Adventure in a Different World

I was looking over the site, GamePeople, which seems to be a gaming site aimed at a slightly older audience who are not harcore gaming fanboys and also not the “typical” casual game player.  In a sense, it caters to gamers who might not other wise be properly served by the bigger sites that seem to have almost created a strong polarisation with little overlap.  The GamePeople audience seems to fit into another area of the Venn diagram.

It was while I was looking over the site that I found the page with the heading Adventure Game Genre Reviews.  Having been involved in different aspects of the creation of adventure games over the last seventeen years, I was a little surprised to find that games as different as Assassin’s Creed and Animal Crossing.  Admittedly, there are more traditional adventures like Ceville and Monkey Island in their list, but most are what I would class as action games.

And yet, part of me has always felt that the adventure label is slightly wrong for games that are essentially point-and-click inventory and dialogue games.  Somewhere along the line the sense of “adventure” has been played down quite considerably.  There’s nothing wrong with the style of game that is the traditional adventure – I love creating them myself, after all – but it’s clear that for many people not brought up on a type of gameplay that is now seen as a niche genre, the word “adventure” conjours up something more exciting that often goes hand in hand with a certain amount of action.  I can’t help but feel that they’re probably right.  Or at least, not wrong.

A few years ago I tried to break free of the restrictions of the old adventure genre (while still making adventure games) by referring to the games I created as “escapades”.  Needless to say, I’m still waiting for that term to catch on.


  1. 100% agreed. The “adventure” term has been bastardized these days and applies to anything from hidden object games to lighthearted action. In fact, I believe it’s one of the reasons why (typical) adventures are having such a rough time – they just aren’t being properly exposed in the market.

    I’ve always fancied calling them “story games”. Regardless of the actual term, if we ALL agreed (publishers and developers alike) to rechristen the genre, I believe it would certainly mean a huge boost.

  2. The genre definition has definitely evolved the past 15 years or so.

    What used to define a specific type of game structure – problem-solving, exploration and story – is now by many people seen as a theme instead. As in “let’s go on an adventure”.

    IIRC, I read that on Wikipedia, and it seems correct, when you compare that statement to how most sites use the term “Adventure”, when listing reviews etc.

    I, too, don’t know exactly what we should call the old adventure genre (if anything different at all). Perhaps Interactive Stories or Story Games, but these terms don’t seem to cover everything.

    Since most games today are more or less hybrids anyway, it might be about the right time we do like the film industry – use more than one genre description for most games.

    It has of course to some degree already happened (e.g. action-adventure, action-RPG). But there’s plenty of room for more. A game like Animal Crossing could be either a simulation-adventure or simply a sim-adventure.

    That of course means that sites need sub-categories, but I don’t think that’s a problem – it’s just a service, the user can chose to ignore it.

  3. EDIT:
    “I, too, don’t know exactly what we should call the old adventure genre (if anything different at all). Perhaps Interactive Stories or Story Games, but these terms don’t seem to cover everything.”

    Sorry, I’m a bit tired: what I meant is, personally I would prefer we either keep the term Adventure Game or change it to Interactive Stories or Story Games, but I can understand why some people might think they don’t apply.

    The reason I think they’re fitting is because gameplay in adventure games is more or less context-based. And by that the genre is a very good tool for telling interactive stories. Most other game genres rely a lot on reusable gameplay.

  4. Perhaps it’s time to give the genre some kind of qualifier that fits with terms like action-adventure.

    Most traditional adventures involve some kind of investigation (talking to people/witnesses, looking for clues, solving puzzles, etc), so maybe we need to call these games “investigative adventures” – although that’s a bit of a clumsy term. “Detective adventure” would imply something that it may not be. “Mystery adventure” sounds like it would only apply to an Agatha Christie type whodunnit.

    While Interactive Stories and Story Games may be closer to what these games are, they just don’t seem right, particularly as the term Interactive Fiction is used these days when referring to the old text adventures.

