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Matt Lees' Column

Video Game Genre Names are Bullshit, So Let’s Change Them

Games have changed, but we're still talking about "action-adventures". It's time to consider more accurate alternatives.

by Matt Lees
12 February 2015, 3:30pm

'Skyrim': a tick for both "SOMEONE ELSE'S EYES" and "SOMEONE ELSE'S BACK"

Now that we've got January out of our systems and given up on the ridiculous premise that 2015 will make us better people, it's time to start effecting genuine change. Nobody cares that you gave up booze for three weeks or almost ran 5k when it was really cold, and now you're back to reality with the rest of us – which means too much cheese and lovely video games.

Although, hang on: is gaming even relevant anymore? The only thing I was able to recover from the black box of the wreckage that was 2014 is that the word "gamer" has become a bit confused. Up until recently I'd wrongly assumed that it represented anyone who enjoyed playing video games; but it turns out that the hobby is impossible to properly appreciate unless you enjoy specific types of games and think that women could probably do with being knocked down a peg or two.

So now that mainstream perceptions of our digital funtimes have been drowned in an endless cavern of piss, we may as well burn everything and start again from scratch. This might not seem like a useful attitude, but I'd never had any problems getting an ex-employer to rapidly send me a P45.

The terminology we had in the first place was mostly shit anyway, so I'm sure that precisely nobody will mind that I'm binning the lot and renaming every genre.

The very shiny Gun Murder Simulator 'Killzone Shadow Fall'

FIRST PERSON SHOOTER

FPS is a staple acronym for those who love shooting people in the face but are keen to elevate themselves just above the masses. No, I don't just play Call of Duty – to be frank I like my Gun Murder Simulators to be a little less gauche. Fuck it, let's just go with that one, shall we? I came over here expecting to settle on Shooty Bang Bang Bang Bang Bangers (SBBBBB), but I've flippantly decided that it's probably for the best that we all just accept the horrifying reality that this is what our brains have decided that we like doing. Gun Murder Simulator doesn't beat around the bush – if anything it climbs into the bush and starts tearing it apart from the inside, like that bit from Alien re-enacted in a local garden centre.

Sit there face-frumping at me all you want, but when was the last time you played a shooter where you weren't being tasked with killing other stuff? Robots might seem like a strong get-out clause for now, but give it 20 years and stuff like that will see you ground into meat-fuel by our new overlords.

It's certainly weird that we're culturally obsessed with luxuriously shiny digital worlds that let us shoot things that look like people in the head, but in lieu of any better sociological explanation I think it's time that we accept that humans are simply awful and weird.

'Gone Home', which obviously isn't a real game anyway

FIRST PERSON GAMES

Oh God I'd forgotten about these. Not all first person games involve guns, incredibly, which leaves a question mark hanging over what we're supposed to do with games that have the downright gall to stop you from swanning around with a sniper rifle.

Skyrim isn't too bad I suppose, on the merit that it lets you set fire to wolves, but what do we do with something like Gone Home? You don't get a gun, you can't set fire to wolves, and the only reward you get for playing is a simple yet rich and compelling story. Obviously that's easy – Gone Home isn't a game.

But what about all of the ones where you can kill people but don't necessarily get to do it with guns? That's easy, we just get rid of the whole First Person genre. Instead, we have a little chart with green ticks on the back of the box: SOMEONE ELSE'S EYES or SOMEONE ELSE'S BACK, with a potential third option for SOMEONE ELSE'S BUM. If you're confused, ask the man at the counter.

'Dark Souls II', a recent Number Hero Game hit

ROLE PLAYING GAMES

This one's been total bollocks for a very long time. In theory RPGs are about stepping into the shoes of one specific character, and making decisions from the perspective of a person that might have nothing in common with you. These days that's a more accurate description of the stuff that Telltale Games tends to make, but doesn't have a huge amount in common with the modern RPG.

It's such a slippery genre to pin down that I think we'll have to settle with Number Hero Games. Sometimes you've potions and monsters to fight, other times you're off on a galactic gallivant – but consistently you'll be making numbers go up, and you'll almost definitely save the world at some point. It's pretty much the same role every bloody time.

I'm still waiting on the tale of the country bumpkin whose family is murdered by an evil lord, and embarks on a quest for glorious revenge only to discover that – as a penniless farmhand – he lacks the skills and the means to do anything of any value. One man's hope gradually crushed as he's beaten up by minions and earns pennies growing onions. You might not see the entertainment value in gawping at the hopeless, but my mate Simon Cowell has already proven it to be a deeply robust business model.

Japanese RPGs are an entirely different beast, of course, so we'll just call them Four People Line Up In Front Of A Dragon.

RACING GAMES

One of the few genres with a name that you really can't fault. Some people call them Driving Games. That's fine too. Everything is fine. If you're determined to walk away from this paragraph with something childish and stupid, then fine – let's call them Fast WheelyZoomers. I didn't want this. Are you happy?

The stars of 'Carry On Attaching a Car Battery to a Man's Nipples'

ACTION/ADVENTURE GAMES

I can never work out why these two always end up bundled together, with action routinely meaning fighting with swords while adventure could frankly mean almost anything. The first two titles listed in this category on GAME's website are LEGO Lord of the Rings and GTA V. Some people like to bumble about in the shoes of a tiny plastic Gandalf, other people like to murder the elderly with cars – either way it's all just a magical adventure.

This genre is clearly a weird throwback to a time when 60% of all games released were a blatant pastiche of Tolkienesque guff, but these days unless you've got a magic sword or you're photocopy of Indiana Jones, the term "Adventure!" just seems woefully camp. We might as well get Barbara Windsor mo-capped and call GTA V "Carry On Attaching a Car Battery to a Man's Nipples".

Action is just a piss-weak way of pretending that the cherry on the cake isn't violence, and adventure doesn't mean anything at all. Let's go with Violent Games, Story Games, and Violent Games 4 Kidz.

'Dota 2' is a leading Click On The Man Then Click To Go Somewhere game, sort of

MOBA GAMES

Online Multi-person Arena-based Tactical Combat Games (OMpAbTCGs). Look, if it was easy to come up with a better name for these then the internet would have stopped constantly arguing about it flipping years ago. For the sake of simplicity, let's bundle the bastards in with Strategy.

STRATEGY GAMES

It's a proven fact that no-one really knows what strategy games are, which is why "it's like Command & Conquer" has been the go-to phrase for anyone dealing with dads since 1995. Allow me to end this reign of awful confusion by pulling the curtain back to reveal this beauty: Click On The Man Then Click To Go Somewhere Games. Pow. If that isn't specific enough for you, wrap your brain-lips around this little treat: Make a Cool Base and Then Kill All the Baddies Game. I should definitely work in marketing.

And as far as I can tell, that's everything fixed. If in doubt it's probably a game where the aim is to kill people efficiently, so next time you're shopping with your mates you can impress them with your expert knowledge by pointing at the shelves and simply shouting, "MURDER".

Finally, in other business, the genre terms "Beat 'em up" and "Shoot 'em up" have both been decommissioned and the people responsible for coining them will shortly be boiled down into glue.

@Jam_sponge

Previously:

'Sunless Sea' Is the First Essential Video Game of 2015

Having a Job in a Video Game Is Just as Dull as Real Life

Browsing the Twisted World of Online Porn Games