The Instigator
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The Contender
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Video game genres shouldn't be defined by mechanics, controls, or intended "ways to play the game"

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/29/2016 Category: Games
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 555 times Debate No: 88949
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
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[in a sarcastic tone] Well, the game genre naming system (or whoever started naming the genres) has produced brilliant and original names to make sure the audience knows what they're in for. For example: If it involves shooting things with a first person camera, then it is a first person shooter. This category includes and endless stream of COD ripoffs, but also games like Spec Ops: The Line, one that produces an entirely different feel. As a matter of fact, it makes fun of the aforementioned clones. These games are entirely different, yet they are crammed into the same category, despite the fact that playing them gives you entirely different experiences.


Letting someone know what they are in for is the primary usage of such classifications.

Spec Ops: The Line is set apart from other FPS due to having strong storytelling and narrative which actually condemns violence. However people who enjoy traditional FPSs can still play it and like it without engaging with the story and having a strong narrative than condemns war is not enough for most people.

Let's come up with a description for the "feel" of Spec Ops, as you posit this "feel" as the replacement for conventional genres. Let's say "Brutal immersion in the horrors of war while becoming dehumanised". Let's say that's the description people get. If someone only likes JRPG games and hates FPS, this will not tell them if they like the game.

If I only knew what type of "feel" a certain game had I, and almost all gamers, would be completely disappointed if it turned out to be one that we don't like. The mechanics and way to play the game are what most people care about, so it is the primary and most important definition.

If you'd like to test this, feel free to name a few genres of game you like and a few you dislike. I'll describe the "feel" of a few games from each genre in question without mentioning which genre they're from. You tell me which you like the sound of then I reveal what they are. I bet you'll pick some games that you'll find you don't like once they're revealed and you know more about them than their general "feel".

With some games, by definition it must be the gameplay which defines the type of game as there is practically nothing else of note to define it with.

The implication of your position is that story and narrative should have primacy, which seems to be what you mean by "feel". How do we accurately describe tetris if not a "puzzler". What about Kerbal Space Simulator? Or Starcraft 2? They lack a narrative, so what are you going to do? Make graphics their defining feature? Or Sound?

Are you going to try to describe a RTS in terms of whatever minimal storyline and largely inconsequential storyline they use? Or by the core gameplay mechanics that define what a game is.

People will find much more in common with classic tetris and a modern cartoony tetris remake then between a modern cartoony tetris remake and a cartoony beat-em up. This is because the genre, the actual nature of the gameplay, is the defining feature.

There is no " game genre naming system" that came up with genre description

The names of different genres have developed organically over time within the video-game community. They have not been enforced from above. They are therefore the definitions that gamers largely want to use and find useful - otherwise they wouldn't have developed.
Debate Round No. 1


You have a nice argument, I'll give you that. Honestly, the only real reason I started this debate is because I need to participate in and complete three debates before I can start voting. That being said, I started this debate, and I'm going to finish it. I will admit that my argument for Spec Ops: The Line was sloppy at best, but I have more than just that, or I would not have even started this debate. FIRST: Having the genres based on mechanics or something else as basic, I will argue, is the same as having movie genres based on the camera view and cinematics, or a book genre based on word choice. This system has worked so far because, for what I can say in AAA gaming, there isn't much variation in games. Most FPS's are COD ripoffs, or at the very least games that play very similarly. But what if a game breaks tradition? My ace card, ladies and gentlemen------ Portal. It is a game that involves shooting in the first person, but is seldom considered an FPS. It is, in my experience a puzzle game in the eyes of most gamers. If I am right, this is something that the gamers that you mentioned in your final argument have done to name their genres, and the point you made about the " game genre naming system" supports my ideas. If I am wrong, and people consider it an FPS, that just proves that these genres can easily become confusing to the player, as the term FPS tells you nothing of the game Portal. Also, let's look at the FPS genre. The "FP", stands for first person, implying that a third person shooter falls under a different category, despite the miniscule difference it has on gameplay and player experience


No worries, I'm new too and still haven't done by three debates! This is my second!


PRO's main argument relies on the notion that Portal should potentially be considered a puzzler rather than a first-person shooter.

