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The Problem with Video Game Genres

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 12:07am

IAgreeWithYou

IAgreeWithYou

531 posts

Have you noticed that video games are the only time when a genre is defined by the core mechanics? I feel like this is very strange and is kind of a problem. For example, if you think of movies, what genre mentions the filming techniques? Not many.

The problem with defining the genre by the core mechanics is that games like Portal and CoD are (technically) in the same genre. However, we all know that isn't really the case.

So, why do we call genres in the video game industry "RPG", "FPS" or "Platformer" when we really should be calling them something else. I don't know, it has always really puzzled me.

 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 12:11am

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

9,761 posts

Have you noticed that video games are the only time when a genre is defined by the core mechanics?


And music
Specifically, Rock, Metal, and punk genres (and all their subgenres)
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 12:26am

ihsahn

ihsahn

431 posts

For example, if you think of movies, what genre mentions the filming techniques? Not many.
The problem is thinking of movies in the first place. "Filming techniques" are not an equivalent of core game mechanics. The core mechanics have everything to do with the presentation of the game and how it plays. They affect how it feels and handles.
Games are an interactive, non-linear medium, whereas films are linear and self-contained - you merely watch them. There is no equivalent in the classical arts, so we'd do well to stop trying to apply those standards to them. We have to stop thinking about games as movies. They're not the same thing at all.

I don't see a problem with classifying games in that way. I think it's actually way, way better than how many people classify movies and books, which is in terms of themes and settings rather than tone and approach. As if The Phantom Menace and Moon are similar films merely because they're both "sci-fi". No, one is cheap action and the other is a suspenseful drama. They just happen to be set in space.

It's not perfectly descriptive, but that's the price you pay with genres. They have to be kind of broad. You can't get too specific without breaking it apart in tiny little pieces, and then you've lost the point of having genres altogether.

Besides, I think your assessment of videogame genres is actually wrong. Case in point:
The problem with defining the genre by the core mechanics is that games like Portal and CoD are (technically) in the same genre.
I categorically disagree. Portal is a physics puzzler/platformer, while CoD is a first-person shooter. You can't divorce gameplay from genre identification.
"Oh they both shoot guns from a first-person perspective". That doesn't make them even remotely close to being in the same genre. And I believe that would be the point of view of a lot of gamers and critics.
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 12:27am

Mr_Sand

Mr_Sand

687 posts

ugh here we go again.

First off whats it to you? haha

Not all games have a genre, we as gamers think that we can define them into categories but really what there are is categories and sub categories like
Here are the main categories
RPG
Third Person
First Person Shooter
Real Time Strategy
Platformer
Racing

then you have your sub categories like
Action
Horror
Puzzle
Adventure
MMO
etcetera etcetera


So in your case

The problem with defining the genre by the core mechanics is that games like Portal and CoD are (technically) in the same genre.


Portal would be a First Person Puzzler/puzzle
COD Would be a First Person Shooter action game

The games are basically defined by 1-2 categories and a sub category
Fallout 3 would be a Role Playing Shooter defined as an action game
Dead Space would be a Third Person Shooter defined as a horror game
Team Fortress 2 would be a First Person Shooter action game
Farcry would be a First Person Shooter that borderlines the RPG aspect because of quests but turns more into an FPS action game.

So really it is quite simple to put games into categories
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 12:36am

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

9,761 posts

Here are the main categories
RPG
Third Person
First Person Shooter
Real Time Strategy
Platformer
Racing

then you have your sub categories like
Action
Horror
Puzzle
Adventure
MMO
etcetera etcetera


Main Categories
Action
Adventure
Strategy
Platformer
RPG
Racing
Horror
Puzzle
MMO

Sub-categories
Shooter
Real time strategy
Crime
Hack and Slash
Beat 'em up
Comedy
etc
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 1:40am

IAgreeWithYou

IAgreeWithYou

531 posts

Just quickly, I think that the problem is that we have to add 1 or 2 sub genres to get the game across. I am specifically looking as if we had to only have one genre. I think categories in general are inherently broken.

Well, let's have a look at steam and the genres that they offer.

