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