Game Genres Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Video games have a different “genre” format than other media and it makes things confusing for both the publishers and the buyers.

In books and movies the genre is based on story type.  Most people prefer one type of story (or several types) and dislike other settings and genres.  Place the story in medieval times and you will make one group of people happy, place it in outer-space and make a different group happy, make it real world, modern times and make a completely different group happy.  Some people love space operas, others love action sci-fi.  Still others love sci-fi mysteries.  For me personally a story can be sci-fi but I prefer fantasy (magic over tech).    The thing the game industry (and gamers) have missed is that those same genres also apply to video games.

I am a sucker for 1940’s mysteries in books, movies, and also in games.  Set pretty much any game in the 1940’s and you have caught my interest.  Even if it is not a type of game I like to play I will still watch someone else play for the sake of the setting.

In gaming people use the word “genre” for mechanics instead of story type and setting.  We already have  book genres and  movie genres that are very similar and give the  consumer a sense of whether this book or that movie suits their taste.   We are missing the fact that people play video games not only for mechanics (video game genres) but also for the style/aesthetics/story.  So essentially people who enjoy space drama in books and movies will move towards  space drama in video games.  People who prefer epic fantasy in books will enjoy the same in a game.  I personally love tower defense games but I love sci-fi and fantasy and hate war stories– guess which tower defense games I am not interested in.

Instead of just assuming someone will like a game based on the video game genre  I think we need to include setting/story type and possibly art type (like movies do) because games are more complex than movies and books.  We need to use the preexisting media genres, or at least a close proximity, to define setting in a way that will actually describe the game so people will know whether it is what they are looking for.  For instance:  Mass Effect is  sci fi, WoW is fantasy, L.A. Noire is mystery.  Then take the preexisting game genres and add those for game mechanics.  Instead of just “first person shooter” we would have “fantasy first person shooter set in Victorian London”, instead of  “RPG” we would have “anime fantasy RPG set in an alternate world”,  and instead of “life simulation” we would have  “real world life simulation set in modern time”.  Sure it makes the explanation longer but it gives a much clearer picture of what the game is.  There is a huge difference between a FPS set in outer space, a FPS set in the Korean War, and an FPS set in Middle Earth.  

Now someone needs to make an FPS set in Middle Earth because I would be all over that.

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