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Tomb Raider and the Genre of Stealth

October 11, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

Calculating With Genres

Computer game publishers, games magazines, review sites on the web; anyone promoting games just love to put them in genres. You come across it all the time. Retailers shelve games by genres, games magazines review in genres, it seems almost the number one requirement that games have to belong to a genres before they are accepted into the marketplace..

In Strange Agency we wanted to understand games in a more rigorous and objective way. We developed advanced software systems to do just that. One of our starting points was game genres. There are a number of good reasons for this, which will become apparent as this report develops, but the first is that it roots our investigations firmly in the games industry. We start where the industry starts; or rather, we start where the industry has gotten so far.

On the whole genres, for any communications medium, are a fuzzy but an agreed means of categorising games, films, novels and so on. So, whether we like it or not, genres do say important things the communications medium, of games.

There are other good things about genres. If you are a sneak-em-up fan then you will most likely be happy to play a new game in that genre. You will probably find that the controls for the new game will be much the same as for other games of the type. You will use the same keyboard keys, the same joypad buttons and gismos to select, pick up and discard objects, for instance, and if there are differences they will be slight and you'll soon work them out because you're an expert.

Tomb Raider: Legend

In our Strange Analyst software’s database we have 101 games genres, all in active use by someone out there in the games industry. Some of these are highly idiosyncratic ones, such as ‘Sci-Fi Turn Based Strategy’ and ‘Virtual Pet’. Others; ‘Action Adventure’ and ‘First Person Shooter’ are more familiar. The problem is that people often feel free to make up genres to suit their current purpose rather than sticking to the culturally agreed ones.

For basic research purposes we work with a far smaller number of genres such as: action adventure, action shooter, adventure, beat-em-up, platform, puzzle, racing, rhythm action, RPG, simulation, sports, strategy. This is a good working list and most games can be attributed to one of them. Most of the 101 genres can likewise be seen as ‘sub-genres’ of these. In our next STAR we will undertake a detailed analysis of what it is that characterises some of these game genres.

But what does it mean to ‘calculate’ with genres? How do we do this?

Activity is at the heart of gameplay. Activity defines game genres. Our in-house software, Strange Analyst, and the database it feeds contains data on just under 7,000 distinct games; around 20,000 if you include the same game name across a number of consoles. We currently use 48 distinct activity groups in order to analyse games. Of course, we can’t tell you how we do this but the weightings for each activity we attribute to each game are calculated by in-depth, software analysis of raw data on games we derive from the World Wide Web.

We use this data to form activity profiles for each game. We can then profile games against each other, select a number of similar games and calculate an average profile for them and also calculate a whole genre and see how individual games in that genre compare with the norm.

By way of illustration we will undertake a brief analysis of a franchise, ‘Tomb Raider’, and compare this against a series of ‘stealth’ games: Splinter Cell, Deus Ex, Metal Gear (Solid and Acid) and Thief. Our principle aim in this free report is to demonstrate how not only individual games but also genres can be measured and quantified and thus become a practical and valuable working tool for games designers.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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