Modern Genres

Last night at around 1 AM I finally got to have the unique experience of saying something about someone behind their back then finding out that they're sitting right there. All I said about the person in question was that I'd prefer if the person I was talking to (that I happen to get along with pretty well) ran a certain Q&A column than him, because the one conversation I had with said person gave me a bad impression of him. Not that he came off as a jerk or anything, I just hate it when I try to get in a debate with someone and they just shrug me off.

Now then, on a more or less unrelated topic, I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine yesterday about videogame genres. It started with me asking him how he defines the term RPG. His definition was simply, it has EXP. This, in my opinion is a terrible definition. I mean, by that, Castlevania 2 is an RPG while this game I'm working on here is not.

I then gave him my definition, which I will explain in detail since my rants have been getting too short. In my mind is a standard example for each genre. I judge place a game into the same genre as the standard example it comes closest to. If you're really nosy, here are my personal examples:

  • Action: Super Mario Bros. (Also known as Platform)
  • RPG: Phantasy Star
  • Action/RPG: Zelda
  • Shooting: Gradius (or one of those, let's face it, they're all the same)
  • Puzzle: Tetris
  • Text Adventure: Zork
  • Graphic Adventure: Maniac Mansion

There's also ones for stuff like racing, sports, strategy, etc. but who cares. You may also notice that my examples are all the first games of their respective genres (and don't get me started on the PS/DW debate right now!). The reason for that is probably that creating a genre is innovation enough, so there's no need to try to fuse it with another genre. More recently, everyone seems to be trying to blend genres together, mostly by adding RPG elements. Therefore my friend was wondering if eventually all genres will completely blend together. To this I had two replies. First, that would be fine by me as long as they were LONG games, and second, it's not so much a question of all genres are blending together as one of needing new genre labels. Therefore I present to you...

The 32/64 bit videogame genres!

  • RPG: An RPG is an RPG. Period. It is a very clear and concise concept. A game either is an RPG or it isn't. If for some reason you can't tell if some game is an RPG, just compare it to the original Phantasy Star, since it pretty much defined the genre. However, there's also the whole evolution of the genre business, so feel free to use FF7 instead with it's involving (well, relatively at least) plot and occasional cutscenes.
  • Roaming: Super Mario 64, Zelda 64, and Mystical Ninja (64) all provide exellent examples of this. Roaming games are basically a fusion of Action and Action/RPG. I've heard of some games like this for other systems, but I've never layed one personally. The point is, it's a lot easier to call something Roaming than trying to classify it as Action or Action/RPG.
  • Fighting: The original Fighting Game is basically Street Fighter 2, which itself evolved from Double Dragon clones which evolved from side scrollers. Anyway, I've never heard anyone call something a fighting game unless that's what it is.
  • RTS: I believe the first Real Time Strategy game was WarCraft, but there's also Command and Conquer, StarCraft, Dune (actually, Dune probably beat out WC since it was for Genesis)...
  • Strategy/RPG: I could also call this a Tactical RPG I suppose. Some people call this sort of game RPGs but they really deserve there own genre. The original is Shining Force, but I'm sure more of you have played Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre. Come to think of it, aside from Vandal Hearts and Kartia, that's all I can think of at the momment, well, aside from my current project that is. 8) Oh, there's also Dragon Force I suppose.
  • Competitive Puzzle: I think technically the first of these was certain versions of Tetris or Dr. Mario, but the primary example is, I think, Bust-a-Move, or to use it's better Japanese title, Puzzle Bobble. This covers all those games where 2 people mess with little colored blocks while super chibi anime characters dance arond and scream to distract them.
  • Rythim: The first of the is PaRappa, and it also covers Enix's Bust-a-Move, which I believe was translated as Groove not move due to what you just read like 5 seconds ago. This genre really freaks me out because in addition to the only available examples being hideously disturbing in and of themselves, they seem to exude these strang siren songs making it almost impossible to trn away if someone is playing one. Actually, come to think of it, the original Rythim game is actually Simon. You all remember Simon, right? Beep beep boop boop beep! Beep beep boop beep BRRRR!
  • Doom Clone:The original Doom Clone is Wolfenstein (betcha thought I'd say Doom), bt people tend to say Doom clone because it's faster. You have some guns, you run around shooting everything and occassionally have to find a switch or or key. Those don't count as puzzles by the way, so no calling Doom Clones Action/RPGs, RPGs, Adventures, or anything else like that. Oh, and by the way, Tomb Raider IS a Doom Clone. In fact it's a terrible Doom Clone, horrifically bad controls, terrible graphics (and don't say for it's time they were good, I said they were terrible the day the game came out) with very little useful information, and the badguys are pretty scattered.
  • Action/Adventure: This is more commonly known as Survival Horror, but that term makes a lot of people laugh, and mine's more accurate for these purposes. Basically, you just take an adventure game, add in action elements (combat, running), and tone down the puzzles. Toning down the puzzles WOULD bother me except that it's all in the name of pacing. As long as the puzzles have enough of an impact that I'm more concerned with them than the action stuff it's fine. Well, if they follow the golden rule of adventure too. That being, the puzzles make sense in context! Which by the way is why I hate Myst with a Passion.
  • Racing: No comment here.
  • Sports: Or here.

That pretty much covers it. There's still the occasional freak that refuses to be labled, Diablo for example. It uses an RTS engine, is almost exclusively multiplayer, and yet you only get one character and it has a few RPG elements. Then there's still some throwbacks, like Shadowgate 64, but for the most part these cover everything. Oh, and if you want, you can give Myst and it's clones their own little genre, say, Point and Click Adventure, but they are such terrible games that I don't want to talk about them today. There's other little genres I just don't feel like talking about today since they've been unchanged forever and not very popular.

One last thing before I let you go. With new consoles around the corner, I'm probably going to have to redefine these genres, but in the meantime here's a couple predictions: Doom Clone is going to be completely absorbed by Roaming and Action/Adventure (yielding some gorey roaming and terrible Action/Adventures), and we'll probably get some cool new stuff like, say, Squad Strategy games. Like RTS but with a Doom Clone style view. Actually, I think there already is something like that, if not, I'll have to make one. 8)

and now...

a pic which is arguably scary...

although I toned it down today due to all the screams last time's yielded...

my usual appologies...

I suppose you could guess about the originals, but they're pretty darned obvious today...

last chance...

here it is...

All site contents © 1997-2010 Jake Alley except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved.