Genres and Me

A warning: this is again some introspective bullshit I sometimes write and as such you might want to skip this. But hey, you never know, maybe this is interesting…

This is probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me even a little, but I consider myself a nerd and I’m quite proud of it. However, being thought of as a nerd brings a lot of baggage with it. For example, I’m expected to like sci-fi and fantasy.

Since I bring this up, the implication is that I don’t, but its not that. Instead, I’m pretty indifferent. I don’t have a preference for genres. If its good action, I don’t really care if its two small Chinese guys kicking each other in the head, or a giant robot beating a giant monster. Sure, both have places to go where the other can’t, which will understandably garner interest from a certain crowd.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this recently, is someone’s reaction to me not liking The Road (the movie, I haven’t read the source material). To me the setting of a post-apocalyptic world has no inherent value. Since that has no real value to me, the movie itself isn’t really better than any other survival drama.

On the other hand, I don’t have anything against genre movies. There’s plenty of people out there, who will automatically dismiss them. Of course, at times, some movies get a pass because they are just good or important to ignore. I’m personally not a big fan of Star Wars, but if we’re being honest to ourselves, would it really be in 15th place on this list if it wasn’t being thought of as a lesser thing than the “real” movies. Sure Star Wars didn’t win any major Oscars (won a bunch, but only technical ones), but from the point of view of continued popularity, technical innovations, cultural impact and so forth, it should clearly be in top five.

Genres have their place, though. Certain high-concepts won’t work without the right genre, as each genre has its own paradigm. Sure Luke’s story could have been put into pretty much any setting and it would have worked (as monomyth pretty much proves), but Source Code would be really hard to make work if you forget the sci-fi context. Of course, this is pretty poor comparison, because Star Wars is not science-fiction. Its actually science-fantasy, as it lacks certain characteristics of sci-fi, such as delving on consequences of scientific and technical innovations.

Kurosawa, Leone and the Coen brothers all used the same story in three very different contexts: Yojimbo is a period piece in Japan, A Fistful of Dollars is an early Spaghetti Western and Miller’s Crossing is a gangster film. I like each of these movies very much, but I can put them into an order of preference. I just don’t prefer any of them simply because its a version of the story in a certain genre. I prefer one over the other based on actors, visuals, storytelling and such.

Another reason to bring this up, certain people on our forums (Lauri and Ville, included) prejudices against games because they felt a certain genre wasn’t for them. In this case the game was Apocalypse World and the genre was post-apocalyptic survival. Both have since managed to get over this hump. I never had this problem. Games can be poorly thoughtout and executed, and I might not be interested in certain style of play at a given time (and I have been down on RPGs with strong tactical elements for a while now, since I feel I get that fix from other places), but the fact that its post-apocalyptic, or any other genre, didn’t and wouldn’t stop me. Neither will I stick to a game because genre is appealing to me, since I don’t find any genre particularly appealling.

(Truth be told, I tend to like Westerns more than most… but that doesn’t really affect my choice of games, because those games are generally pretty poorly executed.)

One thought on “Genres and Me

  1. This was actually quite interesting. Or as interesting as personal ramblings can be. I think I need to clear my own head and leave a lengthy reply.

    Genre choices in rpgs are a pretty different matter that in movies. You may watch a boatload of films in the same time you use to build a reasonably lengthy campaign. “Not liking post-apocalypse” and “getting over it” mainly means that there are a number of other interesting games and one just might need to set some boundaries to his use of time.

    As time itself is a resource I might compare this choice of genre limiting to your choice of not using white or red in EDH. They have their own “genres” (or in this case mechanics) too and though you can (and have) argue that other colors are strategically better choices in essence it is the same as the choice of certain genre in movies or games.

    I actually do find myself too restricted by my prejudices to certain genres. As said I’m not a fan of post-apocalypse (I did like Fallout games but then again the “post-apocalypse” did not exactly bring me anything extra in them). I also have not been as eager towards science fiction in any type of media or games. If you split up this genre, I’m really liking sword & sorcery.

    I am however schooling myself into liking them (as you pointed out). Right now I’m considering of running a scifi game and by-the-book AW has a certain appeal to me. But it all boils back to the question of time. I hope this wasn’t as much an issue it is but since I do no it it, I just need to work around it.

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