Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Favorite Game Genre

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 2, “My Favorite Genre”.
            Genre to me has a lot of different connotations.  It can evoke a style (Found Footage), a place of origin (Foreign Language), subject matter (Historical), setting (Western), or mood (Horror) that the work in question is.  This varies with Books and Movies but one thing neither of those mediums have is the element of Gameplay.
            Video Games can have Strategy, both Turn Based and Real Time; they can have Platforming, which can include a means to move from platform to platform in space via jumping, swinging, or teleporting; they can be Action games, with action based around a third person perspective, first person perspective, or even a far distant camera hooked up to some unseen ceiling.  Games can have guns, magic, or tools to build.
            When I was thinking about this I realized that there are two genres that battle for my affection here, the first is Turn Based Strategy, TBS and the other is Role Playing Game, RPG.  Each have their own strengths and weakness, but often start from a similar point, you are dropped into the world with very little skill and few abilities and gradually grow in power to win the game thru the acquiring of new abilities… I realize that is try of lots of games power ups are kind of important in lots of games that would not be described as RPG or TBS… Batman and Samus both get various flavors of mobility and offensive powers as they go along.  So what are the things about each that I really like apart from that slow gaining of power?  Choice.
            Let’s look at TBS with “X-Com: Enemy Within” a game I played about 130 hours of (and have talked about before).  In that game I am given a small team for each mission, I choose the members.  Each of those team members gains new abilities as they gain levels, I chose the abilities.  Everybody gets new gear, new weapons, and carries new equipment, all of which I chose to research and prioritize at some point in the game.  When I get the laser weapons is not pre-set by the game, what abilities my snipers’ choices are not preset by the game (though there are certain abilities that are so much better than others that there isn’t a “real” choice in some cases, I mean come on, who doesn’t pick squad sight?)  These things all happen because I chose those things to happen.  And sometimes those choices kneecap me like a mob enforcer.

I chose to have a soldier cut their limbs off so as to better fight aliens as a cyborg mecha.
            Let’s look at RPG with “Fallout 3”.  What does my character look like?  I get to choose.  Am I smart?  My choice.  Am I strong?  My choice.  Am I lucky, charismatic, or perceptive?  My choice.  What weapons do I like to use, be they bombs, knives, guns or lasers that can turn a gunman to dust.  Where do I go?  Wherever I want.  There is a story but it can simmer on the back burner till I get around to it.  (What is funny, is that while I am using it as an example of what I like here, I do not like Fallout 3 nearly as much as many people do, and precisely because it lacks a lot of the more nuanced choices I want in a story of this setting.  Many of the choices are too binary and often done with too little motivation.)  What I make of the world is shaped by my decisions and who I chose to work with.

I chose to let a lot of narrative problems go in order to enjoy the setting.
            I will talk about one last game while I am here that kind of strides the two of these categories that is fine but never really grabbed me deeply (so I won’t mention it too often for the rest of these blogs), “Pokemon”.  Pokemon has both an RPG element, in that you can choose what monsters you catch and train, what items you use on them, what moves you choose to teach them (which I find painfully thin on the ground), and contains a multitude of color and variety and drips with personality and consistent tone (even when it steps outside of those elements it doesn’t do so in a way that is not immediately reversible, so yeah there is a graveyard and a group of terrorists, but they are silly ghosts and goofy terrorists, just don’t think too hard about any of it).
            Pokemon has turn based combat, and this is where it differs from my tastes in a small but important way.  Where as in “X-Com” you would deploy a team of soldiers to the field, explore the area and engage the enemies, making placement and group tactics a much needed element to deepen and enrich the experience, Pokemon doesn’t.  Pokemon is a turn based combat game, which has very little strategy beyond picking the monster whose type trumps the enemy’s type, and they stand at the opposite end of an empty screen and shoot energy blasts at one another.  I am not a fan of that.

I think we can all agree that they have some of the best theme tunes of all time right?
            Here is where this blog will take a strange digression to talk about some broader things.  There are lots of fandoms that I have never got into, “Harry Potter” is perhaps the biggest pop culture thing that left me by, and Pokemon is close to that.  While I did enjoy two and a half of the games released over the last 20+ years it is not something that cuts deep (never played the card game, only saw one of the movies, never collected any toys, posters, or clothes) even though it has things I do like.
            It is important to know, that not all things are for all people.  That many things exist outside of one’s own tastes and experiences and that is okay.  In fact, it is great.  Having lots of different ideas contributes greatly to the strange mutations in fiction and games that allow them to grow and change to serve the needs of new people.  I see a lot of vile things online about certain movies, shows, and books, and while I do not like many of them, and see others as containing questionable messages, they are not harmful, and they serve a point.
If you find yourself looking at a game that doesn’t fit in with your world view, maybe instead of saying that you hate it, you just shrug and move on.  And the same goes for movies and TV you do not like.  Because you spewing hate at something might ruin the fun of someone who did like it and would like more of it.  Instead, maybe pay attention to things that are a lot more real and hurtful that you can do something about, and focus your energy there.

So yeah, after that long sidetrack because I have felt kind of sickened by the nerd culture’s treatment of certain things lately (and for a while).  I will just go ahead and repeat that I like RPG’s and TBS games the most as far as mechanics are concerned.  I would say that my tastes vary wildly in other areas though, and I will talk about those this month too.
If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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