283: Introducing The Escapist's Genre Wheel

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Russ Pitts:
Introducing The Escapist's Genre Wheel

The Escapist breaks games down to their basics and devises a genre classification system that covers all (ok, almost all) of the bases.

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This seems to describe play experiences more than anything. A game can have both Strategy AND Action. And I don't mean like an RTS that has them melded together, but rather that they can be modal. For example Recettear that has a clear strategy game based around buying and selling, and then a second part that is all about action adventure through dungeons. Depending on which part of the game you are playing, it is on a different part of the wheel at different times in the game.

Ultimately, also, a game can contain elements from even the most obviously opposite sides of your wheel. Left 4 Dead played with coop is much more about exploration gameplay, where you and your mates simply exist to survive. Played in Versus mode, it is a cut throat game about conflict.

I'm not saying you haven't done a good job identifying game styles, but I don't think Genre is really the right word for it.

I wonder when someone is going to do a color changing version of the chart.

bolastristes:

Who the hell buys a game for Itīs genre!? : fanboys and casual gamers.

Personally, donīt give a damn about genres, for me Itīs just good games and bad games.

I honestly donīt see a real point of this article.

Uh... no. Yes, there's good games and there's bad games. But genre matters. Some people just don't like certain types of genres(like Yahtzee with RTS games), and may just like other ones better. I'm more interested in platforming games than, say, simulation games, and more in music games, than, say fighters. Anyways, that statement's like saying, "Who the hell buys a book for it's genre?" or "Who the hell watches a movie for it's genre?". I could post a very long paragraph on that statement, explaining why that statement's false, but I don't really have the time because of finals and studying. But here's a question: If you felt tired, and depressed, what kind of music would you want to listen to?
It's fine if you don't care about genres, but I'm willing to bet many other gamers out there do.

I like this wheel, but I agree with Dastardly about how 'Exploration' and 'Conflict' should be changed to 'Direct' and 'Indirect'. The example with racing games makes sense. :D
Also, I can see the point for a 'center' section, "ASCE", but that section might also get overused. On the other hand, it'd be great for hard-to-classify games. The way I see it, the concept is there, and it's solid. It just needs some tweaks. I'm not sure if this idea will catch on, but it'd be awesome if it does!

Whoa... this is like Carl Jung's typology wheel... for video games.

> Whoa... this is like Carl Jung's typology wheel... for video games.

Where in the article does it state that this is intended just for VIDEO/COMPUTER games? Apologies if I missed this, but I can't see any such statement...

The implication (by default unless explicitly stated otherwise within the article contents) is that this is intended to be all inclusive.

The actual location of each item on the wheel is presumably by an /averaging/ process for pre-conceived genres within a particular production domain (that of video games, it would appear) rather than a representation of innate content. A position on a wheel thus is /not/ genre, but an indication of "average" genre appearance.

(p.s. Article tag is "genre defining". There are no "definitions" in an "average position")

irbyz:
> Whoa... this is like Carl Jung's typology wheel... for video games.

Where in the article does it state that this is intended just for VIDEO/COMPUTER games? Apologies if I missed this, but I can't see any such statement...

Noticed you must be new to the forums. Welcome! Check out this page for forum markup tags and whatnot. If you use the "quote" tags, it will send a message to the person you're quoting and they'll be more likely to respond. Anyway, enjoy!

I like this. It seems like a great way to help organize our thoughts when talking about genre. It may not be perfect and there may be a lot of games out there that would float vaguely in the middle of this wheel, but it's a starting point, a point of reference. An anchor, y'know? I'll refer to this later and see how it sizes up.

> rsvp42 wrote:
> Noticed you must be new to the forums. Welcome!

*g* Nope, I joined before you did: just haven't posted as much. Many thanks for the welcome, nonetheless! :)

Genre requires rather more *fundamental* building blocks that those suggested here; which are also skewed/informed by a particular domain of games (computer-based, it would seem).

Where do "progression achievements" fall into this model, for example? i.e. "Playing" a driving simulation purely because it is a simulation is not the same as "playing" a game that has progression achievements (wherever and whatever those may be) that has a driving simulation "built into it".

