adventure/fighter/simulator.
That said, there is obviously something out there that answers to the name "shooter game," though I doubt we could never hammer out exactly what it is about a game that makes it the "perfect" example of such a game. What's closer to the ideal: Space Invaders, Galaxian, Galaga, Zaxxon, Hybris, Duck Hunt, Star Wars, Spy Hunter, Xenon?
Even with "platform" games, there seems to be some confusion with games like Green Beret, Rolling Thunder, RoboCop, and Walker. Are these shooters or platformers? Or somewhere in between? :-)
Nevertheless, I can't imagine trying to analyze games without recourse to such labels, simply because everyone knows to some extent what they mean. They provide us with a language, no matter how ambiguous, to talk about games.
More information about formatting options
All editorial content © 2003 - 2013 Armchair Arcade, Inc., an Armchair Creative Services, L.L.C., property. All rights reserved unless otherwise indicated. All trademarks and copyrights are retained by their respective owners. No content is to be removed or reused from the Armchair Arcade Website for commercial purposes without explicit permission from the principal Armchair Arcade staff, or the original trademark or copyright holders. Armchair Arcade, Inc., is not responsible for the content of any external sources or links. Further, endorsement of any external sources or links is neither implied nor suggested.