Action
Adventure
Strategy
RPG
Indie
Massive Multiplayer
Casual
Simulation
Racing
Sports

Portal is a physics puzzler/platformer, while CoD is a first-person shooter. You can't divorce gameplay from genre identification.
"Oh they both shoot guns from a first-person perspective". That doesn't make them even remotely close to being in the same genre. And I believe that would be the point of view of a lot of gamers and critics.


They both have the same core mechanic (Shooting from a FP perspective). We know that Portal isn't a FPS game but (by the definitions that we decided) have to put it there. Also, according to steam they are both action adventure games.

I think we should define games for what we want from them. What experience are we looking for when we play Portal. instead ofcalling portal a FPS Puzzle Physics Platformer. we should stop talking about mechanics (Because there's way too many in some games to count) and instead look at what we wanted when we were going to play a game like Portal.

I also know that sometimes we do think we go to games for the core mechanic, but I think that we're not actually going for the core mechanic and instead for something deeper that we don't really know how to put on paper. The same reason why some people love CoD but hate BattleField. One is extremely fast paced and is more accesible, the other isn't. That's not a core mechanic but when we say we love FPS games we're probably saying we love something that is inside that genre that we can't really say.


ugh here we go again.

First off whats it to you? haha


I don't really know what you meant when you said this. Again? When was the first time?
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 2:05am

ihsahn

ihsahn

431 posts

I am specifically looking as if we had to only have one genre. I think categories in general are inherently broken.
They aren't, they're just made that way. The problem is what you're expecting from them. They're only meant to be descriptive up to a certain point. If you're so lazy you want to have categories that perfectly describe each game, you're gonna have a ton of categories and be really descriptive anyway.

We know that Portal isn't a FPS game but (by the definitions that we decided) have to put it there

No we don't! You've stubbornly decided that we have for no reason whatsoever. We KNOW it's not the right genre, we're not cosmically bound to put it there. Genres aren't devoid of cultural context, we know what an FPS is and Portal most definitely doesn't play like one of those.
Mechanics aren't everything that defines a genre, general gameplay aspects and objectives enter into it. What a game's central challenges and focus are. And that's because those are objective aspects. We can't categorize them on some abstract feeling that they might elicit. That's crazy talk.
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 2:09am

IAgreeWithYou

IAgreeWithYou

531 posts

No we don't! You've stubbornly decided that we have for no reason whatsoever. We KNOW it's not the right genre, we're not cosmically bound to put it there. Genres aren't devoid of cultural context, we know what an FPS is and Portal most definitely doesn't play like one of those.
Mechanics aren't everything that defines a genre, general gameplay aspects and objectives enter into it. What a game's central challenges and focus are. And that's because those are objective aspects. We can't categorize them on some abstract feeling that they might elicit. That's crazy talk.


So you agree that our genres aren't correct. FPS is a incredibly vague concept. Even though Portal has the mechanics of a FPS it is not an FPS game. Therefore we need to fix our genres to accurately portray the experience that we get from the game despite the core mechanics being the same.
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 7:56am

ihsahn

ihsahn

431 posts

So you agree that our genres aren't correct. FPS is a incredibly vague concept. Even though Portal has the mechanics of a FPS it is not an FPS game. Therefore we need to fix our genres to accurately portray the experience that we get from the game despite the core mechanics being the same.
No! Your representation of game genres isn't correct. You need to fix what you call Portal. There isn't a massive systematic misunderstanding about this. Nobody calls it an FPS. Just you, right now.
 

Posted Apr 24, '13 at 9:32am

IAgreeWithYou

IAgreeWithYou

531 posts

Alright let's slow down. I don't think Portal is a FPS game. It does however have a core mechanic that is linked with the genre FPS.

In Portal you are in first person and you shoot a gun. The game's entire engine would be vastly different if you took that out of the game.

First Person Shooting is an aspect of Portal. It plays nothing like what we define as a FPS, so we don't call it that.

The point I'm trying to make has nothing to do with Portal. I have a problem because we say "plays nothing like". The fact that we have to change where something fits in because of how it plays is a problem with how we categorize games. Even though we say FPS we're actually looking for something else in the game.

 
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