I love this classification scheme not only because it makes sense, but because it allows me to easily classify one of my favorite games of this generation - Arkham Asylum! In my mind, AA is clearly an action game, and is equal parts conflict and exploration (I loved exploring and using new upgrades ro find more riddler trophies, etc). So I believe this game would sit right at the tippy top of the wheel. I suppose the argument could be made that the game is more combat than exploration, but now deciding the genre is a matter of thinking about the game rather than thinking about what labels we have best.

EDIT: This chart also confirms what I sort of already figured out about myself: I'm more of an action game fan. Most of the games I enjoy most - shooters, music games, ...Arkham Asylum all are in the same sphere. Sports is about as far out as I go towards strategy, with the exception of oldschool JRPGs which I enjoy once in a blue moon.

Very interesting, very well done. I hope you guys link to this article/chart in all your upcoming reviews.

irbyz:
>Genre requires rather more *fundamental* building blocks that those suggested here; which are also skewed/informed by a particular domain of games (computer-based, it would seem).

Where do "progression achievements" fall into this model, for example? i.e. "Playing" a driving simulation purely because it is a simulation is not the same as "playing" a game that has progression achievements (wherever and whatever those may be) that has a driving simulation "built into it".

I still don't understand your objection. This is intended to be a taxonomy for computer games. To your complaint that it is skewed towards those games, I say, "Yes!"

As far as "progression achievements," the chart is not intended to answer the motivation for playing, but rather the method and format for playing. Since people play games for different reasons, achievements aren't relevant. Maybe I just misunderstand your point. Can you give me an example of a driving game that is more about progression achievement than it is about driving?

> Steve Butts wrote:
> I still don't understand your objection. This is intended to be a taxonomy for computer games.

Hiya Steve,

Thanks for the response.

At no point in the article, as far as I can see, is it stated that the intention of the article is focused to computer/video games only, and despite the site having a primarily computer/video games focus, it is not /exclusively/ dedicated to those.
As to "objection", because the article it is, in-effect, "hijacking" terms that don't apply exclusively to computer/video games, in addition to terms that don't even "belong" ("RPG" in particular) leading to further potential misunderstanding outwith that domain.

> As far as "progression achievements," the chart is not intended to answer the motivation for playing, but rather the method and format for playing. Since people play games for different reasons, achievements aren't relevant. Maybe I just misunderstand your point.

Perhaps so.
Motivation /is/ part of genre, IMHO.

A computer game can be a pure simulation of driving, in which case the source of the player's motivation /must/ lie outwith the "game" itself.
However, add in-game "progression achievements" (as simple as "drive this course in x amount of time" to unlock the next achievement; be able to drive the next car up, or another course), the source of the player's motivation /can/ lie within the "game".

Thus, "Simulation" is another category than should not, IMHO, be used to define "Genre" due to the huge potential for misleading/misappropriating definitions and the fact that "Simulation" by necessity underlies all computer/video games.

=

My point regarding the article tag being "genre defining" and that no such innate "definition" that can be derived from an "average position" of games believed to be within a particular genre still stands, too, I believe.

Thanks for reading, anyhow, and best wishes for ongoing work,
David. :)

(lagged & double-posted, sry!)

Steve Butts:
snip

I saw this question a lot so I figured I might as well ask it after quoting you on the thread to get an answer.

Any plans to have this wheel on reviews of games in the near future? It seems as if (mostly) everyone is on board with it in this thread.

> KEM10 wrote:
> Any plans to have this wheel on reviews of games in the near future? It seems as if (mostly) everyone is on board with it in this thread.

A simple point within a two-dimensional Action-Strategy / Conflict-Exploration space and showing roughly where various (understood) "genres" lie within that space would appear to have more benefit from a review p.o.v. for understanding /what/ a given game is about and how it might fit into a particular player's preferences, rather than trying to fit "genres" into "average" categories where those are applied over the top of two axes that are deemed (apparently) to be mutually exclusive.
This is also an inherent problem when trying to classify "personality types" using the likes of Myers-Briggs, for example. INTJ is INTJ regardless of how strongly each of the component preferences is expressed.

02c, anyhow. :)

irbyz:
> rsvp42 wrote:
> Noticed you must be new to the forums. Welcome!

