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The Problem with Video Game Genres

Posted Apr 25, '13 at 10:41am

Mr_Sand

Mr_Sand

687 posts

This really seems disjointed. You're saying that just because Portal is called an adventure game by someone you won't play other adventure games.


Actually what I mean is that Portal is not really an adventure game. Portal 2 is but not really Portal and if I was to go by genre without ever looking at the games then I would see that Fable 3 and Portal are both adventure games. And I might get fable 3 and be disappointed because it is a third person rpg.

2. If our starting categories were better in the first place then we wouldn't need that many sub categories.

Exactly, you are right because if you go on Steams website and online store and go to find games by genre you get this
Action:
A wide array of indie and platformer games
RPGs third person and First person alike
Counter Strike
Call of Duty

Then you go to Adventure and you get nearly the same thing without Call of Duty and Counter Strike

Steam considers any game that is a first person shooter to be an action game. But there is a separate RPG tab which is good.
But still Skyrim and Fallout 3 both end up being adventure rpg games.
Which means that maybe another category for games that are now and future and games that are in the past
 

Posted Apr 25, '13 at 6:51pm

KentyBK

KentyBK

555 posts

OP seems to be making a big deal out of a problem that doesn't actually exist.

Let's clear something up about core mechanics first:

They both have the same core mechanic (Shooting from a FP perspective).


Literally every single game has its own set of core mechanics and it's almost never just a single one. Core mechanics, in game design terms, are the fundamental aspect of a game which every othr layer builds from. To put it simply, if you come up with appropriate verbs for every single gameplay related action a player can do (so "selecting a menu option" doesn't count ;P) , *those* would be your core mechanics.

The thing we need to remember when talking about genres is that they don't represent certain core mechanics (since those can exist indipendently of the genre), but rather specific genre conventions.

First-person Shooter doesn't just stand for "shooting", which is why we can easily see why Portal and COD belong in different genres. It also stands for actual armed combat against enemies, using guns. Of course, over time, more things get added or removed to a certain genre definition as the medium evolves (like say regenerating health), but we can never simplify an entire genre down to a core mechanic.

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.


Literally all types of media do this. Book genres have their own sub-genres. So do movies. So does music.

As weird as this sounds, the best way to explain it is via biology. Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. It's the "genres" of real life so to speek. The same idea is applied to video games. It can belong to multiple groups.


The irony here is that the analogy kinda goes straight against your argument. If even life itself is heavily fragmented into sub-genres (which is obviously what these are, because taxonomic ranks build off of each other), I don't see how games doing the same is wrong.
Side note: Every living organism always belongs to exactly one of these, never multiple.

A good example is RPG. Role Playing Game. If you take that literally than you could say that is half the games on the market. However, we know that isn't true and instead define it by how we play.


Except we don't because there's a specific definition of what a role playing game is (hint: it's not just playing a role).

2. If our starting categories were better in the first place then we wouldn't need that many sub categories.


This doesn't work. If you have super precise "starting conditions", you'll end up with a million of them anyway, because you need to make new ones for games that don't fit your criteria.
Not to mention you haven't actually given any sort of example what a better genre classification for games would be.
 

Posted Apr 25, '13 at 10:39pm

IAgreeWithYou

IAgreeWithYou

531 posts

You know, if someone wants to start a conversation rather than an argument.

"Why are Video game genres called what they are?"

Instead of trying to make me look like an idiot. It was what I kind of intended the subject to be about but I stated my opinion like it was fact and it wasn't a very agreeable opinion.

OP seems to be making a big deal out of a problem that doesn't actually exist.


I have a name too. I'm not saying this is a huge problem. I've never once used the word huge. Sure, it doesn't mean anything in the long run, but I am curious as to why we still use these genres. In fact, this actually doesn't mean anything at all. I really just want to have a conversation.

