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We need a better name for "Adventure" games

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Marscaleb, Jun 19, 2020.

  1. Marscaleb

    Marscaleb

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    One thing that has long bothered me is the term "Adventure Game" for a certain genre of video game. Games like Monkey Island and King's Quest. Whenever I hear the term "adventure" I picture someone picking up a sword and slaying dragons. But these "adventure games" aren't about adventuring at all; they are about puzzle solving. "Adventure" is a more fitting description for a game like Legend of Zelda than for something like Indigo Prophecy.

    Sometimes people will throw out the term "Point-and-Click Adventure," and this is honestly an improvement. For as much actual adventure as these games have in them, watering them down to what you'd expect from a point-and-click interface does describe them close enough.
    But you can't call the whole genre "point-and-click adventure" because it doesn't apply to the older games that use a text parser, or various other titles where you don't actually point anything.
    So maybe you could say "Graphic Adventure" but that doesn't describe it very well; the first image that conjures up is some explicitly R-Rated game, because it's graphic. Plus it doesn't apply to the old text adventure games, which means you'd have to separate the two, which means when you try to call the whole genre something you wind up at just "adventure." That's right back to where we started!

    We need a new term for the genre.
    When I try to think about what uniformly applies to these games, well, that's about puzzle-solving. But when people hear about "puzzle games" there is already a genre for that, with games like Tetris and bejeweled. So that doesn't work. And maybe you could try to find a term that applies to both puzzles and a person exploring and talking, but if we had a good term for that it would probably be a better fit for games like Professor Layton and Puzzle Agent.

    So maybe... Problem-solving game? That sounds more appropriate, but it doesn't really roll off the tongue; it doesn't sound like a good name for a genre.

    But we definitely need a better term for this genre. What are your thoughts? What should we call this genre?
     
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  2. bobisgod234

    bobisgod234

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    Do we?

    I wouldn't associate the word "adventure" with picking up a sword and slaying dragons at all. That sounds more like "action" than "adventure". Nothing about the word adventure implies killing anything at all to me. When I think of the term "adventure game", games in a format similar Monkey Island is what comes to my mind.

    We have "Walking Simulators", even though people do not make these games (and people do not play them) to simulate walking. Despite that, people know roughly what a walking simulator is and what to expect.

    People generally know what an Adventure game is, even if the name (taken literally) isn't wonderfully descriptive. That applies to virtually all genre names related to anything ever.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  3. angrypenguin

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    And don't forget "RPG", which rarely refers to any significant "role playing" any more and is usually used in reference to "upgradable stats".

    Personally, I think "puzzle adventure" would be a decent enough fit, and a reasonable enough contrast agains the typical "action adventure".

    I don't think "problem solving game" is any better than "adventure", because basically all games give you problems to solve. Many of them are just in the format of "there are bad guys and you have a shotgun"... that's still a "problem".
     
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  4. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Worth consideration: what games do you include in the category?

    On Steam I have a category called "Puzzle/Adventure" that includes:

    Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons
    Day of the Tentacle
    The Descendent
    Firewatch
    Myst V
    Life is Strange
    The Pillars of the Earth
    Portal 1/2
    Scribblenauts
    Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments
    The Talos Principle
    World of Goo

    ...and many others. Which of these would you consider part of the same category, and which would you separate into a separate class (and for what reason)?
     
  5. Lurking-Ninja

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    I never like the idea to change established terms l'art pour l'art. Everyone understands what adventure games mean. We know it is a broad term. Just like the "Strategy" genre. There is nothing wrong with it. Not to mention all those clarifying terms and sub-genre terms already exist. Puzzle-adventure and Action-adventure and so on.

    Any change shouldn't about what is logical or what is more "organized".
    Does the change brings any _significant_ good to people? This is the only valid question.

    And the answer is no, renaming things just because we don't like the current lingo is a very bad idea.

    That's my $.02
     
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  6. angrypenguin

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    That's not my experience. Here's a bunch of things snipped from Steam's "Adventure" category:
    upload_2020-6-19_15-51-11.png

    That's just from the first few pages, just the ones I could immediately tell don't fit the classic "adventure game" label, and after NFS I skipped duplicates / franchises. The term is not used in any consistent or meaningful way.

    About the only meaningful thing that Unravel, Deadside and Need for Speed and Satisfactory have in common is that they're video games, and we didn't need a genre label to tell us that. ;)
     
    Marscaleb likes this.
  7. bobisgod234

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    I think Lurking-Ninja is still about right. I think people understand what an adventure game means about as well as understanding what any other genre means. Attempting to come up with a more "accurate" name for a genre just isn't going to succeed.

