Genre Re-defining

21 Aug

There’s never any way to account for personal taste, but I’d like to comment on a trend I’ve always been lippy about (but I’m not sure I’ve ever committed it to writing.)  When Gears of War was announced my friends and I were excited.  I remember that on launch I had picked up my copy on my way to a game of weekly road hockey — afterwards a few of us loitered and played through the first level.  We weren’t quite blown away, but we were quite content.

Now the people who surround me (literally and in my life in general) are more or less jaded.  That’s not only a bad thing — in some cases it could be considered part of the job description.  What struck me today was the general blase attitude of my compatriots towards the announcement of a Monk class for Diablo III.  I’m not a fanboy by far (I never played it quite enough to claim that) but frankly I’m dazzled by the production quality and the “something extra” that Blizzard sprinkles into its games.  People might think my amusement is a conscious choice; a wilful ignorance towards a property I know is nothing special, surrounded by so much pomp — because I might want to enjoy it to the fullest by shielding myself.  But that’s not what’s going on.

Evil Dead.  I love it.  I love the camp, I love Bruce Campbell, and the awesomeness of slick shotgun fights is such that I’m willing to ignore the fact that there can’t be enough ammo in that shotgun to spew out all that whoopass.  But it’s not ignorance that drives my grinning love for it — it’s love of the genre.  It applies to me; was made for me.  Regardless of its status among other cult films or film in general, the Evil Dead movies are something special for me.  The same thing goes for old zombie movies in particular, there’s some charm in the low budget attempt at social commentary through horror that is comforting, and makes it easy to watch if not exceptionally entertaining.

This is why I still, to some extent, adore what Gears of War is.  To many people it’s a bunch of juvenile meathead fantasy, but to me it’s a flawless execution of an adrenaline-powered fever dream.  It’s something genre redefining not because of any innovation but because of its re-imagining of the utterly generic.  I think it takes bolder creators to add their own take to an old and worn out stereotype than to create something new — because there is always the (rightly applied) excuse that it’s new, so go easy on it.  It’s the start of something — it’s rough.  Redefining a genre is about roughing up an old dog and getting him to use a shotgun, screw old tricks.  It’s not pretentious and when it is serious it comes off as cheesy, which when applied conciously comes off as genuine.

Now Diablo III is powered by a hype machine and cradled by a seething mass of waiting fans — but that’s no reason to hate it.  Those fans are anxious because that game is made for them.  Stop picking apart the numbers, the people want it because of the execution — the remaking and updating of something they haven’t yet stopped loving.  After all, games are about execution of content, not the idea of the content.  To that end, sometimes the execution is what people love first and the content second, and both above newness.

It burns a hole in my chest when people give a lazy-eyed look when I mention the Monk is a class in Diablo III.  They can’t be excited about it, whether they’re being overly reductionist or they can’t like it on the basis that it’s a popular rpg with no chance of commercial failure.  I have no beef with people who just plain aren’t into it — they have their own genres they’re fervent about.  But there are a good chunk of very intelligent people out there who, in shaping themselves as analytical creatures, can’t think laterally to understand what the factor of attachment is that ties people to their genres.

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