The problem is however that "puzzler" doesn't represent the "feel" of the game that he suggests should be a replacement for genres in R1. "Puzzler" is in fact one of the old fashioned genre definitions that he is meant to be offering a repalcement to. Personally I'd describe the game's feel as a minimalist journey through a futuristic dystopian scenario that is full of dark comedy.

By arguing that it is a puzzler and not a FPS, he is merely arguing which of two old fashioned genres it should fall under - not offering an alternative. He is therefore implicitly supporting my arguement.

Also this argument seems specific to Portal as a whole and picked out purely because Portal is not representative of games as a whole. Even if Portal couldn't be described using a conventional genre, that only applies to Portal, portal 2 and maybe a few similar games.

That therefore still leaves the vast majority of genres as those that should be defined by "mechanics, controls, or intended ways to play the game" and hence the argument in favour of CON.

Movie Comparison

In regards to the comparison between movie and games, I feel the comparison is invalid for several reasons.

a) The defining feature of most games and movies is not the camera work. We define movies by the nature of the narrative because we are passive viewers and the plot is what we engage with. We define games games by the nature of the gameplay because we are active participants and the nature of the type of games defines how we play with it.

The implication of his point is that movies and games should be judged on the same basis, but this is impossible when movies are judged on narratives (which some games lack completely) and games are judged based on how we interact with them (which we can't do with movies. As the two methods of judging are mutualyl exclusive, we are left with judgign them on the basis of how we interact with them.

b) Sometimes when the camera work is a factor in a movie it DOES define the genre, like the found footage genre defined by it's shaky camera work and supposedly naturalistic amateur feel.

c) Most game genres aren't defined by camera work either. A beat-em up is usually just a beat-em up with no first person specified. Same with Puzzler, RTS, etc. Many games like racing games and flight sims, will even offer multiple camera views so it can be first person or third-person.

D) PRO admits that the difference in camera between the sub-genres like first-person and third-person shooters is a "miniscule difference". My argument has not relied on camerawork being the central basis of how genres are defined. Why then does he treat it as such for the purpose of this comparison when he admits this is wrong?

Lack of Rebuttals

I feel that my points weren't adequately dealt with. Take my point about how a substantial amount of games games lack narrative and are pure gameplay, hence how the only description that can be given is one that defines their genre like platformer or puzzler or what have you.
Debate Round No. 2


Hmmmm..... Yeah, I'll be honest, maybe you have this one. But there's still one more round left. My arguments can tend to be sloppy like this, thank you for being patient. I must say that, on the subject of Portal, I wasn't really saying we should use the term "Puzzler", just stating how the gamers, who have been using these genres for awhile, tended to avoid calling this game an FPS, despite having both the FP and the S. I do not have my own naming system in mind, nor should I be obligated to find one; the argument here is about why the current naming system is wrong more than it is about how to fix it. I understand I probably didn't make this clear.

And I do understand that movies and games are different, but movies and books are different as well. Movies took books and built off of them, as games are now doing with movies; However, movies and books kept relatively similar ways to name their genres, but only with games did we begin to differ. Could this just be because of how far we broke off from the original media (books)? Maybe. But even so, the genre should still be able to capture the essence of the experience you will have, at least to whatever extent it will be able to. This doesn't necessarily restrict itself to narrative, but it should hint off at what kind of game it is. Further, my point in mentioning FPS's was to point out that FPS's and TPS's should be considered the same genre, but aren't. I don't actually know where you think I was going with that.

I apologize for not rebutting sooner, which can only be chalked up to a one word explanation: "Whoops!". I'll have to fix that. To take into account your point about games without narrative, games are an interactive medium that can portray ideas and emotions, as well as many other things, without the use of a narrative. Take the flash game "loneliness", for example (Link: ). No narrative per se, but it definitely gives emotion.


No worries at all. This is honestly one where I think I could get behind either side of the argument. If you like we could even do it again but reverse who is pro and con!

Anyway, to rebut:


People certainly don't normally call Portal a shooter, but I think that;s due to you differing on what constitutes a shooter. A game isn't a shooter just because it contains a lot of shooting.

Take any strategy game that contains shooting, like Command and Conquer of the Total War series. Despite there being a lot of shooting (My five units of 100 bowman might shoot far more in a battle than a CoD dude does in a level), no-one would ever classify such games as any variation of "shooter" using the standard genres, would they?

