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What makes a game an "action game"?

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1 What makes a game an "action game"? on Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:36 am

Hopefully I haven't missed this discussion elsewhere, but I was surprised not to see a topic about this:

How do we place a game in to the action genre? In your opinion, are there any sort of criteria it has to meet, or rules it has to adhere to?

The term "action" with regards to genre is incredibly broad, and can sometimes feel vague. The inspiration for posting this topic came from looking at the sort of games being discussed in the "Various Action Games" and "Various Other Games" sections of the forum. There has been a lot of discussion on titles that would fall under the 3D beat-em-up/hack and slash/character action/spectacle fighter/"insert made up terminology here" genre, but as a forum we have covered more than that. Under action games, we've discussed games as varied as:

- DOOM Eternal (First-Person Shooter)
- P.N.03 (Third-Person Shooter)
- Guacamelee! (Metroidvania/Beat 'em Up)
- Sin & Punishment series (Rail Shooter/Shooting Gallery)
- Dragon's Dogma (Action RPG)


Under "other games", there are discussions on:

- Metal Gear Solid 3 (Stealth/Action-Adventure)
- Nex Machina (Twin-Stick Shooter)
- Ikaruga (Shoot 'Em Up)
- Mega Man series (2D Action/Platformer)
- Resident Evil 4 (Third-Person Shooter/Survival Horror)


Given that there are mechanical similarities and overlaps between games discussed in both sections, what factors influence your decision when classifying action titles?

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2 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:09 am

Nadster


C-Rank
Honestly I have thought about it. However, I really can't put it into words.

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3 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:15 am

This is a pretty big topic in film as well, where the genre itself isn't really defined other than giving you a 'fuck yeah' feeling. And even that is vague.

That said I always felt that the so to speak "top level genres" are allowed to be vague. I always try to view it as a game having genres like a tree with roots.

For instance with Doom Eternal its main genre is First Person Shooter. Its sub genre is Action. So it goes in "Other". Dragon's Dogma is Action primarily, with a sub-RPG genre, so it goes in "Action".

It's all very vague and meta. I've got an article about it ready to go when my site is fixed but it still doesn't really clear it up.

I think at this point we can use the Action as a reasoning for games that primarily sport combat in some form. Uncharted is Action too, so is MGS. But they go different routes, with MGS being more stealth for instance.

Just random thoughts :)

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4 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Wed Mar 06, 2019 2:17 am

Random thoughts are welcome Raeng!

Definitely interested to read your article on the subject.

I think genres are really interesting to discuss, as they're equal parts helpful and problematic. I personally hate the terms "Character Action" and "Spectacle Fighter" to describe those types of games, as to me they really don't mean anything at all. However, are we just to label them "Action games" and not look to categorise them any further? Are we content to place Bayonetta and Dynasty Warriors in the same genre when they're so fundamentally different?

You gave Dragon's Dogma as an example of a game that is primarily an Action title, but more commonly thought of as an "Action RPG". It certainly seems to be the case that the term Action is applied to games that feature combat as a main gameplay element - does this have to be real time combat, though? Many turn based RPGs (and even Strategy games) feature deep or complex combat systems that produce flashy "action" imagery, but are they to be classified differently for not testing the reflexes and precision of the player in real time? Does this then become an example of a rule or criteria that applies to the Action genre?

It's clearly an incredibly subjective topic. I remember reading an article about a Famitsu Weekly survey that was used to create a list of Japan's top 20 favourite Action games, and there were Super Mario, Legend of Zelda and Kirby games that made the cut. I guess when most genres can be somewhat be related to the term "Action" it's very difficult to make any objective definitions.

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5 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Wed Mar 06, 2019 7:54 am

Fucking hell I really need to just publish the article haha! Here's the reddit post of mine I based it off of: https://www.reddit.com/r/actiongames/comments/8yyguf/what_defines_character_actionvideos/e2rsas0/

The article is basically that but expanded. About the 'what is action' part, hard to say. I'm confident that titles like Resident Evil are distinctly Action as well, even the older ones, but Turned Based I feel is really just pure RPG. But when you enter areas like the original Dragon Age, then lines already start to blur.

