Yaruki Zero Podcast #13: Genres

Per multiple requests (notably from Clyde Roher and Jake Richmond), this episode starts off with some commentary on the different genres of anime and manga. From there I get into how genres work in general, and then how we view genres in role-playing games. This also kinda sorta marks a new “season” of the YKZ podcast, hence the new font in the title image and new theme song.

Yaruki Zero Podcast #13 (42 minutes, 44 seconds)

Show Notes

  1. Anime and Manga Genres
  2. Genre Cycles
  3. RPG Genres

This podcast uses selections from the song “Time Machine” by To-den from the Grünemusik album of the same name, available for free from Jamendo.com. If you like the song, consider buying some CDs from Nankado’s website or via Jamendo.

Very awesome caricature of Ewen courtesy of the talented C. Ellis.

4 thoughts on “Yaruki Zero Podcast #13: Genres

  1. A few thoughts on the podcast:

    -When you mention that setting genre don’t matter in regards to video games as long as it matches the player’s play genre, I have to disagree, especially when it comes to RPGs.
    The setting tends to play a big factor on the general interest given to it. I’m sure Persona 4, Fallout and Mass Effect wouldn’t have been given as much acclaim if they were set in a cookie cutter fantasyland. Even when it comes to less story focused types, more than a few people are getting sick of Space Marines in their Action titles.

    -Concerning rock band and other “repeat the sequence” style games that use music (sorry, I still think games that use music can be more expansive than being that simple.) While I’m sure DJ Hero wasn’t doing well because it was more niche than “be a guitar playing superstar,” I blame Activision for going to the plastic toy well a little too often too soon. Those controllers that ate closet space and all the games released in a short time took it’s toll on the consumers. Acti just layed off most of Red Octane and Neversoft, both who worked on the Guitar Hero games.

    – “Play style genres for Tabletop RPGs.” We sort of do have that, at least in reference to games as they are read out of the box. 4e is incredibly tactical and “crunchy”, Bliss Stage is loose and works in a “Round Robin” style.
    But what I think makes tabletop RPGs great is that unlike a video game RPG, we can choose to play these games while removing many of the rules in place. One could remove the map from 4e, or work in some kind of tactics/authorial control system in Bliss Stage.

    But maybe the real question here is “should the indie/traditional RPG categories even be used any more?”
    They seem to be more bringing up dividing party lines than actually explaining WHAT the game entails or offers.

    1. I think that the point is more that video gamers are substantially more aware of gameplay genre than RPG players, partly because the former actually have a vocabulary for it. Settings are non-trivial to video games of course, but I’m not at all convinced that a player who strongly dislikes turn-based RPGs could be persuaded to play Persona 3, for example. (Mass Effect is an odd example for this discussion because if the gameplay videos I’ve seen are any indication it’s very much an action game with very strong story and RPG elements. If anything, it’s an object lesson in the value of transcending gameplay genres.)

      It is true that music games haven’t received anywhere near the level of innovation that they could have. Although Guitar Hero made the genre accessible to Americans, it didn’t fundamentally change the gameplay from Guitar Freaks (which first came out in 1998). There was, for example, at least one indie computer game meant to be a platformer you could play with a guitar controller, but the likes of Activision haven’t tried anything like that on any level. But the genre does appear to have become excessively rigid, even if it’s because the game development companies are unwilling to innovate beyond devising new expensive controllers.

      It’s not that gameplay genres of tabletop RPGs don’t exist, so much as that for whatever reason there is currently insufficient terminology to effectively discuss and categorize them. I consider indie vs. traditional to be something of a false dichotomy–as I said in the podcast I think there could be many gameplay genre divisions within and across that already vague line–and not all that useful to any such endeavor. As Ron Edwards originally intended the term, “indie RPGs” was to refer to games published with very strong creator control, and not in any way a statement of the nature of its gameplay. It’s since mutated to sometimes vaguely refer to Forge-influenced games as a single group, which is about as useless as lumping all “traditional” RPGs together. The RPG market is too small to have an “establishment” apart from WotC perhaps, and the differences between their games and those published by others have more to do with production values than design per se. On the other hand, distinguishing a “GM-less narration distribution system” from an “abstract narrative combat system” could be very useful, however much both might be considered “indie.”

  2. It’s a bit sad that the two gendered genres aren’t more equal and that men’s manga is still trumpeted as the most significant. Almost taking shoving women stories aside and make them as not worth anything at all.
    (Looking at you list that is majorly men’s titles.)
    I really wish shoujo and josei had more followers, however the way that men stuff is the norm and women stuff is not the norm I doubt it will change. (Women are more likely to read the shounen/seinen stuff more than men will reciprocate.)

    I would also say the NANA manga and anime is almost the very definition of josei. Very much about the lives of women and how they deal with life.

    I guess it goes back to my last comment about the RPG games highlighted here. Games that are made for the moe/otaku flavor and really nothing that appeals to the female moe/otaku (Which is probably butlers, sworn protectors, multiple boyfriend appearances, reverse harem, etc.)

    Speaking of romance, though, doesn’t it seem one sided that the guy gets the gal while she is mostly on the sidelines.

    Though speaking of genres, I wonder if Twilight can finally break that wall of men not reading stuff for women. (Not that I really like Twilight, or agree with the relationships presented in that story. However I see vampire fiction tables in book stores more.)

    1. Yeah, I’m not really sure why it is that our society has a tendency to see things as being either “for everyone” or “for women,” but it does seem to reflect the general trend. I don’t think that shoujo and josei manga are any less significant creatively, but they do sell less, perhaps as a result of being in the “ghetto” of female-oriented entertainment. As with the question of how to expand the audience of RPGs, someone smarter than me will have to figure out how to go about spreading these titles to more people. Particularly in the case of manga, there’s no shortage of titles by and for women that men can enjoy. Where in the case of RPGs someone needs to step up and create the right kind of titles, for manga it’s more a matter of getting guys to give it a chance. (And by the way I’m going to go check out Nana.)

      The image of the girl sitting there waiting for the right guy to come along is deeply ingrained in our culture, and in fiction and for that matter in real life I’d like to see more women willing to take the initiative. But then, from any remotely feminist viewpoint pop culture has an awful lot of room for improvement.

      Twilight has the problem that it’s poorly written and severely overrated (and I’ve read the first three books BTW), but it does show that genre fiction can get a female audience. If they were better-written and less creepy, the Twilight books would actually be really neat, as they have some very interesting and novel ideas that Meyer doesn’t manage to utilize. I wonder how much something like the Anita Blake novels manages to attract readers of both genders, because (based on reading the first book) it strikes me as something that can indeed appeal to men and women alike. What I can say with certainty is that vampire fiction has spectacularly succeeded at building a female audience, and Twilight was basically a mega-hit in an already-established genre.

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