Last week I talked about setting. Let’s talk genre. The curious thing about the term in RPGs is that it is not actually used for RPGs. That’s actually weird. We would readily agree that Slasher Movies constitute a movie genre. But in RPGs we do not use the term for types RPGs but for types of settings which are part RPGs and the categories we use mimic what is used for genres in literature. Like Fantasy and Superheroes, instead of Adventuring Party RPGs something.
So let’s have a look at that. What is genre? How do we know whether a particular work belongs to a genre? How many genres are there? So, first of all, genre is part of the reception of creative works. People will find similarities between works and apply a label to it, when they talk about it. Once a genre is recognized, creators might actively try to put their works into a genre. Perhaps there will be even guides on how to that. In a next step, other creators might try to subvert the genre, playing with the elements. Then the cycle starts anew. That pattern is older than dirt, in TVTropes speak. Ovidius is already a master of subverting the classical genres of hellenistic literature, writing epics that are not epic in their subject matter and didactic poetry that give up on their own lessons. Genre therefore has a time and place in history. No one writes Augustean epics nowadays. Genres come and go.
Because genres are part of the reception, they do not have analytic definitions, but work on prototypes. A prototypical fantsy novel nowadays is quite long. They often come in trilogies. The often feature a hero’s journey. There are often takes on creatures from fairy tails or myths. There is usually some kind of magic. The setting is a not our world. Note that none of those rules is absolute. There can be a Fantasy Novel that is standalone, does not have fantastic creatures etc. As long as some points are met it can be sorted under Fantasy Novel. Of course an individual work can therefore show traits of various kinds of genre at the same time. Some of which might be child genres of one another.
Because genres are prototypcial they are multi-dimensional. They can be about typical plot, characters, location, but also length, format, medium, publication, style. Some genres that are currently active. Manga, fanfic, dark fantasy, progression fantasy, LitRPG. A creative work might theoretically belong to all of these at the same time. So genre and perception of genre is an interesting subject, but it is not a very good analytical tool.