The thing we need to remember when talking about genres is that they don't represent certain core mechanics (since those can exist indipendently of the genre), but rather specific genre conventions


I agree with you Kenty. In fact, I've said it in several of my posts. However where we don't agree is I think we should be naming our genres with these "genre conventions" in mind rather than disguising them under vague terms that people (outside of gaming) would find it hard to understand.

Except we don't because there's a specific definition of what a role playing game is (hint: it's not just playing a role).


You're missing my point. I think that's a problem. We should call it what it actually means (make something up?) so that we don't stick with the same name that has become to mean something very different.

If we did make a name up we could use that to mean a whole variety of aspects. That way there are big chunks of mechanics hidden under one name, but we actually know what they mean. We all know what a RPG is, but wouldn't it be better if we could actually put that on paper with a different name?

The irony here is that the analogy kinda goes straight against your argument. If even life itself is heavily fragmented into sub-genres (which is obviously what these are, because taxonomic ranks build off of each other), I don't see how games doing the same is wrong.
Side note: Every living organism always belongs to exactly one of these, never multiple.


I think you're talking to a different guy here. (We have the same armatar).

This doesn't work. If you have super precise "starting conditions", you'll end up with a million of them anyway, because you need to make new ones for games that don't fit your criteria.
Not to mention you haven't actually given any sort of example what a better genre classification for games would be.


When did I say "Super precise" at all? Just because I want less sub genres does not mean we have to make everything precise. As for how I would classify games, I don't have an example (I know, I know) but I think we should do it on what you go into a game searching for. Some genres are actually good at this. Others are kind of confusing. What I really want to do is have those "genre conventions" written down (still subject to change) and the titles completely changed. We can still have the same old categories but when they are clearly defined things probably turn out different. This is probably a bad way to do it because the gaming world is changing so fast it'd start getting difficult to keep things up to date. Of course we will still have sub genres, but that's not a problem in my opinion. However, many sites don't offer sub genres and if we could instead be able to easily find similar games in the same category, I think that'd be better.
 

Posted Apr 25, '13 at 10:42pm

IAgreeWithYou

IAgreeWithYou

531 posts

Sorry, but I forgot to adress this.

Literally all types of media do this. Book genres have their own sub-genres. So do movies. So does music.


In the post you quoted I literally said I think categories in general are broken and should be following something else.
 

Posted Apr 26, '13 at 12:02am

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

9,700 posts

OP seems to be making a big deal out of a problem that doesn't actually exist.


Not really. Like I've stated before..he is just trying to bring about a discussion about genres that others have been turning into a big deal.
 

Posted Apr 26, '13 at 8:57am

KentyBK

KentyBK

555 posts

However where we don't agree is I think we should be naming our genres with these "genre conventions" in mind rather than disguising them under vague terms that people (outside of gaming) would find it hard to understand.


The problem with that is that genre conventions also change over time. So if we named our genres after them, we'd have to adjust them every time a major shift happens.

Not to mention, sometimes conventions themselves can be very specifc, so we wouldn't necessarily make it easier for people outside the medium.

You're missing my point. I think that's a problem. We should call it what it actually means (make something up?) so that we don't stick with the same name that has become to mean something very different.

If we did make a name up we could use that to mean a whole variety of aspects. That way there are big chunks of mechanics hidden under one name, but we actually know what they mean. We all know what a RPG is, but wouldn't it be better if we could actually put that on paper with a different name?


Not really, because all you'd be doing at that point is changing around words.

Even if you change the words themselves, their meaning will inevitably change over time and you'd have the same exact problem. It's how language works in general. Useful words are kept and evolve (hooray for more biology anylogies!) while the not so useful words are discarded.

So basically, if you want to rename genres, you'll have to actually come up with some examples. If they're good, people will adopt them.

I think you're talking to a different guy here. (We have the same armatar).


http://sae.tweek.us/static/images/emoticons/emot-doh.gif And this is what I get for posting late at night. Sorry about that one.

