Genre Invention

February 8, 2013

Genre emulation is a very common goal in playing and designing games. In the most general sense, this means that as you play the game you create something resembling an artistic work in some pre-existing category*. Often this emulation is almost wilfully imperfect, the classic Dungeons and Dragons play rarely created a perfect emulation of traditional fantasy fiction or the wargames from which it was birthed. Instead, apparently accidentally, it created a new category of fiction, which we might call D&D fantasy. And entire movements in game play and design have arisen trying to better emulate that genre.

It is impressive that D&D has created a new genre, but not immediately surprising. Periodically a new genre is created, often based on a seminal work. But in the case of D&D that genre really is RPGs, a genre of games of which D&D is a crucial, trend-setting example. The emergence of D&D fantasy says that this one invention created two very different genres at the same time – one in terms of construction and another in terms of its product. Indeed the process of play can produce more than one new form of art, just look at the creation of dungeons and their maps.

To me, the question raised by all of this is whether D&D is some unique case, or if we can invent new genres accidentally or even intentionally so that they arise during play. This is something that makes designing RPGs, story games, or what have you into something distinct from other kinds of art, it is a form of expression that begets other forms of expression. So what happens when we start looking at designing and intentionally playing games in such a way as to explore and create new genres, new configurations of fiction and ideas? That’s just one of the frontiers I look forward to exploring.

* In Forge-style terms, this includes both Story Now (Narrativism) and Right to Dream (Simulationism), the crucial difference being the choice of category. It also suggests there is tremendous space beyond these agendas, such as emulating poetic forms.

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One Response to “Genre Invention”

  1. Jason Blalock Says:

    Dead Tree Editions

    A game following the up and coming members of an alchemical cabal over the course of a year as they compete to uncover lost manuscripts in the more curious corners of the modern world in order to impress the head of their order, ascend to the rank of master and receive the antidote for the for the deadly elixir which they ritually consumed at the beginning of their quest for ascension.

    This game is intended to be played over the course of a year by two or more players, one of whom will take the roles of both GM and Grandmaster of the Lodge. Though a face to face meeting of the players would be helpful for game and character generation and occasionally thereafter, game play will be conducted chiefly in epistolary form via letter, email or text message. Depending on the type of communication used, a different resolution mechanic will be employed. The primary mechanic will, as befits the members of a secret, conspiratorial organization, make use of a cipher contained in the most current issue of the player’s local newspaper.

    I will make use of the ingredients; Tree, Fever and Occupation. I also intend to attempt to address all five challenges, for which I am probably a Fool.

    Good luck all.

    (Please forgive how poorly this post is written. It was made on my phone from work.)


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