Genre of the Generation While each genre in gaming is important (except for maybe sports titles), during each console’s life cycle, one genre dominates, rushing to the front of the cultural zeitgeist. It could be due to a shift in technology, ever-changing sensibilities of the market or the introduction of one key game that succeeds and then is followed by copycat entries. Official Science Magazine is still cataloging the “why-factor,” but the pattern is real and can be charted.* *Except for PC which somehow exists within and outside of the standard dimensions of gaming space-time continuum. Here MMORPGs run rampant, to be replaced by MOBAs, all while console FPS titles (only massiver and prettier) are on the fringes. Even when one genre supersedes all others in volume of releases, influence on other titles and mainstream appeal, the others still exist and are available for fans to partake. There is no style of game which has become extinct just because others have risen in popularity, though as JRPG fans are currently experiencing, it does feel dormant at times. NES – Platformers Thanks, Super Mario Bros. No sarcasm…seriously, thank you for being the first video game that an entire generation experienced and still remains a master class in game design (just check out Super Mario Maker for proof of SMB’s importance). No other game is arguably as important or revolutionary (outside of Pong for being first) as SMB – and as such, no game has been mimicked, copied or replicated as often. Mario defined gaming in the 80s with his run and jump lifestyle. Developers looking to break into the industry would create variations on the platformer with their own mascot, but it all felt derivative of the Mario experience. The only company capable of creating a platformer superior to SMB was Nintendo when they released Super Mario Bros. 3. Other Entries: Duck Tales, Ninja Gaiden, Kirby Adventures, Ghost n’ Goblins & Kid Icarus SNES/Genesis – Fighting Games This generation was able to recapture the arcade experience within the living room. The most popular arcade cabinet at the time was Street Fighter II, which made a near-perfect port to consoles – unless you had a standard Genesis controller and needed to switch between punches and kicks due to the three-button limitation. Some could say Sega owners had the last laugh as their version of Mortal Kombat included blood as opposed to the kid-friendly grey ‘sweat’ fluid on the SNES. Fighting games require little-to-no story and are easily accessible for any player to pick up and understand. Even button mashers can win sometimes (grrr….button mashers). By using pre-rendered backgrounds and a rotating cast of 8+ combatants, developers were able to generate variety without an overwhelming amounts of assets. Other Entries: Killer Instinct, Clay Fighter, Fatal Fury & Primal Rage Nintendo 64 – 3D-Platformers Again (and potentially for the final time), Nintendo set the tone for the entire gaming landscape when it released Super Mario 64. It’s not often that the first game released on a platform turns out to be the best, but that was the case for SM64, and everyone took notice. Side-scrolling platformers were now considered dated (and would be until the modern-rise of the indies) and all games asked players to explore the full 360-degrees available. This is probably the hardest era for gamers to return to, not in terms of style or gameplay but graphics. The early days of 3D are rough by today’s standards, and everything is blocky. It’s interesting the gap between what players remember and the actual representation of these games. Other Entries: Bajoo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64 & Conker’s Bad Fur Day PlayStation – Role-playing Games Yes, the PS was out at the same time as the N64, but while the Nintendo platform zigged into 3D-platformers, a natural evolution for the developer, PSX zagged into the realm of RPGs. Final Fantasy VII serves as the poster child for this movement. The RPG genre was typically considered a Japanese offering that was too deep, complex and cumbersome for westward audiences to enjoy. Dragon Quest, so popular in Japan that it can’t be released on a weekday due to the number of people who skip work and school, never found mainstream success in America. And only half of the previous FF entries left Japan. Once FFVII hit critical success by showcasing a sprawling story with mature themes, the floodgates were opened. The PlayStation was the golden era for RPGs and has many of the best titles the genre offers to this day. Other Entries: Wild Arms, Xenogears, Breath of Fire III, Vagrant Story, Legend of Legaia, Star Ocean: The Second Story, Lunar 2 & The Legend of Dragoon PlayStation 2 – 3rd-Person Action Games After the 3D-style platformers came a slightly new development to the genre: more defined explorable areas, emphasis on combat and a less ‘floaty’ camera. Entries like Prince of Persia offered a combination of different play styles within the same game. At one point the player would focus on mastering the environment through complicated traversal and then transition to a brawler-inspired sequence as waves of enemies appeared. These games were more of a hybrid-genre than any before, requiring the player to prove competence at puzzles, combat and platforming. Many of these games would use QTE scenarios or relied heavily upon mini-games to showcase the hero engaging in a wider variety of actions and to showcase the skill of the character. Sly Cooper, especially, became so focused on its own mini-game offerings that it ended up dominating the player experience by the third entry. Other Entries: Psychonauts, Jak & Daxter, Rayman II, Ratchet and Clank & God of War. PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 – First-person shooters This new era of gaming offered HD graphics, online multiplayer and chat options. Gaming quickly moved away from its solitary roots into a team-based experience. The shift to online play highlighted the difference in skill for players around the world, and being the best player you knew became more difficult when the competitive pool went from a hundred to a million players. The bro-shooter dominated last-gen as Call of Duty was able to continually break sales records year after year As with every community, people tend to call out the negative more than the positive experiences. There were those who took this opportunity to talk to their fellow gamer and decided to resort to racial slurs, profanity and conversations about moms. No one was amused. Despite their media attention, these make up the minority and most play for the sake of the game and just scream at people who are spawn camping. Other Entries: Battlefield, Far Cry 3, Halo 3, Bioshock, Borderlands & pretty much every game released Current Gen – ??? This console cycle is still finding its footing, but we can already start to see the most prominent genre. Broken games. I’m just spoofing and goofing (I hope). This generation will most likely be defined by open-world experiences. After the success of Skyrim on last-gen, we see its influence seeping into every game available. Worlds are larger, as digital-square-footage becomes a selling point on the box (er…digital description). Already Batman: Arkham Knight, Witcher: Wild Hunt, Far Cry 4 & Dragon Age: Inquisition boast the size, sidequests and complexity of their landscapes. As developers became more adept at developing for the current cycle, this trend will continue. The other potential frontrunner for this generation’s main genre is the nebulous indie game. These smaller downloads are filling in the gaps of release schedules, experimenting with gameplay options and attracting the attention of gamers tired of the “bigger and better” marketing campaign from AAA developers. By their nature, outside of Minecraft, a single title won’t rise above all other huge productions, but collectively they are becoming an important aspect in everyone’s gaming library. What do you think will define this generation? What games do you remember dominating previous console generations? How have your own tastes changed as gaming evolved? Level Up, Friends!