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There are two kinds of good game. There are the good games that come out, get fine reviews, sell adequately, and then fade into well-regarded obscurity: your Vortex, your Space Station Silicon Valley, your Land Stalker (a perplexed, blank stare is the correct response here). And then there are the good games that have a lasting impact on the medium. These games aren't necessarily any better, but they get talked about more often because they defied – and redefined – our expectations. Red Dead Redemption may be such a title. It's the first time a cowboy-themed game has transcended the resolute OK-ness of Sunset Riders, Mad Dog McCree and their ilk, capturing audiences without compromising its sand-and-saddles chops to prove that Westerns were a viable game genre all along.
But now that that point's finally been made, there are plenty of other film genres for games to try adapting next. Some haven't been touched since valiantly failed lo-fi efforts; others have never really been given a day in court. Maybe it's time to put the next Space Marines In Space title on the back-burner and try plugging a controller into one of these under-represented movie styles...
The genre: Not to be confused with serial-killer thrillers or horror in general (both well-represented in games), slasher movies like Friday the 13th, Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre combine the homicidal psychopaths of the former with the jolting scares and gratuitous bloodletting of the latter. It seems like a prohibitively narrow formula, but for periods in the early ‘80s/late ‘90s, it was hard to find a horror pic cut from any other cloth.
Above: Almost, but not quite
Why hasn't it been done? Generally speaking, action games work best when there's one heavily armed “you” and plenty of enemies: the exact opposite of the slasher formula.
Above: The pre-Redemption cowboy game, in a typical state of sucking
For the most part, horror games like F.E.A.R. stick to this ratio, pitting one gat-strapped meathead against an endless host of bullet-hungry bad'ns; even slasher pastiches like the Splatterhouse and Manhunt series still shoehorn the genre's surface elements into a rote “buff chunkhead murders many faceless schmucks” template.
Above: Designers worked so hard on the original Clock Tower that the whole office called in sick on the day earmarked for “making it fun.” True fact!
Should happen because: Just look at the phenomenally unsettling Fatal Frame for a great game built largely around fleeing in terror. And while titles like the original Clock Tower, or the NES Elm Street and Friday the 13th licenses, failed to carry off the “multiple characters, one terrifying antagonist” gambit, that's not because it's a bad idea for a game: it's just because they were crap games. Get designers who know their way around horror working on a serial-killer slasher and the result could be as compelling as it was terrifying.
Above: The rock genre, represented by those guys from The Simpsons
The genre: Rock movies like The Commitments, Almost Famous and This Is Spınal Tap never fail to deliver outsized characters and a horns-throwing soundtrack. But while games are as enamored of the milieu as anyone else – witness Brütal Legend, the Guitar Hero phenomenon and the bizarre early-‘90s flurry of videogames based on pinball games based on rockstars – they're pretty shallow affairs. We've not yet had a game that recreates the genre's rousing rags-to-leathers narratives or alluringly hedonistic heroes. And where's our TV-out-the-hotel-window minigame?
Above: A fine game about rock, but not a rock game per se
Why hasn't it been done? There are plenty of gameplay tropes that wouldn't fit into a rock game: unless your title focuses on Mayhem or Phil Spector, there's not much scope for kill-frenzies or wanton lawless recklessness. Putting that aside, games traditionally haven't excelled at recreating the joys of playing kickass music for adoring crowds, which is traditionally the central pleasure of rock movies. Hang on...
Above: Now we're getting somewhere
Should happen because: One of the biggest shake-ups in recent years has been the discovery that, actually, games are stonking great at recreating the joys of playing kickass music for adoring crowds. A rock game could combine the rhythm challenges of Guitar Hero and Rock Band with Sid Meier-style strategy elements, a music-biz version of Peter Molyneux's The Movies. Cultivate your band's look, style and music; strong-arm your way into lucrative gigs; pick up the tacky plastic instruments and make good on the deal. It'd be the deepest “[Blank] Hero” title yet – and potentially the best.
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