This is the same as with the "is Zelda an RPG" topic that comes back once every few months.

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6 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Thu Mar 07, 2019 2:09 am

Birdman


Moderator
It's an impossible topic from what I've seen. Certain individuals on Gamefaqs have made it a number of times and it always goes nowhere.

If we say, 'games like DMC', then yeah, I think we can define those to a reasonably clear extent. Third person melee orientated combat like MGR, TFD, Chaos Legion, NG, El Shaddai.

I don't think games like this come under shooting, even though in DMC's case you have firearms, they don't function like actual shooters. But then you have TFD with the OTS camera and aiming which is exactly like TPS.

In cases where the lines are blurred, could we safely go with the main 'focus'?

Regarding action RPGs, how much RPG elements are enough to class it as such? Buying moves doesn't, but what about MGR? You level up attack power and fuel consumption. Or are these elements so small that they're irrelevant?

For the record, I don't agree with cuhrazhgyegyhg, stylish, spectacle, or character action.

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7 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:08 am

The whole problem with "games like DMC" is that it immediately limits reactions or gives birth to that whole "Chaos Legion isn't like DMC at all" problem again. I just prefer Action Hack and Slash. Tends to get the job done. Fisticuff fighters like God Hand and VJ, and titles like Vanquish might be omitted by that, but then I just use Action games (reason why Stinger also says "all things action games").

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8 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:31 am

Birdman


Moderator
The whole problem with "games like DMC" is that it immediately limits reactions or gives birth to that whole "Chaos Legion isn't like DMC at all" problem again.
True but I think that idea came more from people expecting DMC and playing it like DMC. They do have a lot of similarities in their basic mechanics such as being third person action, melee, the same inputs (CL even has a 'Stinger' in the form of the move Breakdown and even has the same command) same dodge command, etc. I wanted to refer to these core mechanics when I said 'like DMC', not that we should label them as such.

Action Hack and Slash. Tends to get the job done. Fisticuff fighters like God Hand and VJ
I might label VJ as something else, but GH seems pretty much the same as 'hack and slash' just with a different weapon.

Soul Calibur and Tekken are fighters, exactly the same genre. I don't think how they attack, as long as it's majority melee, should be a factor. Shooting on the other hand...

I've just been calling them action for years and anyone like-minded automatically understands.

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9 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Thu Mar 07, 2019 10:16 am

> Hack and Slash but with a different weapon

This is something I've wondered about for years - what is supposed to be the difference between a hack and slash and a beat-em-up? Conceptually the gameplay is the same, so is it worth classifying them as different genres?


Maybe it isn't worth trying to organise games by so many different sub-genres under the Action umbrella. However, if you're a Vanquish fan for example and are looking for similar gameplay (other fast paced third person shooters) then the Action label isn't particularly useful. In fact, the third person shooter label isn't even that useful and there are plenty that play nothing like Vanquish. As alluded to, our examples highlight the issues that arise with genre and classification.

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10 Re: What makes a game an "action game"? on Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:38 am

Birdman


Moderator
what is supposed to be the difference between a hack and slash and a beat-em-up? Conceptually the gameplay is the same, so is it worth classifying them as different genres?
I'd say no, unless they're those 2d ones like Streets of Rage/Double Dragon.

You still get these in 3d though, so MAYBE in that case they can still be a separate genre, but if they play mechanically the same as say DMC/GH and all those types, I'd say no. In no way do I consider GH and DMC to be different genres.

Just got reminded of a good example. Have you played Final Fight: Streetwise?

It plays like your standard action game. Punches and kicks, combos, counters, blocking, has grabs and temporary weapon pickups. Some similarities to GH.

But after you beat the game you get this mode, I forgot what it's called (arcade I think), where you play through some stages with the mechanics of the old 2d games more or less, though it's still 3d. The camera angle is different and you can't do some of the stuff from the main game. You can have two players. Pretty much like an old FF game.

Streetwise is labeled as a beat em up, but then you unlock...an actual beat em up?

No, it's crap. If it's melee then the genre is the same. That's my take.

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