    I always interpreted the labels on steam as not being what genre the game belongs to, but just what elements the game contains. I think very few people would call NSF Most Wanted an Adventure Game, if you specifically asked them what genre they though the game belonged to. They still might tag it as "Adventure" though.
     
  8. Lurking-Ninja

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    Yes, but shady marketing tactics don't negate my point. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
  9. darkgaze

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    +1 !! Puzzle Game. Puzzle Adventure.
     
  10. sxa

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    They're called 'adventure' games because the game 'Adventure' was basically the prototype for the first one (it became 'Colossal Cave Adventure').
    Naming game genres after the primary antecedent isnt new. See also 'rogue-like' 'metroidvania' and, gaining traction recently 'souls-like' for similar precedents.

    Trying to rename 'adventure' though is somewhat of pointless, IMO. There's 4-decades plus of history, understanding and inertia behind the usage, and everyone 'gets' what an adventure game is. That's not going to change.

    (yes, 'Metroidvania' is a portmanteau of two antecedents, but whatever)
     
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  11. sxa

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    I disagree. The term is used in a consistent or meaningful way, and that's an exception. What you're seeing there is basically a manipulation of Steam's categories because getting your game to turn up under more categories of search means more sales.
    Or, if you want to be charitable, on Steam, maybe its 'adventure' as an adjective, rather than as a noun. Like 'violent' and 'sexual' are under Mafia II in your screengrab.

    But if you said 'Im going to play an adventure game', noone is going to think you mean Star Wars Battlefront. Not even the makers of Star Wars Battlefront.
     
  12. neginfinity

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    This particular genre was called "Quest" in some countries/languages, which pretty much fits it perfectly. However, I don't think this particular use is widespread in english-speaking regions.
     
  13. angrypenguin

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    See my opening comment here about "RPG". The marketing side of things impacts what people associate the term with and how it's used.

    I also don't think that this case is particularly exceptional. Here's the "Adventure Game" page from Origin:
    upload_2020-6-19_22-10-59.png

    I didn't even have to pick examples from there. It speaks for itself.

    Edit: Playstation, Xbox and UPlay all put "Action and Adventure" together.

    GOG's adventure category looks much more like a classical representation of the genre. That's no surprise, though, as they're specifically targeting an enthusiast audience who are likely to know about gaming history at least enough to know what "adventure game" use as a genre is referring to. They do sell "good old games", after all.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
  14. neginfinity

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    They're using this as a shorthand of "Action Adventure". Which is usually running-jumping thing. (Earlier) Tomb Raider, Beyond Good and Evil, and the like. With more focus on story and moving and less focus on killing.
     
  15. sxa

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    I'd argue that this is still 'adjective' territory, rather than 'noun', same way they have an 'Action Game' category.

    After all, whats 'Role Playing Game' genre about Populous or Bastion, or 'Simulation' genre about This War of Mine? Yeah, technically The Witness is a 'first person' game, but is it a 'First Person' game? Is that, or 'Third Person' a genre?
    Is 'SciFi' or 'Horror' a genre? Blech to categorising like that, mixing setting with genre with, hmmm, camera view?

    On Origin, it looks like 'classically defined' adventure games are just in the Adventure category. All the one's I'd think werent that are actually in more than one category, hence my feeling that again this is more adjective or tag based categories rather than by genre.

    I guess its not a majorly important thing, though, and there's certainly far more blurred lines between the edges of some other stuff and 'classic' adventure games theses days, puzzle style stuff, FP walksims, yadda yadda.
     
  16. Ryiah

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    standards.png
     
  17. angrypenguin

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    I agree with that. I also agree that the word "genre" is not actually what game categories tend to be. Basically, the way we categorise games tends to be all sorts of messed up, and based on historical context rather than on accurate descriptions. It's basically a bunch of idioms, as is the classical label "adventure game" (and, as someone already pointed out, a bunch of others).

    My point overall is that, regardless of why or how, I completely agree that the way the words "adventure game" get used is changing, and the games themselves have evolved too. As a result those words are getting less usefully descriptive. And if we could come up with a better label I think that'd be generally nice.

    I'm not saying it's the end of the world, either. I'm just the kind of person who enjoys discussing this type of stuff. ;)
     
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  18. Ruberta

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    I think adventure as a genre should be about exploration the game world. This means there are many games can fit this genre even it's not direcly related to the genre.

    Speaking of "slaying dragons", this reminds me another subgenre in adventure that try to seperate to another form of media. That's right. I means interactive storytelling by Chris Crawford's definition. The genre that has been left behind and misunderstood for a long time.
     
