Genre Crisis

Have you ever noticed the difference between the kinds of genres in games, and the kinds of genres in… everything else?

In fiction (books, movies, graphic novels, etc.), genres are divided up based on the kinds of stories that they tell, and the kinds of worlds those stories take place in. Sci-fi, action, fantasy, steampunk, crime, horror, mystery, urban fantasy, speculative fiction, romance, thriller…

But in games, the genres are exclusively based around the mechanics of the game. Side-scroller, platformer, RPG, first-person-shooter, action-adventure, puzzle, MOBA, turn-based tactical, real-time strategy, visual novel, text-adventure, MMORPG…

Why do we do this? I suppose it’s because what usually matters in a game is how you interact with it. Still, it’s odd that you get fans that absolutely love real-time-strategies regardless of the story content, and on the flip-side you get people who adore high-fantasy regardless of the format (book, movie, etc.)

Just about any story genre can be cleanly mapped to any game genre. It’s quite possible to have a steampunk RPG, or a mystery side-scroller (ok, well perhaps not a romance first-person shooter :). But what about this:

Do you think there will ever be a genre of story that can only be represented with a certain game genre? Could there ever be a genre of game that only works with a certain story genre?



3 thoughts on “Genre Crisis

  1. I can’t definitivly say that there are story genres that only work with certain game genres. Yet, most people would probably agree that there are game genres that are more suited for certain story genres. A shooter can be made to be a comedy, but it makes more sense as an action or adventure game. Understanding these correlations, and finding ways to skew them purposely, could be a good boost to those that hope to make video games with good stories.

  2. I think the genre diversity in “everything else” is because they are all interested in telling a story first, just using different mediums. But many games are trying to deliver a game-like experience first, and then use story elements to enhance that experience.

    So you will always have to handle the question, ‘Is it fun to play?’ in addition to questions about character and plot. I see this as a process of maturation for games in general, a little like comic books moving from strips and super heroes to become graphic novels that can tell any story. Or like pulp novels and penny dreadfuls that each told a very specific kind of tale at their outset, evolving into a more general ‘paperback book’ that can deliver any story.

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