What's in a genre?
Here at The Escapist, we've gone around and around on the subject of genre classifications. Sure, they can often be an arbitrary label applied to a piece of art simply for the sake of knowing what shelf to put it on at the store, and, as such, kind of demeaning. We like to think that games are more than the sum of their parts, and therefore, to a large extent, hard to classify. Some of our favorite games can be considered a mélange of different classic game genres combined in such a way as to create a holistic experience that rises above its genre classification. In fact, some of our older favorites seem to have been created without any particular genre in mind at all.
And yet, when it comes right down to it, our brand of games journalism is largely aimed at helping you decide how to spend your hard-earned money. Our approach to reviews is, after all, not based on some self-indulgent "games are art" philosophy; it's based on helping you decide what to buy. Although we do believe games are art, we also know they're expensive and that having some experience of playing the game before you buy it (even if that experience is gleaned vicariously through our review) is a good thing.
Viewed in that light, genre classifications can be a useful tool. Sure they may be a label, but sometimes labels are a good thing. Without a label, a jar of water looks very similar to a jar of bleach. Knowing the difference is pretty important. If genre classifications help you get your head around what a game may bring to the table before you plop your money down and are stuck with it, then they're a good thing. Period.
That's why we're proud to introduce The Escapist's very first official genre classification chart. In true The Escapist style, we weren't quite content with taking what was already out there and calling it our own. The industry's current genre definitions begin by focusing on the external form of a game. If a game has guns, for instance, it's called a shooter. We wanted to get past these superficial impressions and discover what's at the foundation of each gaming experience.
So we decided to start from the beginning and build our classification system from scratch, trusting that, if we were doing it right, we would eventually discover a more proper context for the existing genres (shooter, strategy, action). We decided to approach the process as if we were having to re-create it from the inside out, applying our own logic and reasoning and building a system we could be proud of and that we felt confident would say as much about us, as gamers, as it would about the games themselves.