Those of you old enough to remember the days when we bought music from actual, like, shops will know how useful genre could be. It was a handy way of finding what you were looking for – a way for the shopkeeper to categorise, and the shopper to home in on, different flavours of music.
Perhaps the same is true of games, though our retailers have never paid too much heed to genre. Pop into your local second-hand store and you’ll find Nier nestled next to a NASCAR game, Street Fighter next to Syndicate. Perhaps it’s for the best: on the evidence of this month’s Play, genre has never mattered less.
Take, for instance, Titanfall 2 (p112). This is, on the face of it, a sci-fi FPS. It has a great big robot on the box, and an arsenal of wonderful guns on the disc inside it. But as a game it almost defies categorisation, a brainy puzzle-platformer with time-travel elements in which it often feels like shooting things is the last thing on the design team’s mind.
Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare (p110) similarly bucks convention. Yes, you shoot things. A lot. But this is also a game of walking, talking and building relationships. It’s a game whose greatest moments come when you are in the cockpit of a starfighter. It’s the least Call Of Duty- like Call Of
Duty game to date. Plenty of other games simply defy categorisation. What can we call Hitman (p114) that doesn’t overlook its greatest achievement – that it has matured and improved over the course of its seven-month episodic run? Arkane styles
Dishonored 2 (p102) as an ‘immersive sim’, an offputtingly dreary way of describing one of the most intricately designed games of the year. Genre can be useful shorthand, certainly. But this broad church is getting bigger and bigger, to the extent that shorthand is no longer fit for purpose.