When does a thing stop being that thing.
A Genre is a broad term to try and classify. You start to create titles and classifiers and begin to find that many of those classifiers that you use to try and segregate can still be used in conjunction with another to classify something new. Look at games for example. There are very few games that have distinct classifiers that segregate themselves from other games.
Call of Duty: First Person Shooter, Online Multiplayer. Ok, not that hard. Does it have a story? It has a single player mode with a story, yes. Call of Duty: First Person Shooter, Online Multiplayer, Story-Based. Does it have Cooperative modes? Sometimes. Call of Duty: First Person Shooter, Online Multiplayer, Story-Based, Cooperative. What time era is this? This is largely fiction or non-fiction? Are all First Person Shooters like this? Are all Story-Based games First Person Shooters? Do all First Person Shooters have Cooperative play? We can actually keep adding onto the genre listing for a quite a bit.
And we have to keep making more and more qualifiers to describe a game because we can’t make assumptions about genres anymore, nor was it ever a good idea to start. It’s like trying to classify movies as either drama or comedy. For there to be tension, there needs to be drama and struggle, choice and impact. Action movies have drama. Sports movies have drama. Documentaries have drama. If a comedy didn’t have drama then it would literally be a movie with only stand-up. No, that’s not fair either because good stand-up, storytelling or joke telling, still builds tension and releases it conveying the drama of the situation. The only clear lines you can draw are ones like Animated or not, and even those have movies that blend the genres together like Heavy Metal (1981).
It makes sense to use genres as a form of describing a game’s parts, but it’s not that easy to let genres describe a game’s whole.
Maybe it should be like the ingredients listed on the back of food packages. You list the parts of the game in order of greatest elements used. 80% First Person Shooter, 5% Racial Slurs, 60% Online Multiplayer, 20% Single Player list as: First Person Shooter, Online Multiplayer, Single Player, Racial Slurs, Your Mom Jokes.
The whole point of creating genres was to make classifying easy, finding all of the elements that compose that genre and make games that fit that form, or in small cases blend the two forms together. Action, Adventure, Beat-em-up, Platforming, Puzzle, Racing, Sports, Shooter. But this is a bit constricting, don’t you think? Just because we come up with genres doesn’t mean that these are the only ways that a game can be made. Rhythm puzzle games. Massive Multiplayer Online First Person Shooters. Quake-style arena Brawler. Dungeon Crawling Town Defense. Finding two genres to mash their playdoh together is getting easier and easier to find, it just takes a matter of effort and reimagining to do it. That doesn’t mean that all mashups will work together, but it might take a few tries to find how mashing them up would work best.
Genres don’t make sense to classify anymore, only to describe. So let’s find a language that we can agree on and maybe those descriptions can be meaningful again, like how genres used to be.
Blaugust Day 25