Bit Player: Genre Attack!

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For sixteen years, I mispronounced the word "genre." I had never had cause to utter it out loud to anyone; in my head I heard it as gin-ear. It wasn't until I played Phantasmagoria in 1996 that I was finally prompted to say the word out loud; I was describing the game to my older sister. "It's kind of like The Shining," I enthused, "and it uses full motion video! It's really pushing the adventure gin-ear forward." As if seeking to wipe the dopey smile from my face, she haughtily corrected me, "It's pronounced jeahn-re." Imagine my chagrin; her pronunciation sounded so sophisticated, so continental. I swore to myself that I'd never be so gauche again.

There’s huge risk to blurring. It makes the game more difficult to market, it defies customers’ expectations, and it requires educating the public. […] Let’s stop calling things “genre crossing” shall we? It’s like finding a unicorn and calling it “a cross between a horse and a drill”. Let’s embrace the lack of genres, because then we switch from a very limited number of possibilities for our games, to an infinite number.Genres are a great aid for the gaming public as they get used to thinking about and playing games. We reached the point where there are people who don't just like the idea of "games" - they like specific genres or sub-genres. Or even singular mods of games: I'd imagine there are people out there who haven't played another game seriously since Counter-Strike appeared all those years ago. […]At this point, we've entered the realm of the post-genre. It's what the progressive, intelligent gamers are playing. Simultaneously, it's also a terribly populist movement. After all, what genre does Grand Theft Auto belong to? None. It's about a half a dozen, blended seamlessly into a fluid, expressive form. Genres have burnt out, and we hit the post-modern point where everything is up for grabs again, the entire history of gaming turned into beautiful decadent cocktails.

Kirk Hamilton is Paste's Games Editor. He is a musician and writer in San Francisco and can be found at and on Twitter @kirkhamilton. Email him at Kirk [at] PasteMagazine [dot] com.

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