What’s your favourite video game genre and why?
Last month, Elise from Game Praisers published a post entitled My Natural Attraction. This gave an analysis of the genres they tend to be drawn to based on their gaming library, complete with a graph – and after being on my apprenticeship for six months, I appreciate a good bar chart.
The highest results didn’t come as a surprise to the writer. They said: “I think shooter games are so high on the list because I grew up with my brothers playing first-person shooters a lot, so I’ve inherited a lot of that, and there are a lot of platforming games as well because I grew up with the SNES and the N64. It also helps that those are the two genres I’m most proficient at, so of course I can enjoy them well.”
This got me thinking about my own relationship with video games genres and inspired me to complete a similar exercise. Like Elise, I doubted the highest scorers on my personal graphs would shock me in any way but perhaps a few interesting insights would be revealed. I grabbed my laptop, opened a new spreadsheet and started working through my Steam library to create a data set.
The thing that struck me almost immediately is how it isn’t easy to assign a single genre to a release. Back when I was a kid, it far more simple: Super Mario Bros. was a platformer and Simon the Sorcerer was a point-and-click. It feels almost impossible nowadays though because there’s so much crossover and intertextuality. To try and achieve some consistency, I decided to check the user-defined tags on the Steam page for each game and picked the one which felt the most appropriate to me.
I’m sure nobody was doubting that point-and-clicks would come out on top. But what I did find surprising though was just how high the count was: they outweigh any other type of game and make up more than a third of my entire Steam library. In fact, my top-five genres could all be considered ‘adventure’ if you were looking to consolidate the categories. Combine these and you’d end up with 233 titles, over two-thirds of my collection, so I guess I’m rather predictable when it comes to my gaming habits.
While gathering the data for my graph, I noticed I own a lot of games which have a supernatural, science-fiction or thriller storyline. This might be consisted strange seeing as I don’t like playing the horror genre myself and only recorded 15 titles in that category, but I do enjoy an atmospheric storyline which makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Therefore, if it’s combined with a slower-paced genre which will allow me to hide my eyes with my hands occasionally, it’s likely to be an experience I’d be up for.
The lowest count for me was JRPGs, another expected finding. The only release I own in this category is Final Fantasy XIII and this was gifted to me by Ellen from Strength in Sarcasm for a game-swap a couple of years ago. I’m still shocked I managed to finish it. This type of game will never be for me personally because turn-based combat doesn’t feel natural, and the storylines tend to be far too dramatic for my taste. I also find it difficult to relate to the characters as they can be over-the-top and talk way too much.
Perhaps the biggest surprises to come out of my analysis were the counts for the platformer, strategy and card game genres. These are categories I tend to stay away from because they require more patience and strategical thinking than I’m capable of, and I prefer to get stuck in and press all the buttons whenever combat is involved. Yet they make up 7% of my library. This might be a rather small figure but it’s one which is higher than I expected to see, so maybe I don’t dislike these games as much as I thought I did.
Let’s now return to the adventure genre and figure out why it’s my happy place. I think this has something to with the reason given by Elise in the original article and is affected by a heavy dose of nostalgia. As explained during a post last week, The Secret of Monkey Island was the first game I played on an Amiga 500 gifted to me at Christmas as a kid. It became the first title I ever completed by myself and made me realise that stories I thought only existed in books could be brought to life through a video game.
Speaking of books, I read a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz as a child, stealing my dad’s paperbacks because I was too young for that kind of horror. This probably explains why I gravitate towards mysterious narratives nowadays and find enjoyment in the feeling of being scared. However, trying the first Resident Evil release was a rather shocking experience. It was one which taught me that it’s usually better to stay away from the genre and to watch while someone else handles the controls.
I went on to search out other point-and-clicks and discovered Simon the Sorcerer, Myst, Shivers and Broken Sword, to name just a few. The only downside to spending so much time with games in the genre was that I never really learnt to use a keyboard-and-mouse with any degree of skill or got involved with online multiplayers. It’s safe to safe to say The Secret of Monkey Island formed the foundation of a lifelong love of adventures, as well as a preference for single-player releases and a controller.
Nostalgia serves as a reminder of experiences we had in our youth which were truly fulfilling for us. We all remember those times before adult responsibilities fondly, when we could spend hours getting lost in a video game perhaps with a friend or a sibling by our side. The 115 point-and-clicks sitting in my Steam library and the fact I always return to the adventure genre are therefore not that surprising. I wondered if the same was true for other gamers, so I posted a question on Twitter yesterday to find out.
There was an even split the last time I looked. Like me, some people have stood by their first genre and are still playing it today; Ellie from The Almighty Backlog still enjoys JRPGs for example. There are others who have switched over to something completely different, like Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes who now prefers fighting and roguelike titles over JRPGs. And then there are others who still enjoy their first genre but include others in their current favourites too, such as Nathan from Gaming Omnivore.
I didn’t expect this outcome: I thought there would be far more gamers whose preferences are affected by nostalgia. Perhaps that’s not the case because there are so many options and combinations available to us nowadays when it comes to video games, which points back to my earlier comment about it being difficult to assign a single genre to a release. I’ll be interested to see if my stepson is still religiously playing RPGs when he’s my age or if something new has captured his attention.
Thanks to Elise from Game Praisers for being the inspiration for this post. Now, over to you: which genres do you gravitate towards and why?