Genre Defining

Genre Defining
Introducing The Escapist's Genre Wheel

Russ Pitts | 7 Dec 2010 12:47
Genre Defining - RSS 2.0

You find, for instance, that this system places sports games between fighting and real-time strategy games. If you consider that football games combine reflex-oriented direct competition between avatars with the pre-planning of strategies for AI-controlled competitors, it makes sense that Madden offers common ground between otherwise unrelated games like Soul Calibur and StarCraft. Similarly, because games like Super Mario Bros. and Dance Dance Revolution each test a player's physical reflexes and ability to navigate through obstacles, we've found they have more in common, at their foundation, than other games that might look more alike on the surface.

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But our genre classification system goes a little further than that. In addition to allowing one to easily and consistently classify a game as belonging to a certain genre, it can also give gamers some level of insight into the kinds of games they might enjoy, and why. We've even found, in informal testing here at The Escapist, that our genre classification wheel presents a sort of complementary associative correlation, in that if one, say, is a fan of many Strategy/Conflict/Exploration games, then one will probably also enjoy Action/Conflict/Exploration games, as well. Similar to how colors on opposite sides of a color wheel are considered "complementary," so, too, do the game genre classifications seem to be.

Let's take an example. Games like Dragon Age and Grand Theft Auto may seem to be very dissimilar. Under our scheme, however, we find similarities in the way the player interacts with the games. Both feature strong conflict elements, where the player is in direct competition with other similar avatars, and they also each feature strong exploration elements, both for the physical space of the world and the story's narrative content. Where they differ is that GTA has an action focus that puts the burden of achievement on the player's own abilities and Dragon Age has a strategy focus that bases success on what the avatar is able to do. If you like Dragon Age primarily because of its synthesis of Conflict/Exploration, you probably would also like GTA. If, on the other hand, you like Dragon Age because of the strong Strategy element, you'd find yourself more likely to drift towards titles that share the strategy focus but shift away from the even balance of Conflict or Exploration.

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As you can see, the end result is that our genre classification system contains many of the game genres with which you may already be familiar - even starting from square one, we felt it would have been pointless for us to radically change the commonly accepted labels for most genres. The point of having genres is to encourage understanding and clear communication, so we found it more useful to place those already familiar terms in their proper context. So while we're using many of the same terms you may already know, the core of our system is something radically new: A genre classification wheel similar to those used by some of the most famous and widely-regarded personality tests. We have, in effect, broken down the seemingly vast ocean of possible game genres into eight basic game types. These are:

Action/Strategy/Exploration
Action/Exploration
Action/Conflict/Exploration
Action/Conflict
Action/Strategy/Conflict
Strategy/Conflict
Strategy/Conflict/Exploration
Strategy/Exploration

We hope this system is flexible enough to accommodate whatever new genres developers create for us in the future. We also hope it serves as a foundation for interpretation and discussion of what games mean, both to us as individual gamers and to the industry at large. So take a look at the wheel and see where your own tastes lie. Are you firmly committed to titles at one end of either axis? Or do you find yourself captivated by games that synthesize two competing play styles?

Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section.

Download the full size chart here

Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist. Steve Butts is managing editor of The Escapist. His favorite genre is "games that are fun."

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