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Stay Out Of My Genre!! Examining The Great Divide Between Entertainment Categories

October 6, 2009


Let us travel back to a simpler time. A time when some kids preferred chocolate, some preferred lollipops. A time when cartoons were for children, and sci-fi movies were silly little affairs with plots that only the most diehard of mothers could love. It was the best of times, and some other cliché. In those days, the concept of genre actually meant something.

But in our day, we see ‘genre’ as an idea being refined at a pace never before conceived of. Science fiction conventions are now a legitimate, and dare I say… cool, place to pick up insider info on all of the coming blockbuster hits (and mostly misses). Owning the newest tech gadget is no longer the quest of the loser, but the pride of the successful. Gaming is legitimate entertainment for all demographics. Comic books are cool! (Well…lets not get carried away-comic book movies can be cool, but reading them is still a little fringe.)

The waters and oils of our entertainment culture are mixing! Like something from the final song of a cheesy high school Disney movie, once strictly disparate genres are coming together in a most fascinatingly bizarre way.

It must be said at this point that I am a fan of this ideological coalescing…mostly. Especially when it comes to iPhones.

Now, you may think it foolhardy of me to start out an iPhone column with all this talk of popular entertainment culture. However, if your anything like me- with all the music, movies, games, etc loaded on that puppy- you may not think it so strange at all. In fact, I find myself often forgetting that this slick little device even makes calls at all; to the point that I get annoyed when a call comes in during the middle of a rousing round of Run! At any rate, I think its safe to say that the iPhone does a whole lot more entertaining than it does…phoning.

So how does this genre bending affect us?

Take, for example, match 3 games (a genre adherent if there ever was one.) Many times, I have happened to stumble upon the ratings/message boards pertaining to a certain match 3 game and found a comment from some unsuspecting casual gamer who has expressed his feelings that the game was boring. Then, descending on his comment like poisonous scorpions, were the match 3 faithful, who all pretty much express the same core concept (with varying degrees of colorful metaphors): “You just don’t get the genre.”

I hate this phrase. I hate it with a level of intensity I usually reserve only for diet sodas. This phrase, as well as its seemingly unrelated (but just as flippantly tunnel-visioned) cousin-“I love every genre, except for…” are what is keeping our entertainment world from becoming universally better.

Look at what Pixar did for animation. Movies once pigeonholed as exclusively for the children (and only the most dreamy at that) are now challenging and beautiful even when compared to the best of ‘adult fare.’ Some cherish this, but some still insist that these ‘pixels’ can’t compete with serious moviemaking.

This is happening in music as well. Where once genre/categories explicitly divided this artform, we now have artists who are challenging their categorical constraints. Kanye Wests newest album, with its sense of melancholy and lingering vocals, is closer to Radiohead than to 50 Cent. Some liked the change, others were upset that it was too different.

I talked earlier about match 3 games, and I recently found one called Dragon Portal. As opposed to those who would just make another match 3 clone (and there are many) and then ridicule you for not understanding that rigidity and shallow gameplay mechanics were “just part of the genre,” this game strives to be more. Adding a real sense of progression, novel techniques, and a much needed storyline- this becomes not so much a match 3 in the classical sense of the genre, but just a good game.

So does this mean I want everything to be homogenized into a bunch of enjoyable but barely discernible copies of each other. NO! I am all for things being different and unique, but that doesn’t mean that the current trends towards broadening a certain genre’s audience is a bad thing. It knocks off the edges to a genre that could otherwise be inaccessible. It allows genres to take the best parts of each other, and thereby improve themselves. Thus you get humorous zombie movies (a winning combination if you make it to the movies this weekend), thought provoking country music (sorry, cheap shot), and even tower defense games that aren’t incredibly boring (like the visually arresting GeoDefense Swarm.)

What about ya’ll? Do you think that de-genrification is a good thing or a bad thing?

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