Understanding the videograme genre: a qualitative analysis of the “playing contract”
Available in the widest variety of forms, with or without the ”story” or the scoring, played alone (single player), with a few partners (multiplayer) or with many others (massive multiplayer online games), the videogames categories are built on multiple perspectives that depend on the observer and his or her agenda. Embedded in the popular culture, videogames exploit models and formal containers, pre-worked materials, well-known heroes, stereotypes and myths. Paraphrasing Umberto Eco, (1989) different videogame categories become a “playing contract” between producers and players, who should instantly recognize on its basis the videogame’s genre -characterized by multiple meanings, functions, production models and audience expectations, and evolving through time. The overall understanding of videogames depends on defining their genre framework as opposed to labels or marketing tools used by the game producers – a blueprint that requires an arrangement of specific elements. While not proposing an exhaustive genre categorization, this paper aims to assess the plot as a suitable criterion for videogame genre framework by correlating the specialists’ opinions on plot usage with the manner in which the plot is reflected into the game features. The findings and the conclusion of this paper are supported by in-depth interviews with industry professionals and by a videogames plot evaluation grid built in line with the methodology proposed by Aarseth, Smedetad and Sunnanå (2003) and Tobias’ plot evaluation (1993).
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