Monday, September 16, 2013

Mommy, what's a climbformer?

at 5:15 PM
This is a nice stupid little portmanteau I came up with because of perpetual lack of a better term. Considering that dictionaries already fucking hate the word "platforming", this is double bonus. Why must we combine "climb" and "platforming"? Because the PC-police have outlawed "euro-platformer" as racist, I suppose. 

If you haven't noticed, traditional (N64-style) 3D platforming is deader than a chicken that's been stabbed with a door-nail. Aside from the occasional begrudgingly acclaimed Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Galaxy 2, no one's dared to release a 3D platformer since the heat-death of the sixth console generation. Part of that is probably that 2D is Back to the Future (the future being now), and 2D platformers were always better than 3D, which we learned from two generations of failed experimentation and Rocket: Robot on Wheels. So when it became "okay" to make 2D games again, all the platformer wannabes just reverted to that. Not a lot of interest was left in games styled after Banjo-Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot, and Sonic Adventure.

Platforming itself wasn't dead though: 2003's Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was a watershed moment for 3D navigation. It taught us that it could be just as fun to climb, shimmy, scramble, wall-run, and swing as it was to jump. Is Sands of Time still a platformer? Sure. It's largely a game that challenges the player to reach point B from point A. In fact, I specifically omitted the notion of jumping from my definition of platforming because of games like Sands of Time, which evoke the same gameplay challenge with different mechanics. The progeny of the prince includes many of today's most popular American games, from Assassin's Creed to Uncharted to Lords of Shadow to Enslaved to God of War to Darksiders II to Shadow of the Colossus. But the term "platforming" isn't typically used in association with these games, and even when it is, it's usually qualified somehow as "Uncharted-style platforming" or some such. 
There's no question that the p-word invokes traditional images of Mario and Sonic jumping across tree branches and floating boxes, yet there's also no question that a new platforming-rooted navigation paradigm has taken over in the realism-driven 3D world. For fun and enrichment, it helps to have a different term to classify this contemporary approach. "Climbing" doesn't quite communicate the dynamism and challenge of the gameplay, plus it makes for a confusing noun form ("[ice]climber[s]"), so I've chosen to go full obnoxious and coin "climbforming". You heard it here first.

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