‘Play’ is a term few can hope to describe, and fewer still hope experience in it’s totality. Yet we each have the privilege of getting a small taste, depending on our demographic, historic, and social status. In my life I’ve had the opportunity to experience a vast amount of different games, anything from chess, to rugby and even video games, something that was nonexistent 50 years ago, and has become perhaps the most popular form of ‘game’ out there, and so in a short stretch of time, overtook other games that has been in natural development for thousand’s of years. But video games must have genres to stay interesting, and the amount of genres need to expand if video gaming hopes to survive. In this blog I will discuss three of the most influential genres in video gaming history, and how they influence current and future games. Can they have a bigger influence on the gaming world than their predesecors; platformer and arcade gaming, or do they already?
The term Real Time Strategy, or ‘strategy games’ is a treasure trove of nostalgia in the eyes of many a ‘veteran gamer’ (in this case 10+ years of gaming). Simply referring to the likes of AOE, SC, and C&C brings back plenty of memories in gamer’s, even if they currently focus on genres completely unrelated. A strategy game, in its video game definition, is where the player commands either a single or group of units around a sandbox type environment, aimed in outsmarting, and eventually overcoming the opponent, with the environment allowing for many different strategies to be applied. A open environment, like present in many strategy games’ maps, make it possible for someone with better strategy to outplay, and win someone with, for arguments sake, a stronger force (Imagine a bunch of standard troops storming a well defended fortress, and getting mowed down). RTS has evolved ten-fold since its initial implementation in a digital platform in the 90’s. Where we used to just build swordsman and storm the keep, we now need to research tech, manage economies, train and steer forces and do effective HQ layouts, all while being bugged by the opponent. But RTS has moved even further than simply enhancing it’s own features. There are various games, and game types that has borrowed from the idea of RTS. From integrating traditional RTS into 3rd person games (Savage), to new versions of RTS (Tower Defense etc.) we see a ever evolving spiral of video game innovation being influenced by the likes of RTS games.
Even though RTS is well known, and fairly popular in video gaming circles, It’s not hard to believe that First Person Shooters, or FPS games are currently perhaps the most popular genre in the video gaming culture we live in (when, of coarse, we exclude Facebook games, solitaire and just maybe WoW). Shooters are, for many gamers, a speedy fix of adrenaline after a day in class or at work. Even if someone plays other game types more regularly, most gamers have at least one copy of a FPS, and would ‘jam’ it on occasion. With so many FPS games out their its hard to refer to one as an example, but a few noteworthy franchises has made quite mark in the gaming industry in the past 10 years or so. Examples include; Counter Strike, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Quake and Unreal Tournament, to name but a few of the more popular brands, focusing on multiplayer. FPS games have advanced in many ways from the initial introduction of the genre. I guess when considering FPS as a whole, you can include those old shooter games you find in an arcade, where the aim is to swing a plastic gun around and try to shoot zombies or something. But when looking at FPS on PC, its hard to believe that in less than10 years we have moved from the sticky models in NOLF and Star Trek DM, to the awesome graphics CryEngine gives us in Crysis, and the breathtaking destructibility Frostbyte allows in Battlefield. With so many players, and such a large community interest, the FPS genre is bound to have a notable effect on future games, just like it has had on past ones.
Role Playing Games. When you hear these words you either experienced dread, or utter euphoria; the reason I believe is quite certain in your mind. Role playing games can typically be defined as a game where the players choices influence the character, and its environment, in ways that change the game (and possibly story) to make each play through different. More specifically the term ‘role play’ refers more to basing your decisions on the characters personality, such as good, evil, friendly, selfish, rude etc. Where RTS, FPS and racing games are relatively ‘easy’ territory in gaming conversations (excluding ‘favorite franchise’ debates), conversations on RPG games will almost always include a over enthusiast (my Paladin is level “OVER 9000!”), and/or someone who just couldn’t give a damn. Contrary to what this might indicate, that is the very essence of RPG, role playing can get pretty emotional, so when defending RPG games, you are in fact defending your character and the hundreds of ours you poured into it. Making RPG games all the more potent. Even if you don’t like RPG games, and even if you haven’t played anything but ‘big league’ FPS games, you have felt the silent sting of RPG, and that just might have made a game worth while for you. The reason I say this is due to story, inventory, progress and reward. Most of these where entirely absent in early FPS (and other) games. But because of the success found in the ‘ownership’ of RPG games, it wasn’t long before some features where implemented all over. Not just FPS felt the influence of RPG games, but racing games (like NFS Underground) and 3rd person games (once again Savage) have all used these features, attributing to the success they had. So RPG did directly, and indirectly, influence video gaming in a rather positive way, adding to the way’s we can experience and emerge ourselves in a digital world.
When looking at the influence genre’s have on the gaming industry, we cant say the RTS, FPS and RPG games are the alpha and the omega, but they where important in the direction gaming has taken, and will remain so. Even so there are many other genre’s like racers, sandbox games, adventure games, platformer’s, mmo’s and puzzles that has had just as much influence on gaming as we know it, and does have relevant origins. But where they guide the ship, I believe that RTS, FPS and RPG’s show the way…