Monday, November 26, 2012

Genre-response. Got too long for the comment box.

at 12:01 AM
My immediate reaction to Andrew's post was Jesus man how can you mention jazz and Nazis in the same sentence without linking:
Moving beyond that....

Sometimes it seems like video games as a medium are entirely consumed by genrefication, but I think that's because - somewhat conveniently - genre and mainstream have been united. In music and film, genres are considered something of second-tier entertainment. Literature too - Vonnegut once said something along the lines of "literary critics often mistake the Science Fiction rack for a urinal". Consumers tend to split into two groups: those who follow mainstream trends and dabble in genre only for the "crossover" hits, and those who become dedicated to a particular genre to the extent that it becomes the medium to them. To horror fans, for example, cinema EQUALS horror. 

Who DOESN'T like horror movies, tho?
Genre tendencies should only really be dangerous to that first group - the genre-fans, while they may more eagerly look to work subscribing to their rule-set, in fact tend to be the most discerning when it comes to their neck of the woods. The genre machinations become a baseline, and the fans are therefore able to extract the individuality that sits on top of that. This is what Andrew is presumably referring to with his Skyrim example.

As I was saying, the entirety of the video game mainstream is consumed by genres, so almost everyone becomes these genre-fans. It has become the norm, and therefore developers aren't afraid to simply say "yeah the game is an RPG" without worrying that that will consume its identity.

That isn't to say there aren't plenty of bad genre games, formulaic titles that usually sport a large number at the end of the title. These also tend to be the best-selling, because a dumb marketplace wants a dumb product - that's the reality of commercialized art. But those games made with the realization that it's not enough just to knock one out by the numbers still often bring interesting concepts to the table while still relying on a comfortable format to draw in a player base. 

Of course, at the end of the day, genrefication in any medium is an inevitability, because any successful idea is going to draw emulation. A game that at the time seemed to defy all expectations (e.g. Resident Evil 4) often ends up becoming the new standard. What to do about that... I don't really know. But it hardly concerns me either. The Dead Kennedys aren't any less brilliant for the existence of Good Charlotte, nor is Alien devalued by Species III: The Speciesening. 

Also this all might be kinda hypocritical because I think I hate genre games. Every time I list the genres I hate, it's like, all of them. RPGs, FPSs, stealth games, barf. So uh... how's that for insight?

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