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Genre Boundary Blurring: "I Didn't Expect THAT To Be In Here"

There was a time when classifying video games was much easier.

During the early days, there were only a few different genres. And even when the industry began to expand to include well-known genres today (like survival/horror, real-time strategy, etc.), it still wasn't too tough. Nowadays, though, given the increased technology, developers have fewer limitations and as a result, we're starting to see mechanics and systems from multiple genres landing in one game.

This month's Darksiders II includes a little of everything; hack 'n slash combat, puzzle/adventure elements, platforming, and even hardcore role-playing depth. It's a blending that I will analyze in full when I write the review but for now, it has made me think: The lines between genres are really getting blurry, aren't they? What happens when a straight-up action game starts using experience and levels? What about when the stealth fans are torn when faced with MGS4, because an action-oriented approach is suddenly an option? What about platformers mixed with shooting; a perfect example of which has been the excellent Ratchet & Clank series?

I mean, how do we even classify something like R&C or Darksiders II these days? And what about the games that are doing all sorts of different things, like Heavy Rain and even Catherine? Sure, the latter is puzzle-oriented but is it not also a story-driven drama? And after mentioning survival/horror, we have to look at Dead Space and go, "okay, it's definitely horror, but isn't it more third-person action now?" We're seeing developers make up new genres to go with their new products, like Capcom saying Resident Evil 6 is "dramatic horror" and Quantic Dream saying Heavy Rain is more like "intellectual interactive drama." Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?

The question is, what do you think about this? We all have our preferences but with so much mixing and blending going on, it's getting harder and harder to look around for new games and definitively say to ourselves, "yeah, I'll definitely like that." Borderlands 2 is another good upcoming example. Shooter? RPG? We've seen an RPG and shooter blend before (Deus Ex, anyone?) but even then, it doesn't work, because Borderlands 2 will play nothing like last year's Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Oh, and then there's the upcoming Hitman: Absolution; like MGS4, it will apparently give you a choice, but do stealth purists like that...?

And lastly, even after playing and loving the genre for many years, I have no interest in getting into an argument concerning the exact definition of "role-playing game." You can talk yourself blue in the face and in the end, nobody will have a clearer understanding of what an RPG really is. But that sort of argument has been around for a long time (probably started about the time Nintendo fans wanted to call Zelda an RPG, which I still can't stand), and it has only recently spread to other genres. I just wonder what the future will bring because the blurring only appears to be getting more and more prevalent with each passing year.

Assassin's Creed, Bioshock, even Uncharted and God of War...I'm just not sure anymore if we can accurately and beyond all shadow of a doubt put them into one particular category. Just look at Dishonored; that game has a ton of different elements! It's getting nutty.

Tags: video games, gamin genres, game categories, gaming industry

8/6/2012 8:51:53 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (18 posts)

Monday, August 06, 2012 @ 9:30:31 PM

I think this was a huge mistake for the generation to take. Rather than have incestuous games that that do a few things well we could have really great games that do old genres fantastically. Ahem (FF).

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 12:02:00 AM

It's rumoured that FFXV will be a "Role Playing FPS Kart-Racing Adventure Platforming Puzzle Motion-Controlled Dating Simulator".

Last edited by ZenChichiri on 8/7/2012 12:02:13 AM

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 3:44:07 AM

@Zen Chichiri,

You just brightened up my day, man! =D dating simulator xDDDD

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Monday, August 06, 2012 @ 9:50:00 PM

Awesome. I like the picture of DSII. I think this game is gonna be great!

EDIT: and Rage is another one of those tough to classify games.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 8/6/2012 9:51:13 PM

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Monday, August 06, 2012 @ 9:58:37 PM

I also don't think there should really be any rules for how a game is designed. If it works, it works. If it doesn't it doesn't. I see it sort of like the culinary arts. If it tastes bad, pass. If it tastes good, keep. You just mix crap together and cook it right and you might come up with good stuff.
So while you'll always get those boring wackos who like their Cheerios plain and their pizza with only cheese I'll take extra helpings of the more exquisite stuff.

and aren't genres just the blanketed game play category people label for something when everyone is copying each other? You'd think if there was more originality and less template-based design their couldn't really be a genre defined in terms of game design. INstead, something else. Say, like how movies do it... well, i think that's how movies do it... i dunno

Last edited by Temjin001 on 8/6/2012 9:59:32 PM

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Monday, August 06, 2012 @ 11:10:40 PM

Im happy developers aren't limiting themselves.. Assassins Creed is the best new series this gen(imo) I love the open world,rpg elements,exploration,action,stealth etc. I really like that Hitman is branching out as well.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 1:32:29 AM

I have no issue what so ever with the blurring lines. To me it is a dream come true, as a kid I always remember thinking, what if this game had that, and that game had this, and now it has become a full fledged reality.

I still hope one day that a dev will put together a super-server that can handle dozens of different style games within that one mega-server. What I mean is imagine a Grand Theft Auto style world, only a hundred times bigger and with actual insides to the buildings. Now you have the stadiums all over that can be for the sports players, restaurants can have little games in them like "Diner Dash", FPS/TPS can have whole battlefields to play on(that are or are not limited to the field), driving games is easily worked in. And now for the kicker you can play all of these different games either within or not within the server, meaning that if you choose not to play in the server it just makes it so no one can interupt your game(so similar to what we have now). However if you are playing a Madden style game and choose to play within the server someone from the GTA or FPS part can literally interupt your game. And I mean someone who is say flying a jet or helicopter can fire missiles right into your ongoing game, talk about a handicap :) The little restaurant games could have the GTA players come in and rob them, or even ask for a job...The combonations would really only be limited by the devs and what the servers could handle.

