Dude, Where Are My Genres?
The more I look at this generation of video games, the more I grow perplexed and a bit worried about what gaming is turning into. No, not that games are somehow becoming lame or less fun. But more in the sense of the quickly disappearing idea of video game genres.
Allow me to explain. When I first started playing video games in the mid 1980′s, there was really only one main genre: the 2D sidescrolling platformer. Super Mario Bros. defined this. While we always had things like Pac-Man and such, the image of Super Mario Bros. and what it stood for as a game was synonymous with the idea that people young and old alike had in mind when thinking of video games. Over time, this idea grew to encompass all kinds of different types of video games, including sports, shooting, puzzle and even fantasy role-playing games.
As technology progressed, so did the medium, and the genres went to new and exciting places as well. The idea of playing a 3rd person 3D tactical espionage game like Metal Gear Solid would have seemed impossible just 20 years ago, as would the idea of a first person shooter like Call of Duty 4. The very first FPS game that I ever played was Doom for the PC, and I remember being completely immersed as I traversed the halls of Phobos, gunning down demons and monsters with my gatling gun. I remember being shocked at such a new idea for video games, and the idea of where it would lead had me excited.
And this is where things get interesting. Or droll, depending on how you look at it. Since its introduction as a genre, the image of the first person shooter has quickly become the image that people associate with gaming as a whole, throwing the 2D sidescroller from its throne. Publishers have learned one major lesson about the FPS: it sells like hotcakes. Over the last 5 years, we’ve seen a huge shift towards FPS games, and it is now the predominant genre of our hobby.
While I love FPS games, I’m really starting to hunger for more genres, and new ones! Just the last few months, I’ve found it incredibly refreshing to invest my time in puzzle games like Peggle, an RTS like Halo Wars, and most recently, an overhead Hack-n-Slash titled Sacred 2. In particular, Sacred 2 is reminding me of how fun these other genres are, and makes me long for a time when I had my pick of different types of games to choose from.
These other genres never stopped being fun, people just stopped making them. I mean, besides Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, I haven’t played a Hack-n-Slash RPG since the days of Champions of Norrath on the PS2. That was about 6 years ago. In addition, where are the platformers, the innovative sports titles, the point-and-click adventures, the fun racers, the mysteries? While I love the games that I’m playing in this generation, the technology was supposed to open the possibilities for developers, not severely limit them to only one or two styles of play.
So what do you guys think about this? What other genres do you want to see besides FPS games? What are your favorite non-FPS games of the last few years?