March 20th, 2009
This semester’s workload is significantly lighter than previous years, although if you combine my studies with blogging here, in my Chinese blog and a few guest articles, then I guess I have a pretty full workload. Due to the complicated workings of my free-form university program, this year I have a bunch more free choice electives, one of which I used up on a course about video games.
It’s about three weeks in, and I’ve already got a good idea how most of my courses will pan out over the next few months. Perhaps I should have anticipated it, the games course is particularly lousy from my perspective. It’s not terrible, but rather it falls back on broken convention. Here’s an example of what I mean:
Last week we were discussing genre in games, and what constitutes a video game genre. Besides the bleeding obvious (much of which the students already knew), I noticed that the tutor fell back many a times on incorrect genre stereotypes and conventions to frame a more complicated issue. For example statements such as: “All first person shooters involve holding a gun and shooting people from a first person perspective.” were freely tossed around the discussion*.
I hate blanket statements like this, you know I do, their only use is to generalize complicated issues that people aren’t willing to regard as such. It’s the greatest form of disrespect, and is used commonly by writer and enthusiast alike. I too have perhaps been guilty of this sin a few times. All it really signifies is pure laziness on the part of the speaker.
What the tutor, to my great disappointment, didn’t expresses was the limitations of game genre. If you take anything of great complexity, like worlds governed by a system of rules (ie. that of video games) and classify such things into categories of fixed variables, there is no doubt going to be some overflow. Game genres are not black and white, they are not absolute, they are gradients of multiple genres, forms and thematics and hence squeezing this all into the guise of absolute genre classification is nothing but generalization.
It’s exactly the same argument I made for casual and hardcore gamers. Such classifications can only operate in the broad sense, with acknowledgement given to the restrictions of such system. Yet, in our class we are still being taught that games can only operate as black or white entities. Next week our group has to do a speech on the RPG genre, defining key attributes etc, I’m wondering if my grade would be lowered if I included a mild disclaimer at the start.
*Examples may include: Elebits and Portal