Just because I want less sub genres does not mean we have to make everything precise.


Here's the thing: If we rename and make new definitions for genres, we obviously have to assign all the currently existing games to these new genres. But in order to actually reduce the number of sub-genres, we'd have to rework the definitions such that they can now include games that originally belonged to a different sub-genre.
And that's the problem: reducing the number of sub-genres would inevitably mean the new definitions would be less precise and more general....which doesn't seem like the thing you want.
If we instead make the definitions more precise (which would be similar to , we have to eventually create new ones, because there'll be games that don't fit our new definitions. Which would lead to more sub-genres. Which again doesn't seem like the thing you want.

I think we should do it on what you go into a game searching for.


Which most people do via sub-genres.

In the post you quoted I literally said I think categories in general are broken and should be following something else.


My point was that if they actually were broken, we wouldn't see them still being used for literally everything.
 

Posted Apr 26, '13 at 11:10am

Xzeno

Xzeno

2,354 posts

This one time I thought genres were meaningless. Then I learned how to think with inheritance and Venn diagrams. Defining genre by core mechanic over something trivial like content seems right to me. Like how all writing is poetry or prose (mutually exclusive) based on its mechanical nature. Or how all poems are lyric, dramatic or epic based on a clear set of mechanical traits. Maybe I'll expand on this when I get to a keyboard.

 

Posted Apr 26, '13 at 12:24pm

jeol

jeol

3,987 posts

First-person Shooter doesn't just stand for "shooting", which is why we can easily see why Portal and COD belong in different genres. It also stands for actual armed combat against enemies, using guns. Of course, over time, more things get added or removed to a certain genre definition as the medium evolves (like say regenerating health), but we can never simplify an entire genre down to a core mechanic.

Not exactly. Since when did shooting have to involve hurting people? You shoot portals out of a portal gun. It's a first-person shooter.

Though, I suppose I agree; it's rather silly that they're considered in the same genre, especially when considering that CoD is mostly about war and Portal is mostly about science. It's mostly up to the reader's interpretation, I guess. If you go to look at a game, usually you'll be able to tell Portal is not the standard FPS from terms like 'puzzle' and 'portals'.

And anyways, games differ greatly enough from one another that looking for a particular game design might proffer a wide range of results, like the FPS genre. It's not so much that certain games don't go in certain categories, because Portal does belong in the FPS genre... It's just what else is defined in it. While FPS might yield titles like Portal, CoD, Halo, Crysis, Borderlands, and so on, you could also add 'war' into the mix or some such, and that would cut it down to the latter four, and 'futuristic' to the latter three. You could call Portal just a puzzle game, but that doesn't regard the fact that it also happens to be an FPS, and puts it in the same bucket as Minesweeper and Solitaire. Sure, it's the same in principle, but entirely different in mechanics. It's all about the tags you apply to it.

Just look in the Action category above. Five of the nine featured games involve a lot of shooting, and yet there is a shooting category. That's where Venn diagrams become incredibly effective.
 

Posted Apr 26, '13 at 1:07pm

KentyBK

KentyBK

555 posts

Not exactly. Since when did shooting have to involve hurting people? You shoot portals out of a portal gun. It's a first-person shooter.


How about ever since everyone else uses it to describe first person shooters? It's not exactly something new that first person shooters stand for specific kinds of games.
The reason portal isn't considered an FPS is because the shooting isn't the main point of the game. It's the platforming, puzzle solving and the portal mechanic itself. If every first person game that involved some form of shooting were a FPS, you might as well add Skyrim, because I sure remember shooting some arrows and fire balls in that one.

Just look in the Action category above. Five of the nine featured games involve a lot of shooting, and yet there is a shooting category. That's where Venn diagrams become incredibly effective.

http://sae.tweek.us/static/images/emoticons/emot-ssh.gif Shooting games are a sub-genre of Action games.
 
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