Out of Genre Experiences!

By Adrian Carmody (July, 1995)
You've fought the High Wizard, you've escaped the Labyrinth and conquered the puzzle of the Mellow Yeti. You rejoice in the proof of your ability, you travel on. But now you've come to a cliff edge, with a long drop below you and a chasm stretching out in front. Slim pillars rise from the interminable depths, you are faced with a choice: jump or wait patiently for the hordes of Mythraki to catch up ...

You've undoubtedly all recognised this as a bit of fiction, but how often have we seen this type of situation arise in the non-arcade games we play? How many times has your enjoyment of a good Role-Playing or Adventure Game been spoiled by a sudden change to the Arcade genre? You jump the pillars, or dodge the laser beams, or whatever it is you have to do, but it's a deviation from the true genre of the game, a deviation you didn't plan on taking.

We can guess why so many game producers do it. It increases the potential target audience of the game. It will appeal to both adventure gamers and arcade gamers alike, that's one theory. But is it true? That is the question these people fail to ask. They try to expand the market for their game, but really only achieve one thing: they alienate the players. An arcade gamer will not enjoy the adventure sections of the game, and an adventure gamer will despise the forced deviation into arcade gaming. So, the end result is that the game gets poor reviews, many players are unhappy, and sales are likely to decrease.

Another common reason for including arcade sequences in a non-arcade game is to extend the playing time of the game. We, (the game players) will undoubtedly find it stimulating and interesting jumping across islands with someone shooting at us with a machine gun, again and again, or whatever, until we finally succeed. Imagine, hours of fun, or is it? Surely this is not the type of extension we want! Some games, without question, need lengthening, but does it have to be a change of genre? I think NOT! Why not incorporate more character interaction, solve more quests, add sub-quests or puzzles, there are many alternatives to the "Out of Genre Experience" we have all come to know and loathe.

Personally I find it both annoying and boring to be required to play an arcade sequence in an adventure game. If I wanted to play an arcade game, I would have tried any one of the myriad available, I would NOT have bought and played Relentless, or Alone in the Dark, or Ultima 8. The list goes on, and on.

The question always becomes, "What can we do about it?" The unfortunate answer is "Not an awful lot". It is only by writing articles like this, by creating public furore in Internet NewsGroups, or via personal mail to the game producers themselves that we can have any voice at all. We live in hope that maybe one day, just maybe, they will get the message.

Copyright © Adrian Carmody 1995. All rights reserved.