*g* Nope, I joined before you did: just haven't posted as much. Many thanks for the welcome, nonetheless! :)

Ah, didn't look at the join date. Still, you should probably use the quote button when responding to people's posts. Keeps people in the loop and makes your posts look nicer as well, but whatever.

irbyz:
At no point in the article, as far as I can see, is it stated that the intention of the article is focused to computer/video games only, and despite the site having a primarily computer/video games focus, it is not /exclusively/ dedicated to those.
As to "objection", because the article it is, in-effect, "hijacking" terms that don't apply exclusively to computer/video games, in addition to terms that don't even "belong" ("RPG" in particular) leading to further potential misunderstanding outwith that domain.

I think this site has pretty well established itself as a video-game-focused website. Sure, they don't limit themselves to that, but I think there was an implicit focus on video games in this article. It's certainly fair to question how board games or table-top games fit into this, if you so choose, but as that wasn't the focus, it's not really a mark against this. And it's not hijacking terms just because other types of games might use them in different ways. RPG still applies to computer games, even if the RPG of non-computer gaming takes a different form.

Personally, I prefer to quote without attribution where that's from the p.o.v. of general discussion but, yeah, styles vary I know. Thanks. :)

> RPG still applies to computer games, even if the RPG of non-computer gaming takes a different form

The only actual difference is the use of a computer and the need for a greater focus on rules-based "crunch" in order to run the "simulation"/"game world" (the likes of D&D 4e is deliberately "merging" for this reason of cross-media gaming). "RPG" as a concept still pervades pretty much everything, even if it's submerged relative to the primary focus in many/most cases.

=

To take my previous point regarding a "two-dimensional Action-Strategy / Conflict-Exploration space (easy to graph) in a constructive, usable manner -- showing distribution within that domain of the various (understood) "genres" would appear to have more benefit from a review p.o.v. for understanding /what/ a given game is about *and* how it might fit into a particular player's preferences", this would be a simple matter of plotting out existing games and contour mapping the space for those various "genres" (and a game can have more than one genre, therefore the data can be weighted accordingly).
The resultant space is thus dynamic: new games can be added, even genres merged/split off/added if required.
Since most/all "genres" /do/ have overlap within the dimensions underlying the wheel the actual game can, in a review, be categorised according to its /given/ "genre" and the strength of correlation to /other/ genres can be indicated - this is useful as it can flag up (by means of game/play style), for example, a shooter which might appeal to fans of other given genres.

[edit] minor edits in the above.

irbyz:
> I think that your wheel, though it includes "RPG," actually acts to move us away from the use of RPG as a genre. And I don't think that's a bad thing at all.

I'd personally be happier if it wasn't there. People don't tend to think and just take stuff as gospel. Sad but true.

Well, as the article itself states, the primary intent behind this chart wasn't to outline a comprehensive philosophy of video game classification; it's to serve as an aid for evaluating and buying the games you like. So they're sticking with the genre definitions that have been codified by the culture, the developers, the journalists and most importantly, the marketers and retailers. This wouldn't be a useful purchasing aid if they came up with a more accurate term for "RPG" but marketers still slap the term RPG all over the box.

From a philosophical perspective, though, I'd probably agree with you guys.

Very interesting, I like.

So Savage 2 is either Action adventure or RPG?

In looking at this, it explains to me why I tend to hate FPS games and have gotten into so much minecraft lately. I think it's a pretty balanced way of looking and scaling games, as far as these things go.

A lot of people don't get it.
"But what about this and that, they're on opposite sides of the wheel, it doesn't work, baah!"

That's why I like a standard double axis diagram more than a wheel, it's less confusing ^^

My wish for 2011 is that people read all the comments before they post.

This is an interesting chart, and I like the idea, but I think it's missing something. The four chosen components seem sound, but I think there's an inherent problem in looking at games as falling on a certain part of either axis, Exploration - Conflict and Action - Strategy. As has been mentioned, many games have substantial portions of both Action and Strategy, or both Exploration and Conflict. Fallout 3 immediately comes to mind as exhibiting all four in spades. The proposed solution of arguing "well, which does it focus on more" seems limiting at best. Attempting to place this type of cross-genre game firmly on the circumference of the wheel seems a fool's errand.

Additionally, this four-point chart requires a very broad definition of Exploration if we are to include music games and reflex-based puzzle games like Tetris or Lumines on this side. Exploring... relationships between shapes or sounds? (Yes, music can be exploratory, but a game where you follow a chart and push buttons at the right time is not.)

Therefore, I propose a new system based on what The Escapist has created, but ammended in two major ways. First, the directions are not a spectrum, but are unique variables. Second, instead of using four points, I propose five.