And when I say different style games I mean it! Each game would be sold seperatly as either a disc-based or downloadable title so that the devs could both make money and continue to grow the SUPERgame. Yeah I know it is a dream but we really aren't that far away from that becoming a possibility(crosses fingers).

All I know is that the blurring of genres really is suitable to me and the only issue I have is when I try and describe a/the game to somebody, but that is also what youtube is for.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 1:39:08 AM

As long as it is done *right* I have no problem with this. It kind of enables you to do that last tweaking of the game to your preferences.

Deus Ex is used as one example, I'd like to add Crysis as another. The maps in both these games are designed for both stealth and head-on strategies, and the AI designed to tackle both. That's just awesome imo.

Last edited by Beamboom on 8/7/2012 2:53:03 AM

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 8:37:38 AM

I agree , especially for someone who like both play style .It make replaying the game so much fun .

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 1:43:53 PM

Ah yes of course - replay value is another great argument for.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 3:39:13 AM

Yeah. The end of your article basically sums it up for me.

If devs could muster up some strength and call it just one genre name thay'd be alienating a possible custom from someone who prefers a mix of words to describe a genre, not one.

Me? I am a minimalist person. Sure I'll contradict myself because no way would I refuse the flashy looking Versus but still.

As far as the grouping goes. Stick to one name for one game.

Last edited by Ludakriss on 8/7/2012 3:39:31 AM

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 5:49:29 AM

really happy to see games melding genres!
dishonored for instance, a little of assassins creed, a little of deus ex, and even a little of hitman, and maybe even a little of fallout!
one thing that this gen has done REALLY well!
exactly why im so excited for dishonored, finally for once we have not only a game that is fresh, new and innovative!
but its also customizeable, play as you wish!
wow, how many times do we get to say that about a game!?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 10:22:49 AM

I'm really unhappy about the blurring not because the games that do it are awful, they're not. But because the blurring has diluted the definition of an RPG to the point where no one apparently knows or cares what an RPG is, or should be. The result is that real RPGs, especially the more old school style RPGs and JRPGs in particular, are either diluted with other elements and styles, or mere ghosts of their former selves. But because the market seems incapable of anything except chasing the mainstream, the games I want to play are fewer and further between with each passing month.

I think blurring the lines between the genre is similar to blurring the distinctions between nations and cultures. It doesn't bring diversity it brings homogeneous culture that is indistinct. Instead of celebrating diversity, we take a butter knife and smooth over the differences, blurring the edges until there are none.

I don't see this as a good thing. If it were a case of that blurring happening in a minority of games and not influencing the market as a whole, I think it would not be an issue. But because the blurring is near universal and the 'pure' genre games have been relegated to niche status, we have the opposite - and I believe it to be a big issue, recognized or not.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 12:26:35 PM

Hmm. Is the blurring of genres really responsible for the death of JRPG's? I doubt it but I don't know for certain... they are almost ghosts of their former selves. I can count on on 1 finger how many truely elite JRPG's I've played this gen and that's The Lost Odyssey. A great JRPG by THE Final Fantasy creator released on a shooter console(360). Now Mistwalker has targeted the Wii. Why won't they make a game for Sony fans? That annoys me because Mistwalker is so damn talented...if there is one company that could give us PS3 owners the truely elite JRPG the system has been lacking it's Mistwalker.

I don't know what Mistwalker's beef with Sony is but I wish it could be repaired. The PS3 crowd is aching for an elite JRPG and would be far more receptive to a great game like TLO than the 360 crowd ever would be.

Oh well, I digress. It's just sad what's happened to JRPG's. You know I've wondered about NA being dominated by the 360(a shooter console). Could that have played a role in the decline of JRPG's? MS funded some JRPGs and when they didn't sell on a primarily shooter console it's like Japanese developers just misinterpted the data. I resent MS sticking their noses in the genre in an attempt to cock block Sony. I think it hastened the demise of JRPGs. I also think Japanese developers covet the NA so badly they have strayed too far from their roots. If NA was still controlled by Sony I think JRPG's might not have declined so damn quickly. Maybe I am wrong however. It's probably a complex question to answer. It's tough to explain...the PS1 and PS2 had so many great JRPG's....then POOF they just vanished off the face of the earth.

Maybe we could start a fan petition to Mistwalker or something.

Last edited by Excelsior1 on 8/7/2012 12:29:57 PM

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 12:44:45 PM

Excelsior, if you've read my posts for the last couple of years, you should already know that I place a lot of the blame for the decline of the JRPG o MS and the 360.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 2:12:30 PM

Hey, Excelsior. If you were to start this petition moving I'd be right there, man.

Still though. I remember at least 100K fans started in a similar petition to give us the Dark Cloud 3 and announcements yet. You know?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 7:35:01 PM

I'm an advocate of the blurring of "genres", with the caveat that every game shouldn't try to be everything, but rather incorporate any element that makes it a better version of itself.

For this reason, I have reservations about, for instance, adding "action" options to existing stealth franchises, but generally approve of any addition that doesn't also subtract (i.e., ruin the core mechanic).

Coming from a background in table-top RPGs, I want video games to offer me the same diversity of activities available therein. I don't believe that slavish devotion to traditional paradigms makes for better games, but I have no objection to the persistence of "traditional" games, either.

Last edited by Fane1024 on 8/7/2012 7:37:22 PM

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Thursday, August 09, 2012 @ 9:33:24 AM


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