Tuesday, 11 February 2014

"To get to the real by bravely denying the fact of mediation” (Personal Enquiry final)

In the following blog post, I will consider genre as a concept, how it has been used within video gaming and how people throughout gaming history have moulded games in to genres as we know them. I will look heavily in to how categorizing games in to genres has a negative affect on the creative process and things that could potentially combat this. The definition for video game genres talks about a system used to categorise games based on the gameplay, content and sometimes based upon visuals and narrative, this however is not necessarily true. Many consider genres on the whole to generally conform to set conventions and be very specific however what one may consider as an action game others may consider an adventure game. I recently had a small debate with one of my flat mates about the stupid amounts of music genres and sub genres that exist these days and how I group things a bit more generally. However in recent years the "lines" between genres have blurred a little, allowing the player to choose how they wish to play the game. I will also mention a few games that I considered to define their genre but have gone on to try and innovate with each iteration, Resident evil and Metal Gear Solid.

A big question I've been considering lately is, are genres even a necessary thing in gaming, sure its a good way to categorize games like we do with films but is it limiting our creativity or preventing games from innovating. How are people pushing innovation when they are confining themselves to the specification of one or two genres. You could argue that genres help produce games that people want, which in a lot of ways is true. After all, game developers are looking to make a profit, yet if every developer did this the games industry would stagnate and produce rehashes of the same game each year with better graphics. Which unfortunately is happening now with some franchises, game producers create sequels to the same IPs each year, I think one of the major things keeping innovation going is the flux in indie game developers out there. Indie games aren't mass produced and often never have sequels and most importantly are trying new things with their games that AAA devs don't dare try out of fear they may fail.

I have spoken about the history of video games before on this blog, whilst doing so i mentioned the first video game was Tennis for 2. I also mentioned that most games from that point onwards were based upon similar existing things, the first game to veer away from this was Space War; this is seen as the first development of genres in gaming. Only when the technology allowed it, did game devs start to diversify and create new content and styles of gameplay. A good example of this would be Metal Gear(seen above), the first two games on on the NES and the SNES weren't particularly great and didn't receive a great reception from critics however when the PlayStation was released in 1994 Hideo Kojima sought to bring metal gear in to the new age with a bang. In 1998 Metal Gear solid was released on the PS1 with ground breaking graphics which allowed for a much more cinematic experience; something previous Metal Gear games lacked. This has been an ever growing trend in the metal gear games since with over 8 hours of cut scenes in the latest game Metal Gear Solid 4. Metal gear's primary genre has always been stealth (it's tag line is tactical espionage action) and was one of the first games along with Thief to implement many of the typical conventions seen in modern day stealth games. The latest game however does allow you to play through the game guns blazing but adds a level of difficulty and in soon to be released Metal gear solid 5, the game has become an open world game, letting you tackle missions in whatever way you choose. This could show that defined genres may be subject to choice within each game in the future allowing players to tackle the same story in any manor of ways. In each of Kojimas he always tries to push the genre, adding elements or creating completely different games set in the same universe such as Revengeance or adding the ability to play the game as a shooting game like in MGS4. This is a great example of why genres aren't really that important to make great games, game developers shouldn't sit down and say "I'm going to make a stealth game" they should focus on making a great game and the genre will follow.

The resident evil franchise has also changed a lot of the years, however fans have not been as positive about the change, the game now barely resembles it's predecessors, with plentiful munitions and hundreds of zombies the once immense atmosphere now feels a little (un)dead. Many people call for the game to return to its roots, unlike most I enjoyed majority of the modern games however I do agree that resident evil needs to take a few steps back as it has gotten too action packed. Many survival horror games these days have evolved passed the conventions set by resident evil. However i do think this is a good thing in many ways, it means developers are trying to innovate their games by altering them but it could also be seen as them simply switching from one genre to another. The Original creator of resident evil Shinji Mikami  is currently working on a new IP, the evil within. He aims to bring survival horror back to its roots but he says “Not much has changed when it comes to instilling terror in the player, But people have got used to the tropes of horror and they know what’s coming next, so in that sense it is harder to make them afraid.” which hopefully means he will try to push the genre with some innovation but I still remain doubtful that it will be different enough to feel new. 

Some gameplay and an interview about Shinji Mikami's new game

In general I feel that game developers forget about the overall experience of playing the game and try to create a set game to please a certain crowd of people, its almost like a mould that they add to. Whilst re-hashing games generates profits in a struggling industry is a positive thing, moving forward is also very important. I feel a balance needs to be made between creating games people love and making something new, whilst genre classifications help the first but hinder the latter. I am looking forward to seeing how the Evil Within turns out later this year, I'll be sure to pick it up but I'm trying not to get my hopes up. Removing genres from the equation isn't realistically going to happen, as human beings we naturally classify things in a logical way.  the existence of indie games helps push the industry forward and prevent games from being the same and removes this issue from the equation but how long until indie games start to stagnate?


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1 comment:

  1. This particular episode, while not directly related, may be of interest to you: http://youtu.be/0KoPQR7oq-s