The fifth point is "Execution." By this I mean the degree to which the focus of the game is on the precision of player input. Games leaning strongly toward Execution include rhythm games and reflex-puzzle games (thus avoiding the problem with wedging these into "Exploration"). Often, but not always, Execution is strongly tied to elements of timing. One might say that Execution is already covered under "Action," but I would suggest otherwise: Guitar Hero leans very strongly towards Execution but not towards Action, whereas highly scripted games that guide the player through a whirlwind without much responsibility from the player (such as Black Ops) lean toward Action but not Execution.

It looks like this:
image

Now to make use of the chart. One problem with the method that I'm proposing is that however accurately you may feel you have captured a game's essential nature with your selections of the parameters, it may become difficult to turn that image into words to describe the genre. This is where it's up to the viewer to create their own image to identify their personal taste...

...as I have done with the dashed line here here:

Mine is fairly large -I like a wide variety. And of course a game doesn't have to closely match the edges of my preferences to be something I'll enjoy (I might like strategy, but I'm not looking for it when I play Super Meat Boy). But if a game stretches too far outside your chosen pentagon, it would follow that it is not to your taste.

I decided to do up a few more charts. You may disagree with the values I chose for each, but let me know what you think of the idea.

Symphany of the Night:

Super Meat Boy:

Gran Turismo:

The inclusion of Gran Turismo in my last post brings up another point (but that one was already long, so I split it up.)

These charts (mine and The Escapist's original) focus on gameplay only, but people mean something else as well when they refer to genre. Someone might say "I like sci-fi games" and (broad though it may be) they would be making a statement about genre, even though a "sci-fi" game could be found anywhere and everywhere on these charts.

Similarly, people might favour driving games not for the thrill of the racing action, the strategy of buying and tuning the right parts, or the execution challenge, but just because they like sports cars.

No matter how precisely you are able to nail down what a game is offering in terms of the genre of its gameplay, genre preference has many other factors.

irbyz:
And a Driving RPG is impossible because...? :)

I think you are confusing content versus gameplay. A "Driving RPG" isn't impossible, it just wouldn't be a classic "Driving" game, which are games where you directly control some kind of vehicle through an enviroment. A "Driving RPG" wouldbe an RPG whose content centers on driving, but how well you drive is mostly derived from stats earned through some kind of gameplay, and not if your hands are steady enough on the game controller. Alternately an game where you spend most of your time talking, exploring, gaining parts for your car, and then move into a seperate mode where you race, probably would fall better under "sports" or be considered dual-genre if the modes were explicit enough.

H0ncho:
Where would an action-RPG like diablo be on this chart?

econael:
I made a quick and ugly mashup of AS/EC as a diagramm to be able to place a handful of titles on the continuous spectrums.

image

So I need to disagree with some of your placements. I can't see how Plants vs Zombies has any real exploration elements. I could see how someone might consider the zombies to be "surviving the environment" but is that really exploration or is it simply just conflict?

Also I contest your placement of Diablo 2. We call it an action-RPG because back in the day, it was one of the first RPGs to let you walk around and hit things in real time but if you analyze the gameplay, It is mostly all your stats. You move and you click a lot, occasionally hitting other buttons to fire off different more complicated abilities. In otherwirds you have a mostly indirect influence on what is happening on the screen. Diablo is also all about looking around enviroments and finding loot. Classic exploration. Conflict is where things are a little iffy in my opinion. For the most part all the creatures you find in diablo aren't really in anyway similar to you. They're all "trash" mobs that are pretty much apart of the background and environment. Only a few of the bosses, Diablo in particular, stand out as something that you go toe to toe against, which is why I say it straddles the SE/SCE line. Which would ironically place it more as Adventure or RPG than the ususal "Action-RPG" we call it.

I like the idea overall. I do admit to having never heard of the term "Grand Strategy". Can someone provide me some examples? I am kind of assuming that is where a lot of the importing of board games to video games are going to wind up. IE Settlers of Catan, Carcasonne, and a lot of the German board games that focus primarily on strategy.

In the board gaming community, we tend to classify board games by their game components, play mechanics and how much they rely upon theme vs execution, with fancy labels like Essen games vs Ameritrash to help categorize certain types of games. For example there is the card game Dominion, which is defined as a primarily a deck building card game with little to no emphasis upon it's theme, as opposed to Chronicles of a Godslayer, which is also a deck building card game but it has a higher emphasis on theme (meaning certain game mechanics are directly influenced by the game's theme.

