Genre Blending

By Jonathan Barnes, 8 years ago
It’s “Game of the Year” season at gaming publications around the world and, for the first time, TrueAchievements is getting into the mix with TA Game of the Year. After long and thorough debate amongst the staffers here, we decided the best way to award the excellence of 2010, was by separating titles into genre categories and having the winners of each genre face off for our community’s GOTY. This week’s vote surrounds RPGs and has provoked some passionate discussion on the boards.

One particular train of debate caught my attention. There seems to be a vocal minority of gamers who think that Mass Effect 2 doesn’t belong in the RPG category because it only offers (in others’ subjective opinions) small skill point progressions, poor character dialogue choices, very few weapon options, and supports even fewer styles of play. Some gamers believe that the game would have been a better fit in the Shooter category.

While these arguments do have merit, it got me thinking on a grander scale about genre blending. Many of today’s top releases have broken out of the rigid boxes that used to separate genres. It is becoming increasingly rare to find games that are “pure shooters” or “pure RPGs”. Some of this generation’s best shooters have begun to incorporate level and stat progression while many of this generation’s RPGs have started to move away from the “traditional” dice-rolling, dragon-slaying, warriors in favor of a more skill/action-oriented combat dynamic.

A few quick examples: has become the classic example of genre blending with its traditional FPS gameplay blended with RPG stat progression and MMO style loot drops and co-op.

Many are quick to praise the Fable franchise for its character customization, open world, and gameplay. But at its core, very little separates it from a hack-and-slash with level progression.

While the Call of Duty franchise is still, at its core, an FPS title, its multiplayer has begun to adopt RPG-style advancements through ranks, perks, and rewards. One could even stretch the unlockable armor customizations Bungie did with Halo: Reach ’s multiplayer into the same category.

Sports franchises are even getting into the mix. EA Sport’s recent NHL and MLB titles have included “Be a Pro” modes where you create your own athlete, assign skill points, and “level-up”/advance your character in the minor leagues before throwing them onto a top, pro roster.

The Assassin’s Creed IP is one of my personal favorite. Personally, I’m drawn in by the historical settings, sci-fi leanings, and conspiracy theory vibe. When you dissect the gameplay, though, you’ll find that the game features open-world sensibilities with RPG style advancement and hack-and-slash gameplay with a dash of stealth mixed in for good measure.

Downloadable titles are also getting into the mix. seemed to bring the “side-scrolling action” title back to the forefront, but it did so with the aid of unlockable upgrades that were acquired through story progression. Sound like any other genre?

I’d like to sum it up with a quick analogy: When I’m not gaming, I thoroughly enjoy cooking and have become quite a gourmet when it comes to my pizza creations. One of my most popular pies is my Barbecue Chicken Pizza with Pineapple and Smoked Gouda. This pizza may not be “pizza” in a common sense, but at the same time, it’s not quite “barbecue”, so where should it fall? There is no right or wrong answer… except that it’s delicious… just like many of our gaming choices.

So, in short, let the chips will fall where they may because, in the end, excellence knows no genre.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.