Playing Games with Genre


I love games. Everything from the many flavours of video games, tabletop role-playing games, board games, card games, even, as a spectator, team sports like football, rugby and cricket get my attention. Hell, one of the points of rock climbing, for me, is its arbitrary rules that create interesting experiences.

Due to this deep passion for games I treat my own encounters with the arts playfully. Take the idea of genres. Now at this point I’m convinced that trying to define broad labels such as Literary Fiction & Science Fiction is foolish. Definitions abound at this level of labelling but none of them satisfy, either being too universal or too selective without hitting that hard to describe aesthetic sweet spot that makes a game interesting. So I don’t care about these labels or their many definitions apart from when they are used to stamp on other people.

Really from a game point of view I’m interested in the playgrounds that sub-genres create. Now sub-genres, because they have a tighter focus, do have characteristics that can be identified and played around with. They can start with a name and a short list of requirements to sketch out playground’s toys and conventions. If you like, a form of OuLiPo applied to genre. How can this work? Well these playgrounds don’t have any intrinsic meaning so make up a name: Dirty Mediaevalism. Decide on some conventions that apply to it.

How about:

  1. Dirty Mediaevalism is the fiction of everyday life in a society that is post-classical age but pre-industrial.
  2. Dirty Mediaevalism protagonists are not wealthy or powerful.
  3. Dirty Mediaevalism shows are world where magic & religion are always oppressive forces.
  4. Dirty Mediaevalism cares about small personal incidents portrayed within the landscape of the characters.
  5. Dirty Mediaevalism has a muddy and foggy colour palette.

So there’s a new sub-genre and its manifesto, of sorts. A new playground to write in created in five minutes. Genres are just games. Go play and let thousands of new playgrounds be built.

One Comment

  1. James Worrad June 6, 2012

    Dirty Mediaevalism: Guy of Gisborne in a gimp mask and stockings.

    Great post. A world of subgenres and no uber-genres (anarcho-genreism?) would probably be very healthy.

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