This is because the already existing genres aren't as fallible and contextless as it might appear. Gamers know what makes a FPS and when a game does not contain the elements that fundamentally make something a shooter (Like targets you shoot to damge/score points, a central focus on shooting things, etc) they realise that it is no longer a shooter even if shooting is somehow involved.

After all, the fact that pretty much every game involves some kind of strategy - whether it be circle strafing, when to use your super hadoken or how best to score a goal - does not make every game a strategy game.

Movies, Books and Games

Movies and Books share the similarity that (Steve Jacksonish Choose your Own Adventure types aside) they are a form of media with a fixed narrative. When Dirk McShooty tries to kill all the terrorists in the room, in a book or movie he is going to have the same outcome every time. It's a reading of a set outcome of events. He might kill them all or only take out half of them before being stopped, but whatever happens the course of events is fixed and will happen every single time you watch that movie or read that book. What matters is what type of story it is. It could be a drama, horror, sci-fi, etc, etc

With games that isn't the case. Every time you try it you'll get a different outcome (assuming it's gameplay and not a cutscene) and the primary concern is how you interact with it. a FPS where you directly shoot people in the face is different from a Turn-based strategy where you carefully guide Dirk McShooty around which is different from an interactive text-based adventure where you type "GO NORTH", "SHOOT TERRORIST".

With Movies and books the method of engagement is set. You look at them with your eyes and for movies listen with your ears. With games it can vary incredibly. You might circle strafe people and shoot them in the head, it could be a patient strategic exercise of moving your character, etc, etc. It all depends on the genre.

Not only that, but being honest for a minute, even games which have a narrative have one which is very poor. Although there are some highlights ranging from the Walking Dead to The Last of Us to Undertale, these are a minority. For each of those you have dozens of Duke Nukems, not to mention several Fifas, where the narrative and emotional investment is paper thin or non-existent. The same interaction between media and person simply dosn't inherently exist when it comes to games.

Movies and books focus on the type of narrative because narrative is inherently central to books and movies. With games that is not the case. Although it is possible for games to have a strong narrative, as with Spec Ops, they mostly do not have one and focus on gameplay. even then when games do have a strong narrative, the method in which players interact - the type of gameplay - is still a central function. No matter how good the setting to Alpha Centurai is, people who don't like TBS will hate it.

Games that evoke emotion

This is a very minority type of game and the example you give in fact is even classifies itself as a non-game so I can't really count it as an example seeing as it specifically tries to present itself as not a game.

But even assuming that there is a point to be made that perhaps this small minority of (non)-games can't be explained in terms of genre, this doesn't apply to the vast majority of games. For every arty farty story game, there are two dozen where you blow the heads off aliens with shotguns for poorly explained reasons. If the vast majority of games should still be explained in terms of genre, then the debate issue of Video game genres shouldn't be defined by mechanics, controls, or intended "ways to play the game" falls in my favour because a large proportion of them SHOULD be defined in those terms.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Overhead 2 years ago
If you think I won, please vote!
Posted by datGUUYY 2 years ago
GG, overhead.
Posted by WhineyMagiciann5 2 years ago
I don't really think that most games are defined by mechanics, more of what the game focuses on. Cod is focused on providing fast paced military shooter in first person, this becoming a first person shooter. For for Another game lets take mass effect, one of my favorites. It is defined as an RPG or some call it a space opera, i shall explain each. If you haven't played it then i will try to make it easy. The game require many desicions to be made in the story that YOU (the player) are forced to make, and they actually have an impact on the world around you. In mass effect 2 for example, the final mission requires you to send you squadmates to do various tasks that could end in death if they are not suited for the situation. Guess what happens in mass effect 3 if you give them the wrong job? They aren't there, the world remember them yet they are just gone. Even your character can die in that mission. The space opera part is more simple.

Some call it a space opera as it is a story spanning several years involving many diverse and rich characters.
I would like if you two could consider this concept.
And i kinda want to know now if any body else on the site plays games i do?
Posted by Hakkayo 2 years ago
I would like to accept your debate, however I am confused by your "sarcastic tone" does that reflect the entire paragraph meaning you do not share the views you state? Or are you sarcastic in only your first sentence? if it is the latter I will happily accept your debate.
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