    However, thinking about the term “text adventure” gave me a better idea (I think). Perhaps the traditional adventure genre should become “Narrative Adventure”.

  5. In my head, when I hear the term ‘Adventure’, I think of story/narrative first & foremost….I don’t really think about what primary genre the game is grouped in, it all depends on the context of the game itself. Could we call Modern Warfare 2 an adventure? No, not in the slightest. Yes it may have a basic story, but I feel (in my opinion) that stories in the majority of First Person Shooters and even some action adventures are an afterthought, which is a shame. Games like these are easy to call, however, games like Broken Sword, Rhianna Ford & the upcoming Heavy Rain are all different in control type/scheme & execution, yet I still class all 3 as adventure. Why? Because there is a strong narrative in each case. There are puzzles to be solved, people to interact with, and most importantly, intelligently developed characters to relate with that help draw you in to the whole experience. Adventures are meant to take you on a journey, only a combination of narrative & character can achieve that, in my opinion. Look at Uncharted 2 aswell, there’s plenty of action & a fantastic story, yet if you mention it as an adventure game to a hardened point & click fan, you’d more than likely get a strange look & a slight snigger. The bottom line is, there are many types of adventure games these days, it’s just a matter of distinguishing these games….and then categorising them.

  6. “Problem-solving” is a decent description of what the gameplay in adventure games is about, but as a name it would make them sound mundane.

    The terms “Interactive Story” and “Story Game” on the other hand I don’t think fit the genre at all. Or rather, they pretty much describe almost every game in every genre and as such they shouldn’t be attributed to a single one.

    Maybe it’s better we stick to “Adventure Game” after all. As you say, Steve, it makes the games sound exciting, which is often a good recommendation.

  7. Well, I was kind of saying that “adventure game” as a label is a bit too broad because, for many people, it includes action-adventure, adventure-RPG and even HOG-adventure. That’s why, for the point-and-click style adventures we need a clearer definition or label. Like “narrative adventure”.

  8. Adventure games as a genre certainly hasn’t got the same meaning it once had and in my opinion shouldn’t have.

    One thing that has changes is the way many games fuse action and storytelling/characters creating something that’s closer to the experience of adventure movies and books than anything a point-n-click has managed. That’s one reason I feel naming our adventures narrative adventures or anything similar is wrong, we don’t have the monopoly on storytelling we once had. It’s just one way of telling a story among several.

    I’d say point-n-click adventure is the best name for our genre. I would rather find another name that focuses on something that’s actually part of the game rather than the input method (using input method isn’t future proof), but it’s fusing and focusing on puzzles and storytelling that is unique about the genre and puzzle adventure makes people think of hidden object games with story and such. Problem solving adventure just doesn’t have much of a ring to it…

    So what about moving away from adventure and picking an entirely new name? I support the idea but doubt you would manage to make it stick so long as the majority of the consumers of this kind of games have been around since the golden age of adenture games.

  9. While I like the idea of labeling traditional adventures “narrative adventures”, there’s a significant possibility, IMO, things will get even more muddled 🙂

    First, people who label games like Animal Crossing and Assassins Creed “adventure games” will probably think an “narrative adventure game” is like those games, just with more focus on story and narrative.

    Second, focus on narrative in games in general is on the rise. So the term “narrative adventure” might become obsolete in 5-10 years, since most adventure-esque games will probably focus on narrative by then. It’s more or less already the case with action-adventures.

    Perhaps the label “traditional adventure” is more suitable. After all, that’s how we sometimes refer to them. Or what about calling them “puzzle-adventures”.

  10. I agree with Jannik. When I play something like, say, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time or pretty much any modern RPG game they already seem equally focused on delivering a quality narrative as adventure games. The narrative isn’t the defining factor for the genre, it is made unique by certain types of puzzle solving.

