• James Shade

Guru of all Genres, Master of None

As it turns out, genres for games are just like genres for everything else, including books, movies, comics, etc. In fact, at this point, I believe that game designers have invented a few new ones! But let's stick to the original tried and true versions, such as scifi, fantasy, superhero, apocalyptic, horror, spy, historical, cyberpunk, comedy and more. Of course, there are also numerous sub-genres and mash-ups that I have discovered like time travel, alien conspiracy, pirate, Viking, old west, steampunk, pulp, supernatural, paranormal and some that are just plain weird!


Starting at the top, scifi (while not the biggest seller in gaming) is immensely popular and fun. Who wouldn’t want to play an alien and go racing around the cosmos in an awesome spaceship?! Scifi lets us travel to other planets and even other galaxies playing with cool tech and discovering strange new worlds. Nowadays you can play just about any kind of game from your favorite scifi movies, books, comics or tv shows. But don’t be afraid to try something new and original like Galaxy Prime (roleplaying game) or Alpha Colony (boardgame), both from Epic Age Media.


Anyone who reads comic books should know what a BLAST it can be to play out superheroic battles. With speedsters, mutants and costumed vigilantes the action is intense and explosive. And many scenarios allow one to not only fight bad guys in the modern era but also in other dimensions and time periods! The recent upsurge in Marvel and DC movies has really brought the comicbook hero to the forefront. And while most superhero games are based on these two properties, I designed and published my own original version in the Powers Beyond roleplaying game.


Growing up in the Cold War era of the 1980’s, there was always the fear of nuclear war and the horrific aftermath for that of the survivors. Thus the apocalyptic genre was born unto gaming. Not to be confused with the zombie apocalypse of recent fame, this hellish landscape told the story of those trying to survive after the devastation of a nuclear holocaust. The Gamma World roleplaying game by TSR (still a favorite of mine) was an early entry into this genre and it showed us a terrible irradiated world full of mutant plants, animals, sub-humans, psychic powers, rampant AI tech and other weird stuff. Yeah, it was cool…


Horror was never my favorite genre; I can probably count on one hand the number of horror movies in my collection, most of them by John Carpenter. But horror has certainly made a splash in the gaming world. People go absolutely crazy for games that portray the Cthulhu mythos and of course anything with zombies. What really caused it to take off though was Vampire: The Masquerade, a roleplaying game from the 1990’s. Players got to portray vampires and deal with all of the intrigue that goes with a nearly immortal race of beings. That world was later expanded to include werewolves, changelings, wraiths, mummies, mages and more. Admittedly, it had a lot of depth and it helped pave the way for more horror boardgames and card games.


A quick word about comedy games. You’d think that it would be a no-brainer, an obvious entry within the gaming genres. I mean the whole point of playing a game is to have fun, right? Yet there are surprisingly few games out there based on a comedic concept. And rarely (in this guru’s experience) do people suggest playing a comedy game. They want to play something “serious”. Well, a game is nothing more than entertainment and should always be approached with an eye for fun and a chuckle on the lips. That being said, some games that have brought out the guffaws in me and others include: Toon, Paranoia, Ghostbusters and Kobolds Ate My Baby (roleplaying games). Also Illuminati, Munchkin, Chez Geek (card games) and the Awful Green Things From Outer Space (boardgame). Heck, even the Tick, Monty Python and MAD Magazine have their own card and board games!


As usual, I saved the best for last: fantasy. Anyone who knows me has probably seen my massive collection of Star Wars/Star Trek collectibles and has likely heard me rave about Babylon 5. And yet, fantasy remains my favorite genre. Why? Maybe it's because I started out on D&D. Or maybe I like the idea of being able to cast powerful magic spells. Or maybe I like the idea of a world full of mysterious creatures where anything is possible. Who knows? Suffice to say that without this genre – as experienced through the world of Dungeons & Dragons – we would probably all still be playing dominoes. But the myths and fairy tales of old are powerful things. Pantheons of mischievous gods guiding/interfering with the course of humanity? Fantastic! Wizards summoning monsters to do their bidding? Amazing! Elves and dwarves duking it out over some long-forgotten blood oath? Awesome! Arcane artifacts being re-assembled to save the world? Sign me up! Yep, fantasy has it all, from dark dungeons to dangerous dragons, from timeless tunnels to terrible trolls, from weird wizards to wild warriors…It's all there! My magnum opus will be the Saga of 5 Ages fantasy roleplaying game but that won't be ready for a few years yet. In the meantime, check out the first 2 novels in the S5A series: The 12 Rings of the Emperor.


The Game Guru Hath Spoken.


HALLOWED BE THY GAME!




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