  19. sxa

    sxa

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    likewise, FWIW.
     
  20. sxa

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    But 'exploration' is a better word for that. Although strictly speaking, if you're moving anything about an environment, you're exploring.

    And I think that's the problem with this, pretty much any game with a plot or story is about 'having an adventure' of some kind. And something isnt much of a game without 'action'. Plus, everything has some sort of 'puzzle' element.

    I kinda feel adjectives like 'adventure' and 'action' are 'puzzle' are so universally applicable they basically become pointless and redundant.

    Especially when companies like Origin are flagging Need For Speed DLC as 'adventure'. Gah.
     
  21. Ruberta

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    Puzzle is unnessary for adventure. Look at walking simulator, it's about exploration and storytelling via narrator. No problem to solve that means no puzzle.

    Look at definition of adventure from Cambridge dictionary. 'An unusal, exciting, and possibly dangerous activity, such as a trip or experience, or the excitement produced by such an activity.' There is no solving the problem there. You can have exciting exploration without puzzle.
     
  22. EternalAmbiguity

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    sxa is saying that most (not really all, that's just hyperbole) games have a puzzle element. Combat can be a puzzle. Zelda and uncharted and Tomb Raider have puzzles. RPG games have puzzles.

    It's not descriptive enough.
     
  23. neginfinity

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    That's not an adventure, that's walking simulator.
     
  24. Lurking-Ninja

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    Not to mention that we need to keep in mind that any "genre" is just generalization. There is no clean-cut what is tru for every single game. It's just like music or books or movies.

    Adventure genre is as much precise as the "adventure" book genre.Or the "metal" music genre. Sometimes you even ask what it does even mean. And that's okay. Trying to overly categorize these things is impossible on any sane way. You will end up with a lot of individual games and maybe *some* which tucked together (clones). And it is not super-helpful.

    The current categorization is good enough. If you tell me "adventure" I won't think about FPS or 4x or RTS games. I won't think about by default platformers or pure rhythm games. If you add a secondary genre to it (puzzle- or action-, etc) I will have more clear picture. All sold. Every single genre in existence work like this because it is a generalization of infinite possibilities.
     
  25. Ruberta

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    Walking simulator is subgenre of adventure. So it's adventure game.
     
  26. neginfinity

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    I do not perceive it as a subgenre of adventure game, regardless of argument.

    For a walking simulator to be an adventure game, it has to feature a lot of puzzles. If there are no puzzles, it is no longer an adventure game.

    There are several types of "adventure". Games similar to Myst, and games simlar to "Full Throttle", "Sam and Max hit the road", "Legends of Kyrandia" and so on. Then there's "Action adventure" (tomb raider).

    Then again, with addition of puzzles, it becomes similar to "Puzzle" game which are genre of their own, and "Hidden Object" games.

    Basically, boundaries are really fuzzy.
     
  27. sxa

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    If there's no puzzle, why are walking games so oblique about the events you're always getting fed a trickle of narrative on? Why is the primary activity collecting fragments of data that hint at those events? Why isnt the story ever explained it explicitly up front?

    Finding data + deriving backstory from data = puzzle.
     
  28. bobisgod234

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    I wouldn't consider walking simulators a sub-genre of adventure games. I also wouldn't consider adventure games to be defined by exploring the game world (though it is a pretty common thing in the genre)
     
  29. angrypenguin

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    It can be, but it usually isn't. And I don't think anyone is saying these things must be mutually exclusive. You could certainly have a combat puzzle game where puzzles are about how to win fights.

    To me this kind of demonstrates that "adventure" is a misnomer, and that game "genre" labels are just busted in general. This is probably because "genre" ultimately just means category, and you can categorise things based on whatever you want.

    I think the specific issue in games is that, unlike other types of media, we actually have two major aspects of the game to describe:
    1. The type of interaction or activity the player is involved in. This would be racing, or shooting, or puzzle solving, and so on.
    2. The type of story told, if there even is one. This should probably be categorised using a standard "literary genre".

    Game genres regularly miss at least one of those, and are commonly unclear about the other. They often rely entirely on historical familiarity with other things that have carried the same labels.

    So screw it. I say bring on the 15th competing standard. Maybe this time we'll get it right. ;) It's hardly like it's going to get worse.

    - - -

    On a more serious note, I think that what we're seeing emerging in storefronts is pretty much that, and I don't think they're making things worse. For instance, if you look specifically at the story then at least some of the new Need for Speed games to fit the "adventure" label - someone travelling the lands on a quest to become the best racer. But it seems ludicrous anyway, partly because the "adventure" is just window dressing on the actual activity of racing, and perhaps more importantly... who plays Need for Speed for the story?
     
