Monday, 20 March 2017

Discussion point: If Adventure Games were invented now, what would they be called?

By the TAG Team


Pirates! is surely a game full of adventure, right?


And Avatar is always on an adventure, right?


Heck, surely looking for diamonds in a cave full of deadly fireflies is an adventure!
Andy Panthro noted on his blog that Rogue-like games is a pretty strange category of games, since new players might not have even heard of Rogue anymore. Adventure game is, if possible, an even worse category. Originally, the name hails from the famed game which spawned the genre and which is often known just as Adventure.

As the screenshots above show, a wide variety of games could be said to be about adventures. I assume there's no chance to change the name of the genre, since it is so ingrained in the minds of computer gamers. Still, if adventure games were invented nowadays, they surely wouldn't be called adventure games. Instead, they would be called... Yes, what would be they called actually? Tell us your idea what name would best describe adventure games and why. If there are many good alternatives, we might do a poll and see what name the majority of our readers prefers.

22 comments:

  1. It infuriates me to see the "adventure" tag misapplied on sites like Steam. Makes it harder to search for proper adventure games when these so-called action-adventures show up too.

    "Point & Click game" feels like a decent alternative, but here's a few that popped in my head:

    Story game
    Walk & Talk game
    Story & Puzzle game

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    1. I'm with you on the annoyance with things like Steam, but it started much earlier - 'Adventure game' has meant Tomb Raider to a lot of people since the 90s.

      A few more suggestions..

      Puzzle games
      Brain teasers

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    2. There should be something to differentiate them from pure puzzle games and emphasise the story and exploration aspect.

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  2. The naming of genres has annoyed me for a while, but I can't think of decent alternatives. A lot of times we lack the language to describe games in a concise and descriptive way. Which is why we're in this sort of mess to begin with.

    If you go on Steam, click "Top Sellers" then use the "Adventure" tag and sort by "Relevance", you get Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon® Wildlands.

    Therefore, modern adventure games should be called "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon® Wildlands-likes"

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  3. I'll just go with the terms I know from old video game magazines. "Adventure" for the kind of games this blog is about, and "Action-adventure" for games like Legend of Zelda and Tomb Raider. Simple and easy.

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  4. By the time Sierra graduated to the SCI engine, virtually every game box in stores described every game as an adventure, diluting the term to the point where it became meaningless. (Adventures aren't unique in this regard; the terms "role-playing", "strategy" and "puzzles" were used similarly freely... basically, you never knew what you were going to get.) We know what we're talking about when we discuss adventure games, but even so it can seem a little arbitrary to lump Zork (which, let's remember, for a time text adventures were described as "Zorks", then as "cave games" after the common Adventure / Zork setting), King's Quest, Deja Vu and Myst all into the same genre.

    We can agree that they are all games of inventory management, conversation trees, and mapping, except for most of them that aren't. Really the great thing about the visual novel genre is that all it describes is the presentation and interface conventions, and you still have no idea what the subject or gameplay will involve -- it's just a vessel. It's impossible for a VN to not be a VN.

    If their descendants somehow spontaneously emerged in the 21st century without following a lineage from the earlier adventures, I suppose 1st-person adventures might be called "Witness clones" (or wait, we do have a name for them already, "walking simulators") and 2D graphic adventures might be called "Amanitas" or "Wadjets".

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  5. I've always called them point & clicks. I've never been able to say "adventure games" without having to disambiguate.

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  6. Point & clicks would discriminate against parsers... Puzzle games sounds too associated with casual puzzlers....

    Considering the roots of the adventure genre, I suppose most adventure games could be covered by the cumbersome term "visual interactive fiction".

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    1. Except that "interactive fiction" implies a parser. Or at least, it used to. With the rise of Twine and other hypertext interfaces, IF includes a lot of things that aren't parser-based anymore. I could argue that there's quite a continuum now between pure text, augmented text (with visual effects like colors or moving words), illustrated text, and graphical (or visual) IF (ranging from Legend games like Timequest and Gateway to the original Quest for Glory in terms of proportion of graphical content). Technically, VNs could also be in the graphical end of the continuum.

      Anyway, my point is that "interactive fiction" as a label already has the implication of a game that's focused on its text to convey the story. What we call adventure games also include many games that focus on their graphics to convey the story. They are interactive fiction in the sense of being an interactive story, but they aren't "interactive fiction" in the already-defined sense, so we'd have to redefine those too. And I can tell you, the IF community has had plenty of discussion about that over the years, but the term is too entrenched. I mean, the main alternative for IF is "text adventure." So really, all of IF is already a subcategory of the broader "adventure" category which includes graphical adventures, including ones that don't rely on words at all (I'm thinking of ones like the Amanita games, which if I understand correctly don't even label the interface icons with words).

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    2. Those are good points.

      Thinking about the topic further, if adventure games were only invented now: due to a time travel accident, Colossal Cave Adventure suddenly appears on the internet 40 years later than it should have (and somehow all non-adventure games were unaffected in the interim). The limited parser would drive people away, but sudden deaths might appeal to the same demographic that enjoys e.g. FromSoftware's Souls series. Adventures would quickly become a popular geek niche spawning imitators, and the genre would still derive its name from the first adventure game, proving history is self-correcting.

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  7. Our biggest problem is that so many of the possible genre names include things that we wouldn't put in the genre.

    I, and I'm guessing most of us, categorize games based on the "I know it when I see it" principle.

    I put all my games in four categories - Action, Adventure, Strategy or RPG and I'm guessing there are plenty of games that I have in a category that others would have in a different category

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    1. I think I do pretty much similar division in my head. I guess people could say that at least the Action category should be divided further (shoot-em-ups, platformers etc.), but since it's the category I am least interested in, I am happy to use such a broad grouping.

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  8. Well, "Adventure" as the name of the genre comes from its first games as has been pointed out. I'd look for prominent examples of current adventure games...

    I regret to say, but I think we'd call them "Telltale" games and they would be actively fighting to prevent the genericization of their names.

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  9. Assuming adventure games are invented today, I think the genre would be called by any of these names:

    - Point and Clicks
    - Visual Novels (I can imagine that people would see adventure games as the next step in VNs)
    - Visual Novels-like
    - Story games
    - Fetch Quest simulators (similar to how haters created Walking simulators as an insult, haters would do the same to the new genre)

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    1. Fetch Quest simulators! I love it! XD

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  10. Can I also just say how much I love Boulder Dash. Can I cover that as a missed classic? :)

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    1. I guess if you can argue well why we should take it to be an adventure game...

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    2. Surely looking for diamonds in a cave full of deadly fireflies is an adventure!

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    3. You got me there! Well, you better make it just one post long.

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    4. I suggest a Boulder Dash series and clones marathon.

      There can't be too many of them, right? :D

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  11. Can I qualify for the "Eye-Rolling Pedantry" award for pointing out that the critters shown in the Boulder Dash pic are butterflies, not fireflies?

    Anyway, go Rockford! I had the Boulder Dash/Super Boulder Dash combo pack for C64 and enjoyed it immensely.

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  12. I like MrValdez's suggestion of "Visual Novels". Calling them "puzzle games" discriminates against, say, Hero-U and Persona, which are more about the story and relationships than puzzles. I'm also ok with "Interactive Fiction", "Story Games", and "Puzzle Story Games".

    The term "Adventure Game" goes back before ADVENT, or at least at about the same time. The Adventures of You and Choose Your Own Adventure series started in the 1970's. Most of these (including ADVENT) were likely inspired by D&D, which was published in 1974. There were similar gamebooks going back at least to the 1940's, but I don't think they used the term "adventure".

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