05.07.12

If genres don't exist for music, do they really exist for games?

At the office, several KS folks have been abuzz about the new Diablo. I'm more than bearish as I was never a fan of the franchise or the style of gameplay, but when prodded, I often find myself struggling to explain what that "type" of game actually is. For those who play games, nomenclature can be a tortured exercise and marketing speak rarely helps the case.

We see pitches like this all the time from publicists and indie developers alike: "Oh, it's a fantasy role-playing-game with tower defense elements and a twist of interactive fiction." Ok, I made this up and well, maybe that sounds awesome, but it does speak to the larger point of how do we even talk about games that hybridize so many elements without rattling off adjectives and simply lumping words together into an incomprehensible mess. 

Music writer Brayden King faces a similar question around authenticity in music where identifying oneself as a musician of a particular genre stripe has serious consequences on how the public received his/her music. But King points to a future where those distinctions don't matter, pulling from Bruce Springstein's 2012 SXSW address:

Do genres matter as much as they once did? I see a couple of reasons to give his argument merit. The first is that the Internet really does seem to have freed artists to "remix" and hybridize musical genres more than was done in the past. The Internet has become its own scene, reducing the importance of old geographic-based scenes, which in turn makes it more likely that people working in different genres or subgenres will be aware of and influence each other.  And I also think there is some truth to the idea that precisely subdividing subgenres has the ironic effect of making those subgenres less meaningful and less constraining. [...]

Sub-subgenres are usually just hybrids of two or more genres anyway, and so what difference does it make to layer on a third or fourth genre? Melding together 4-5 new genres subsequently decreases the social distance between you and every other artist working in the space of popular music and simultaneously opens the possibility of bringing in old genres in your next creative moment. Suddenly the idea that Texas polka has real combinatorial potential for rap seems possible.

While hybridization is certainly more loaded in music that it is in games, that public acceptance of being a "blended" gamer as it were excites me. As I hope from iPad to Steam to DS to Xbox, those categorical distinctions of what types of games I do and don't like are thankfully whittling away.

[via Andrew Sullivan]