  30. bobisgod234

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    I think these issues with genre's are not really fixable, and are basically inevitable. I see these kind of discussions come up all the time in metal related discussions, and they just go round and round in circles, going nowhere.

    The tagging system that some stores (like Steam) use seem like the best bet for a better way to classify games more descriptively.
     
  31. EternalAmbiguity

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    I was thinking of RPGs when I made that comment. Stuff like Divinity Original Sin. I've actually been playing Final Fantasy 5 recently and there are most certainly "solutions" to certain boss fights (and that's been my experience in a number of games in the series, from FF3 to FF13).

    Depends on if you count running around knocking out enemies "combat," but stealthily eliminating enemies in Splinter Cell can be puzzle-like (or AC Odyssey).
     
  32. neginfinity

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    In natural languages, words do not have perfect precise definition. The meaning is almost always fuzzy, and corresponds to palette of associations connected to a specific word. Some associations are stronger than others, and some are less common than others. This is one of the examples.

    Let's not. Human being is supposed to be able to derive missing data from context, and "adventure" game gives good enough rough direction of what you're going to expect.

    However, storefronts are differnet matter entirely.

    The labels are assigned nearly randomly, and being labeled as "adventure" does not mean the game is actually "adventure".
     
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  33. angrypenguin

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    I'm not after "perfect". I'm after "not as busted as the existing system". Every other area of media I'm aware of gets this close enough despite still having fuzzy definitions. There's debate over the difference between "sci-fi" and "fantasy", for instance, but if my grandmother wanted to buy me a book she could still identify something I'm likely to enjoy from a storefront display without having to first study the history of novels.

    Aye, "from context". Everyone in here has that context, probably far moreso than even the average gamer.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
  34. bobisgod234

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    What if you were really into "Mythopoeia" or "Techno-thriller"? or one of the other numerous much less common genres that I found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_writing_genres

    As you get more and more specific and niche, the name itself of the genre starts to have less meaning to those that aren't into that genre. That is true of video games, literature, music etc.

    I am pretty sure grandma could pick out a "shooter" or "driving" game, for instance.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
  35. angrypenguin

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    This could be a whole other topic. :) It depends on the specifics of what a "puzzle" is, exactly. Suffice to say that yes, there certainly are games where combat and puzzles intersect.

    The original Half Life is an example of that. The puzzles weren't particularly cerebral, but there was definitely a "solution" that you couldn't succeed without figuring out for some of the encounters. That broad approach is a relatively common pattern in boss fights in general. Where would the new Hitman games fall on this spectrum? (My answer is "all over it". ;))

    As a generalisation, I'd say that a combat system's "puzzliness" is inversely proportional to how much other skills impact your level of success.
     
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  36. Lurking-Ninja

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    I don't agree with this entire topic for one reason: genres aren't made. They are formed. By people over time. If you don't like the current terminology, bring it up with the millions of users and devs worldwide, who formed the genre and labelled games with it.
    Of course you can always try. Just start to call games with another label and call out the Steam and other game repos and the marketing departments so they should label their games differently.

    I don't see any useful outcome of it though. Your grandma never ever will be able to buy a free jazz album either unless she is into it and knows at least approximately what and where to look for. But that's okay. Genres aren't for people who don't care, it is for people who actually care. Because those people formed the genres and ultimately decided this way.
     
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  37. neginfinity

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    Is it busted though? Because I'm not feeling it, and because as far as I know precise definition is not needed.
    Basically, what problem are you trying to solve, and does this problem actually exist?

    Half-life is a first person shooter with emphasis on storytelling.

    They're "Stealth" genre.
     
  38. Quingu

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    In terms of dictionary meaning "adventure" means: "an unusual and exciting or daring experience." There is nothing particularly exciting or daring about solving puzzles. The name for this type of games is a clear misnomer. I would name them: "narrative games". That's because all "adventure games" ALWAYS are very heavy on storytelling, characters and dialogues which are all narrative elements. Note that "narrative" has more in common with "role-playing" than with "adventure" and in fact this is the case as both genres are HEAVY on storytelling/characters.

    A real adventure game to me is something like "Tomb Rider" or "Uncharted".
     
  39. bobisgod234

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    The puzzles in adventure games are mostly there to engage the player in what is happening. In isolation, the puzzles themselves are not where the adventuring comes from. The sense of adventure comes from the plot, characters, generally what is going on etc.

    The games you listed are generally considered "action-adventure".
     
