Easter didn't stop thousands of gamers from turning out for Day 3 of PAX East 2012. While the show was dominated by video game fans and vendors that specialize in video games there was something for just about everyone. Whether you were interested in traditional board games, card games like D&D, a LARPer needing gear, or those wanting to attend dozens of lectures, panels and podcasts about gaming, boredom was not an option. Fans came in the costumes of their favorite characters, gaming brands brought actors dressed as their signature characters, and Transformer’s Bumblebee was there (everyone knows Transformers are real).

The PAX East 2012 Gaming Convention

At one of the hourly lectures, James Portnow, CEO of Rainmaker games, spoke about reassessing how we define video game genres. He cited a fascinating paper called "The Mechanics Aesthetics" and used the language in it to help define why we play our favorite games, and which genres need what elements to be successful. Here are the core aesthetics cited which drive the perceived fun of game-play:

Video game developers at Pax East 2012
  • 1. Sensation: Game as sense-pleasure.
  • 2. Fantasy: Game as make-believe.
  • 3. Narrative Game as drama.
  • 4. Challenge: Game as obstacle course.
  • 5. Fellowship: Game as social framework.
  • 6. Discovery: Game as uncharted territory.
  • 7. Expression: Game as self-discovery.
  • 8. Submission Game as pastime.

Take for example the Platform genre... In the NES classic Super Mario Brothers, those that play will be pulled in by the Challenge of obstacles and Discovery of uncharted territory. Portnow claims that all Platform games would contain those core aesthetics, and that you could potentially define a genre like Platform games by those two core aesthetics.

For me, choosing a game genre to play depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to live the Fantasy of annihilating zombies and other days I want the Fellowship of playing Rock Band with some friends.

What are the core reasons that keep you going back to your favorite game genres, and why?

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