  11. Is this why the adventure genre (point-and-click) feels a little doomed at times – developers struggle to make headway against how people of today view the word “adventure”? We have no way to re-label this type of game and even if we were able to do so we’d never get all developers to agree on what that new label should be.

  12. THanks for looking at our site and writing up your thoughts. Really interesting discussion here.

    We are trying to work out how to simplify and communicate game categories to an audience not necessarily versed in the cannon of gaming. As such Adventure games is a broad collection of games.

    You may be interested that we are just starting to flesh this idea out. Our Genres continue to describe types of game experience, then we have a set of play styles that describe HOW these expereinces are delviered:

    * Assistance Multiplayer games
    * Augmented Reality games
    * Competitive Multiplayer games
    * Co-operative Multiplayer games
    * First Person games
    * Meta-games
    * Physical games
    * Real Time games
    * Shared Screen Multiplayer games
    * Single Player Campaign games
    * Split Screen Multiplayer games
    * Third Person games
    * Turn Based games

    Let us know what you think.

  13. Thanks for dropping by.

    Are you saying that these play styles would appear as a kind of sub-heading after the genre listing to further clarify? If this is the case, saying that an adventure game is a third person, single player campaign could equaly apply to Uncharted and Broken Sword, but they’re very different games.

    Perhaps you need a further refinement so that, for adventures, say, you’d include, where appropriate:
    Logical puzzles
    Inventory use and manipulation
    Character/Dialogue driven
    (These are just initial ideas, of course.)

    What do your readers think of the broad scope of the adventure label?

  14. Reading your newest post, I should probably emphasise that I don’t distinguish between point & click and direct control, when I’m referring to traditional adventures and puzzles-adventures. There are limits to how many labels we need, IMO, so I was referring to the ‘feel’ of the games 🙂

    Since I’m back, a quick comment on your “doomed” comment:
    I doubt labels, in this case, has much to do with success. If anything, sitting in the same box as other adventure-type games, is probably a good thing for traditional adventures, not the other way around – more potential players, people experiencing the genre by coincidence, etc.

  15. I was a bit too quick:

    “…not the other way around”, maybe sounded as I feel the broad selection of games in the ‘adventure box’ is a bad thing for other adventure-like games. But that’s not what I meant. I was still referring to traditional adventures.

  16. I wasn’t trying to suggest that there should be any distinction between adventure games using different control methods, just that giving people “more” control doesn’t necessarily sit well with every player.

    Yes, you’d think that being parter of a broader group would be of benefit, but I don’t think we’ve seen any sign of that.

  17. “I wasn’t trying to suggest that there should be any distinction between adventure games using different control methods…”

    That was my guess, but it was just that you added the term ‘point & click’ most of the times you mentioned traditional adventures, so I just wanted to make clear how my use of the label ‘traditional adventure’ was intended.

    “Yes, you’d think that being parter of a broader group would be of benefit, but I don’t think we’ve seen any sign of that.”

    No, we haven’t seen a sign of (mutual) benefit from that group. I just don’t think using label A, B or C has much to do whether the traditional adventures are doomed or not.

  18. The more I hink about it, the more it seems that the specific collecton of mechanics and ideas we call an adventure game is simply something that the majority of game players don’t want. But they’re happy when some of those mechanics and ideas are used – sometimes to better effect – in other genres.

  19. I agree. Many gamers like story, puzzles and exploration in the same package. That’s why game series like Zelda and Tomb Raider are very popular (the story in those games are sometimes on the light side, though). The majority of the demography playing those games are just not used to the way old-school adventure games present themselves.

    But things may change a bit in future – it seems casual gamers are starting to be more interested in the traditional adventure format.

  20. To be honest, I think that the casual market is one of the few bright spots on the horizon. Although even here there will need to be adaptation because the casual players prefer not to be stumped by difficult puzzles.


    Uncharted 2 has won the award for Best Adventure Game. It’s official – we’ve now lost our genre label.