Genre Confused

There are many different ways to approach genre, and often finding a new way to present a genre will serve to revitalise it and bring in a fresh audience. In gaming past it has often taken some time for genres to see this kind of change, the nature of how the gaming community tends to name genres often suggests that certain game play is inherent to them such as shooting in an FPS  (First Person Shooter) . The team at Extra Credits explores this subject briefly in their videos Aesthetics of Play and Combining Genres, comparing the clumsy genre classification in gaming to that of other media.

There has been some very successful re-thinking of genre in recent history especially with the rise of indie game development. Most indie developers are in a unique position where they do not have to answer to a money driven producer and are able to experiment with new approaches and try different combinations of genre. A well known example of the re-invention of a genre was Portal, which took game play typical to a FPS and used it to create and engaging  and enjoyable puzzle game,  the only “shooting” involved in this FPS is used for the placement of portals in the environment.

There have also been much less successful attempts at rethinking genre, as mentioned in the Extra Credits Combining Genres video this is likely the product of trying to combine genres for the wrong reasons resulting in a disparate miss match of mechanics. An example of a common attempt at this is forced action sequences in stealth games such as in Thief: The Dark Project. It is widely regarded that the ‘monster levels’ felt very out of place in a game based on stealth, the monsters in these levels behaved quite differently from normal human characters and often needed to be fought and killed, which could be quite difficult and unwieldy for the normally fragile and stealthy Garret.

One genre that I have been hoping would be revisited is horror. I enjoy horror in pretty much any media I can consume, I’ve found however that I play very few horror games as I find it hard to handle the jump scares the genre loves so much. The horror genre is largely dominated by either survival horror such as DayZ, or FPS horror such as Left 4 Dead. These kinds of games tend to tackle the ‘horrors’ head on, usually via some kind of monster, depictions of horror are very obvious either in the form of corpses strewn about the place or jump scares by aforementioned monsters. I find that there are very few horror games that approach the genre in the slow and almost poetic way that writers such as Lovecraft do. I find that in Lovecraft’s horror the reader is led down a dark and winding path to some realisation that, once it hits, creates an almost palpable feeling of fear.

This is until I found Kitty Horrorshow. In his article Leigh Alexander describes the games that Kitty designs based on her own literary works. A far cry from the usual jump scares, Kitty specialises in a poetic, ambient kind of horror.

“Join a group forging through the desert in search of a pyramid, as your skin begins to blister mysteriously away. Or explore the ruins of a sigil-painted village as the slick bodies of giant hornets lurk, swollen and sleepy with blood. Wander the suggestion of a mysterious village in continuous rain, urged onward by a pale, sad voice.
These are the delicate, expressive horror games of Kitty Horrorshow”

Kitty creates short games that give the player a sense of mystery, the need to unravel this being the driving force for continued play.

I am glad to see someone approaching the horror genre from a new angle and I dearly hope that Kitty continues her work, as this is a take on the genre that I felt was sorely needed. In future it will be interesting to see what further developments appear in both the indie and AAA spaces as audiences prove that they are interested in more complex combinations of genre.

Articles referenced:

Aesthetics of Play – Redefining Genres in Gaming 2012, YouTube, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uepAJ-rqJKA&spfreload=10 >.
Combining Genres 2012, YouTube, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOQwakqWs7k >.
Alexander, L 2015, ‘Meet the secret new horror mistress of video games’, Offworld, < http://boingboing.net/2015/10/21/meet-the-secret-new-horror-mis.html >.

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