On The Bluring Line Of Genres In Games
As games are becoming more complex and graphically endowed, the lines between defined genres of games seem to be blurring. I for one am not very worried about such a trend. Throughout the years I’ve grown weary of the arguments that have grown on the internet about people’s inability to understand the classic genres of games, EG “Grand Theft Auto Is an RPG because you’re playing the role of someone”. Technically that argument is correct in the sense of the straight forward language of it, but its also quite wrong to anyone who knows what a classic RPG entails. The Grand Theft Auto series has been an exciting series and a wonderful work of art by the games respective teams, but to lock up each game into respective genres would due them a bit of a dis service.
For example, Grand Theft Auto 1 was a sprite driven 2d, top down action game. Not very RPG like, but did have driving elements, racing elements, story driven linear elements, free world roam elements, and action combat Shoot em up elements. It’s Genre is simply defined as Action/Adventure, Open World, which gives a glimpse into what the game is like but doesn’t define it as a game.
Grand theft Auto 3 was a Third person, full free roam 3d world game. Again not very RPG like, but it had much more in common with racing games now that the driver was able to get third person and first person driving views, story driven linear elements, arguably much more free roam than previous grand theft autos, and less action shoot em up and more third person shooter elements. Grand Theft Auto 3s genre is defined as… Action/Adventure, Open World. The genre does little to separate the two games which while similar, play very differently. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas While largely the same as Grand Theft Auto 3 also introduced the idea of character attributes and customization, which introduces actual RPG elements to the game. But no one in their right minds would call these games Racing Sims or RPGs.
Catacombs 3d as a 20 year old game kind of looks the same as Skyrim does now. Granted its not as polished and full of incredible 3d graphics and depth of field which Skyrim is emblazoned with. But if we look at the basics of what the screen is showing, the player is presented with a graphical representation of their own virtual hand, poised to deal magical death upon their enemies. Presented in a first person perspective looking through the eyes of the player’s virtual Ego and able to move throughout the game world to attack monsters at will. But whats interesting is that Catacombs 3d is renowned as being the precursor to Wolfenstein 3D, which actually makes it an FPS game. In fact Catacombs has very little in the way of RPG elements. Skyrim isn’t actually an FPS game but it definitely could be confused with one if someone was just looking at screenshots. But everyone will probably agree that while not an FPS, Skyrim is definitely an RPG.
It would seem that in the effort to define a genre for a game, the hard and fast rules of the classic genres are trying to be applied. I think maybe they should be expanded or redefined to attempt to fit the current crop of games. Of course that would mean in the future as developers come up with new and inventive ways of telling their stories and the lines of the genres are blurred ever further, the genres will have to be redefined again. I must admit that I’m not ingenious enough to come up with a solution to this current problem, I’m just observing what I see.
If we look at two FPS games that came out last year, we will find that indeed they are defined by the classic FPS Genre. But if one were to look even vaguely at the multiplayer side of those games, they would quickly and easily uncover an RPG element which involves customizing the players character. Players can choose between different skins, weapons, classes, perks. They are all called different things in the two games, but all equate to changing the stats on the player. On top of that, players must earn experience in order to gain these weapons and perks. This is a fairly classic RPG element in my opinion, no one would confuse these games with RPGs however.
As video games move forward, I have no doubts that the genre lines will become ever more blurred as developers attempt to take the most desirable aspects out of each genre in order to make the best game they can. Further complicating issues will be the further emergence of touch screen, and motion tracking technology which may threaten to do away with controllers entirely and change gaming forever. As a lazy gamer I can say that I hope the aforementioned never happens.
But I use my above observations to shamelessly make my case for the video game reviewers. Although you may never get the same opinion of the same game from two different reviews, you are sure to get an idea of what the game is about beyond a simple genre description.
But I’m writing this to help people remember, the next time they hear something along the lines of “Skyrim is basically an RPG if you have a bow and arrow.” Try not to get to undignified if you’re the type, just try and think about how the genres of games are actually mixing into each other. Because if you think simply about the above statement, couldn’t it be considered correct by some?
By James Sullivan
James is a regular contributor to GameAspect.Com and also the operator. He’s primarily a PC gamer but enjoys the occasional console game.