Labelism is a growing problem that is not discussed very often. It’s not uncommon to hear someone complaining that this game is not a role playing game or that’s not an adventure game. Two people can argue near endlessly about how one game is genre A or genre B since more often than not they are both right. Humans love to be able to sort things into nice little categorized groups simply out of habit like we do with most things in our lives even labeling people. The issue is that they try to sort things that are often too complex to be organized into one category and video games are no exception.
If someone were to ask you to describe exactly what a RPG is, what would you say? In order to describe an RPG, you will probably start to list off characteristics of games you have played in the past such as: character development, strong story, playing in the role of a character, inventory/gear systems, leveling up, combat types, etc. You might be well satisfied with your response until you start to think about it a little bit more.
Many RPGs don’t have some of the qualities on your list and some games not considered RPGs contain some of the features in your description. For example, nearly all First Person Shooters nowadays have adopted the experience based leveling, skill progression, and character advancement of the RPG but they are still considered FPS. How should we then define our games if most all of them seem to be hybrids of two or more genres?
Perhaps we need to move past our labelist tendencies and realize that each game has its own personality and can’t be defined by simple labels like bla… I mean RPG or FPS. Perhaps we should add a new genre known as “hybrid” in which we would lump about 80% of all the games into. Should we do away with our current labeling system and come up with something different. I’m curious as to what you think about this and what solutions you think would help?
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