  40. Quingu

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    In classic adventure games you simply unlock narrative elements by solving puzzles. Basically your puzzle solving skills throttle narrative progression. In some sense they are not even real games. More like interactive fiction with puzzles. Note that puzzles are not games.
     
  41. bobisgod234

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    I don't see how being narrative-heavy makes something more role-playing then adventure. Books can be described as adventurous, and they are nothing but narrative. A narrative can be "unusual and exciting or daring". "role-playing" tends to imply more focus on stats-and-levelling then it does any kind of narrative.

    With "walking simulators" being considered a legitimate subgenre of videogames, we can safely assume that the definition of "videogame" does not require any traditional kind of "game". Adventure games are legitimate games.

    The genre name is just fine as is.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
  42. sxa

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    Not being eaten by a grue was exciting. Risking it was daring. How times change.

    In terms of the dictionary 'rogue' means 'an unprincipled or dishonest person'. That doesnt make 'roguelike' a misnomer, though. Because 'roguelike' wasn't derived from a dictionary definition, it was derived from the title of a specific game.
    And as Ive already said, so was 'adventure.'
     
  43. Quingu

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    This genre names simply contain mistakes which are now widely accepted. In my fantasy game I don't use the term "rogue". Instead I use the term "hunter" which allows very similar designs without any moral implications.
     
  44. angrypenguin

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    Since I like my terms to be meaningful and useful I agree, but plenty of people are happy with much broader definitions. By your logic many video games aren't actually "games". Which I agree with, for what its worth.

    Sure, but being "not wrong" isn't the same as being a good and useful term. "Roguelike" depends on someone either a) being familiar with Rogue or b) already knowing what other "roguelikes" are.

    There's a good reason that book stores have a "fantasy" section rather than a "Lord-of-the-Rings-like" section (or whatever that would be).

    Well, I'm having the discussion because I'm enjoying it, moreso than because I think there's any real problem that matters. Trust me, if I wanted to put actual effort into doing something productive it wouldn't be this. ;)

    Still, the "problem" is that our genre labels are often not particularly useful. [edit] In particular, "adventure game" isn't particularly meaningful any more because different people / stores / etc. all use it so differently. [/edit]

    Even if the conclusion is that they can't be meaningfully improved, that's fine. The thinking around that is of far more value to me than the potential solution itself. Practically speaking, the ability to come up with a better system isn't the issue. As @Lurking-Ninja points out, there's no way for us to apply whatever we come up with anyway.
    That was a tangent away from the main topic, and in its context "puzzle" isn't being used as a game category.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  45. EternalAmbiguity

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    Worth pointing out here that video game genres are often defined by gameplay rather than narrative setting or design (as opposed to books and movies). A narrative-heavy FPS and a multiplayer-only FPS are both still an FPS. "First person shooter" describes the gameplay.

    How well does "adventure" describe gameplay? Should game genres be based on gameplay, or instead on the narrative setting/design (or a combination of the two)?
     
  46. Billy4184

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    This might not be technically accurate, but I think of adventure games as being games that are not defined by any particular mechanic, but rather by immersion into some kind of fantasy. Something where the way that a mechanic fits into the narrative is more important than the mechanic itself.
     
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  47. neoshaman

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    Historically the first adventure game was not structured around puzzle and narratives:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossal_Cave_Adventure
    These got codified later into the genre, the first game was about finding treasure and ranking points

    So do adventure game need puzzles and story?

    Anyway the first mistake is to have genre be exclusive, then have many game blurs the line to oblivion. Generally game genre imply a set of mechanics, and they aren't mutually exclusive, so generally genre imply a focus on the set as the core mechanics. Genre is really mostly cultural label set by historical precedent, they can't have any authority on structure of games, or thing get weird, they really are about naming a tradition than grouping games by mechanics.

    I don't use personally genre except when talking in specific context. I mostly 3 inclusives macro genre as action, story and management, which imply a core focus, and it help much more than traditionally named genre. That's how my game library is tagged.
     
  48. bobisgod234

    bobisgod234

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2016
    Posts:
    420
    I don't believe they should be, and I think adventure games are a good example of that.

    I don't think most people who play adventure games do so especially for their gameplay, it is the narrative that is the main appeal. Naming a genre like that based off their gameplay doesn't seem particularly meaningful.

    If roguelikes were as big and popular as "fantasy" books, there absolutely would be a roguelike section at your local game store.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2020
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  49. neginfinity

    neginfinity

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2013
    Posts:
    7,969
    Imagine...

    Mortal Kombat, the racing game.
    F1 Grand Prix, the dating sim.

    Seems like gameplay is very important for the genre.
     
  50. neoshaman

    neoshaman

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Posts:
    5,255
     
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