This is just a different system but I thought I'd point it out as a contrast to yours. It is less about classification, like your genre system, and more about informing people about the specifics of the game, since board games sometimes seem harder to describe and review than video games.

One thing I might request is that you publish another image or page with both the genre wheel AND your definitions of Action, Strategy, Conflict, and Exploration, since you seemed to be tweaking them a little. It'd make it easier for some of us to try and classify games, rather than having to go back and re-read the article for the specific definitions of each major category.

If you have the time. :)

I loved the article, very interesting and nice points made :) I also absolutely adore the chart, it's very cleverly worked out and just totally pretty.

Going to have to keep this bookmarked :) I know a few friends who'd probs love this article!

copycatalyst:
The inclusion of Gran Turismo in my last post brings up another point (but that one was already long, so I split it up.)

These charts (mine and The Escapist's original) focus on gameplay only, but people mean something else as well when they refer to genre. Someone might say "I like sci-fi games" and (broad though it may be) they would be making a statement about genre, even though a "sci-fi" game could be found anywhere and everywhere on these charts.

Similarly, people might favour driving games not for the thrill of the racing action, the strategy of buying and tuning the right parts, or the execution challenge, but just because they like sports cars.

No matter how precisely you are able to nail down what a game is offering in terms of the genre of its gameplay, genre preference has many other factors.

Aha! There is a point to be made with regard to the way the "rest of the world" uses the word "genre." When I tell non-gamers I like war games, they think Call of Duty and Halo simply because those are games "about war." I think subject matter is too subjective to find a consistent taxonomy outside of "fiction vs. non-fiction" but it is an important consideration. Now that we've got this thing out, we may turn out attention to the question of genre as a way of talking about subject matter.

I think its great! A step in the right direction at least. It definitely has my preferences accounted for...I like the combination of conflict and exploration apparently.

KEM10:
Any plans to have this wheel on reviews of games in the near future?

Yep. We're working on that right now. You can also probably expect an interactive version of this wheel at some point next year. Although whether it will be game-based (What type of game is this?) or player-based (What type of gamer am I?) remains as yet unclear. Stay tuned!

there should be a 3rd axle to complete it, the REALITY/FICTION I could already see how those 6 letters(or better, a graph) are used to cathegorise games instead of relying on obsolete nominal cathegories

Falseprophet:

irbyz:
> I think that your wheel, though it includes "RPG," actually acts to move us away from the use of RPG as a genre. And I don't think that's a bad thing at all.

I'd personally be happier if it wasn't there. People don't tend to think and just take stuff as gospel. Sad but true.

Well, as the article itself states, the primary intent behind this chart wasn't to outline a comprehensive philosophy of video game classification; it's to serve as an aid for evaluating and buying the games you like. So they're sticking with the genre definitions that have been codified by the culture, the developers, the journalists and most importantly, the marketers and retailers. This wouldn't be a useful purchasing aid if they came up with a more accurate term for "RPG" but marketers still slap the term RPG all over the box.

From a philosophical perspective, though, I'd probably agree with you guys.

Indeed. That is exactly why we went with established genres like RPG rather than defining entirely new (perhaps more accurate) labels ourselves. There is a time and a place for innovation and contrarianism, to be sure. We did debate the issue internally and decided, however, that this was not one of them.

Although I suspect this argument will be lost on someone unwilling to conform to commonly-accepted forum styles and standards. ;)

Curse my color blindness!

It is, indeed, well thought out, but it still misses one thing.

Modern games can often be a huge conglomeration of genres. The example I'm going to use is Mass Effect 2. Look at the wheel: according to it, you cannot have a game that is both an action game and an RPG, because they are on complete opposite sides. It says you can like both, but it says a game cannot be both. But we have an entire genre of games that fit into "action/RPG" Mass Effect 2 does often lean more towards the "action" side, but it's still an RPG. Also see Fallout 3; it falls into the same hole, though it leans more toward the RPG side of things.

Unless I've completely mistaken the chart.

I'm too tired to make the detailed, content-based response that this idea deserves, but I wanted to let you guys know that I think it's a great initiave, even if there are quite some things about it that are probably wrong or at least open to discussion. Great job, this is the kind of stuff why I like this website. Keep up the good work.

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