Failure of the Adventure Game Genre

written by Creston


Did the adventure game genre fail?  Or, has the game industry failed at how to classify these games?

So, what is an adventure game? According to Wikipedia, an adventure game is a "video game in which the player assumes the role of protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving instead of physical challenge."  OK, that description matches all of the "adventure games" I have played (e.g., Day of the Tentacle, The Dig, Full Throttle).  Basically, exploration and puzzle solving within a story framework. 

However, let us look at the word "adventure."  According to Webster, an adventure is "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks."  I don't really see that reflected in the description of "adventure games."  So how did these type of games get labeled as "adventure games?"  Because the first game of this genre was called "Adventure."  Does that make any sense?

I recently listened to an interview with Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert about adventure games.  When you listen to how they design them, they talk about the story design and the puzzle design (including how many puzzles each game should have).  They didn't talk about what risks or dangers they gave players. 

Many have been lamenting the lack of "adventure games" in recent years.  It is believed that this genre of game is not being made since it is not as popular as a FPS or RPG.  However, is this lack of popularity due to poor naming conventions for our genres?   

Casual puzzle games are incredibly popular.  I am sure there is a large group of casual gamers that would try a story-based puzzle game.  However, ask them if they want to try an "adventure game", their response might be "I don't want to go on an adventure, I am too tired."  When an average person thinks of an adventure, they think of excitement and risks, but that doesn't really describe the games in the "adventure game" genre.  In the Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert interview around the 25min. mark, they discuss how they were trying to make "adventure games" for regular people and to address the broader human experience.  They also mentioned these games being slow moving and how you can easily take a break from them and pick them up later.  I don't know about you, but that sounds like a casual game to me. 

Perhaps the failure of "adventure games" is not a failure of this type of game but a failure of the game industry to successfully market these titles?  What do you think?


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