Playing the Genre Game

The success of Red Dead Redemption has proven that the Western genre can work successfully and profitably in the gaming domain, after the relative failure of Gun and the original Red Dead Revolver to make a success of the genre. The Western is a refreshing change from the World War and Modern Warfare FPS games that are extremely popular at this point in time. Rockstar have to be applauded for taking a risk on a previously niche genre, with this big budget game. They are one of only a few companies that are taking risks with new properties and genres that have previously been unexplored or underexploited in gaming. Most publishers just plagiarise any genre that they see being profitable. This is no more evident than EA’s attempts to guzump Activision and the Call of Duty franchise, with their relaunch of the Medal of Honor series – which uses gallingly similar settings and game modes.

As much as I enjoy Call of Duty and Battlefield Bad Company 2, there is always a hankering for a new experience, and Red Dead Redemption certainly fits the bill. GTA Western it may be, but it is a refreshing change of scene that GTA itself could do with emulating. I’m not saying that GTA should be set that far in the past, but the constant recycling of the games’ original three cities (Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas) is beginning to get a bit boring, and I just feel they could do with a fresh setting to explore, with the game taking place in say Tokyo, London, or somewhere in Italy. Similarly RPGs seem to be stuck with either a Lord of the Rings style backdrop, or a cliched Star Wars Sci-Fi template.

Sadly the visuals were the only decent thing about this insipid movie tie-in.

So what other genres should developers be looking into? Well the pirate era has been sadly neglected, with only the lacklustre Pirates Of The Caribbean movie tie ins, and the sadly neglected Sid Meier’s Pirates. If someone like Rockstar were to design a Pirates game I’m sure they could kick the genre into life, and make a success of it. Imagine sailing your ship into battle, wearing opposing ships down with cannon fire before boarding, taking on the remaining sailors in a sword and gun duel, and finally conquering the ship and adding it to your armada. Developers could also use the more supernatural aspects of pirates, with sea monsters and Davy Jones’s locker to add extra spice to swash your buckle. Players could enjoy exploring the beautiful islands in search of treasure, much like Red Dead Redemption’s treasure hunts, going into towns in search of wenches and plunder while quaffing some good grog, and all the while evading capture from government forces. It really could be a cracking game if developers used a bit of imagination.

Where Time Stood Still was well ahead of its time. (Excuse the pun!)

Another period I’d love to see recreated is the dinosaur era. It could be done like an old 50s/60s B movie like the classic Speccy game Where Time Stood Still. With you crash landing on a mysterious island, which is inhabited with dinosaurs all out to have you for lunch. Players will be forced to negotiate steep cliffs, jungles, swamps and river rapids to find a way to escape the island. There could be other people on the island to help you, and natives out to hinder you. With trap laden temples like Indiana Jones to traverse, it really could be an exciting romp, much like Uncharted 2 in a massive open world.

The Great Escape premise was great, but it was far too linear an experience.

I know World War II games have been done to death, but what about a decent prison break game, like The Great Escape? With you forced to stick to routine in the camp, while sneaking around at night evading guards, it could be the ultimate stealth game. With many different ways to escape, rather than the linear The Great Escape, the game would reward ingenuity with lots of items hidden around the camp to help you in your escape. Once you have escaped the prison, the game would become more action orientated, as you try and reach the border of the game world by any means possible (train, car, plane etc).

Sadly Blade 2 was a repetitive slog, surely classic villains like vampires deserve better.

Zombies have been a constant menace in games, but what about another famous movie villain, the vampire? With the success of films like the Twilight Saga, it’s amazing no developer has come up with a decent vamp adventure. Imagine a beautifully rendered town like the one in Alan Wake with day/night cycle, with you having to hunt the vamps that have taken over your town. Or even more interestingly have the player take the evil role, with players using stealth to turn the townsfolk into fellow blood suckers, much like a vampiric Batman. While avoiding being staked, and the constant threat of the cycle of the sun.

These are just a few examples of scenarios sadly lacking in our interactive playground. So what genre or setting would you like to see being explored by the games industry? Are you getting jaded with all the Modern Warfare FPS clones and GTA wannabes that are cluttering up the games charts? As much as I love playing COD, GTA etc I see gaming as a way to experience things that wouldn’t be possible in the real world, and I feel developers need to broaden their horizons and bring new experiences to the gaming menu, before we get sick of the yearly retreads. It might be a big risk for these companies, but Rockstar have shown with Red Dead Redemption that if a little TLC and good marketing is applied, they will reap the rewards with big returns. The old saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’ couldn’t be more apt.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!


  1. KrazyFace /

    Some really good ideas in this. Ideas that I think about almost ALL THE TIME!!! I’m with you on getting away from the same old, same old. In Legacy of Kain on the PS1 I loved stalking around the human retreat and feasting on women-folk who wandered around! I’d like to see this the focus of a game (being a vampire that is, not preying on women!) at some point soon. But my imagination just went MENTAL when you talked about pirates! One of the things I liked about The Wind Waker was sailing to different shores and islands, wondering what you could find and also plumbing the sea for treasure en-route. But imagine a massive Just Cause 2 (or bigger) sized world of pirates, taverns, islands, caves, jungles, mountians, loads of different boats and a massive, massive ocean to explore… that would be AMAZING!

    I just finished reading The Island of Doctor Moreau and I’m well in the mood for some old-fashoned, swash-buckling, treasure-huntin, aztec ruin-exploration! BRING IT ON!!!

    How do you know if you’re a pirate?

    You just AAARRRGGH!!!

  2. Kevin M /

    Wind Waker is as close as you’ll get to sailing the seven seas, and as you say imagine a Just Cause size world, with changing night/day and weather, with massive waves/storms and whirlpools to negotiate. I find it quite sad that no developer has thought of this concept. Time to copyright it I reckon!!

  3. steven g /

    I think the setting is so important and you are right to highlight the issue of settings as a major contributor to genre.

    Im aware that there are some new IPs being developed in new settings, but you can’t avoid the rehashed ‘brown’ looking locations, especially in FPS games. New locations help to develop new gameplay ideas and Red Dead is a superb example; who thought Id enjoy rounding up cattle?!

    More could be done with the Sci Fi genre and certainly more could be done with time travel and different time periods. The Fable series has done well to locate itself in a magical ancient England for this very reason.

    I think developers should not only choose new locations for their pretty visuals (Uncharted 2 Im looking at you) but learn about how life differs there and bring those elements into the game.

    • KrazyFace /

      Yeah, time travel is another one I’ve been waiting on for what seems my entire life! Assassin’s Creed 1 & 2, and Red Dead really showed me where I want my games to be going. I’m tired of looking into the misty future, and I’m enjoying delving into the past.

      Now if only they could make a game where you could drive a Delorian between 1900 and 2050, or even an H.G Wells stationary one would suit me. To be able to see the landscape shift and change according to the time period would be cool. Even if they set it in a small town, you could still interact and influence generations of the populace throughout time, farting about with the outcomes of the future, in the past.

    • Kevin M /

      Cultural differences are a good point. Playing Bully (Canis Canem Edit) I just longed for the game to be set in a UK school, like Skool Daze. I know developers are chasing the American Dollar, but surely Americans would welcome a virtual trip to another country or time?

  4. Oni-Samurai /

    aaaarrgghh! I second a pirate game in the same vein as red dead. I’ve only just brought red dead and hunting the second treasure was great using the map, I didn’t think it could work as a friend had to help me with the first. It gives me hope that if anybody can make a decent open world pirate adventure, it’s rockstar.

  5. half_empty80 /

    An updated Sid Meier’s Pirates, by Rockstar, would be amazing

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