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The Think Tank: What's your favorite game genre (other than MMOs)?

Shawn Schuster

You'd think that a bunch of MMO bloggers would pick the MMO genre as their favorite, but that's not necessarily true. But that's precisely why we have such a great team here!

So many game genres come together to form the MMO genre, so it only makes sense that we like other games too. So I picked the brains of our staff members to see what other types of games they enjoy when they'e not playing the latest MMO. Read along after the jump for their picks.

It's hard to say if I have a favorite genre, since when I look back at my favorite non-MMO games, they don't fall neatly into one category. If I had to grope wildly in the dark for an absolute favorite, it'd be action RPGs, but I gravitate toward anything that gives me relative freedom to explore an interesting environment.
Adventure gaming, easily. I adore games like Memoria, Broken Sword, Lilly Looking Through, Broken Age, and many others. I really only got into them in the last several years, so I have a lot of backlog to go check in to!
I've always loved space 4X, single-player RPGs a la The Elder Scrolls, pretty much every Diablo clone ever, and sims like, well, The Sims. But MMOs take up the majority of my hard drive. Followed by mods for everything else! On mobile, I tend to spend most of my time in explorery RPGs and roguelikes.
MMOs kind of occupy the top spot in my gaming hierarchy at the moment, but my wife and I have both been gaming for so long that we've got a huge collection in the house even when you remove the online offerings. A quick glance through my house seems to say more about my love of franchises than specific genres, though; I don't think "Silent Hill back when the series was genuinely scary" qualifies as a genre no matter how you slice it. I wouldn't call it brand loyalty; I like the heck out of the Mega Man franchise because while most installments are basically the same game, the subtle variations become more appreciable when so much is the same between game to game.

Leaving that aside, though, I definitely enjoy diving into some RPGs and tactical RPGs, with a definite preference for JRPGs for many of the same reasons Matthew says. (I know, my entry comes first, but he more or less summed up my rationale.) I've also got a soft spot for RTS games, even though I know for a fact that I'm pretty terrible at them. A lot of my older collection is filled with 2-D fighters and SHMUPs, which are both genres that have basically become relics of the past, but I still enjoy them as subtle variations on a theme. Last but not least, I do love my sim-style games such as Civilization and The Sims, games that just sort of give you the tools and the framework and then set you loose to see what you want to do.
Sad to say but right now MMOs are my third or fourth favorite genre. Hopefully that changes with the arrival of various in-progress sandbox titles.

As for my favorite, that's impossible to answer because there is so much amazing stuff! It would be quicker to list the few things I don't like (MOBAs, mobile/portable/casual). If forced to choose, I could narrow it down to fantasy RPGs, open-world RPG/action hybrids, and racing sims. Not so much Forza, Gran Turismo, or Grid -- though I do dabble for the eye candy -- but stuff like SimBin's GTR games and the WRC series with their nifty career modes, editors, and mod communities.

I can't seem to quit sports sims either, especially the GM/front office things like OOTP. And yeah, I'm that dudebro who buys the new Madden/NBA2K/NCAA every year even when it's just a roster update.
That's a tough toss-up between adventure games and CRPGs. There's some cross-over between the two, and I go back and forth between them, especially as I'm playing through older titles. Adventure games can often be more timeless, although I love the combat, statistics, gear, and leveling bits of RPGs.
My favorite games tend to fall into two or three distinct "flavors" regardless of their traditional genres. First there are "Games With Important Decisions to Make," and the examples of X-Com and Dishonored are solid ones, as both of those games ranked highly on my personal favorite lists. There's something compelling about knowing that each choice you make has a lasting impact on how the rest of the game plays out, especially in games like X-Com, where the death of one key team member can be the difference between ongoing success and continued defeat. Secondly, I like "Games That Give Me Freedom," such as Starbound, Assassin's Creed, and other sandboxy games that more or less just let you run around, explore, and do what you feel like doing. This is generally the itch that MMOs tend to scratch for me, as my favorite MMOs don't lock me into a strict progression path, instead allowing me to wander as I wish.

And finally, perhaps most importantly of all, there are "Games That Give Me a Challenge," and Dark Souls easily tops this list (as well as my personal all-time favorites list) despite the fact that it falls into the other two categories as well. This is one of my main reasons for gaming, and there's a good reason that my favorite game of all time is also the one that probably pissed me off more than any other game I've ever played. To me, nothing beats the sense of accomplishment after you finally beat that level you've been chipping away at for the past week (ugh, Tomb of the Giants) or down that boss that you just can't seem to get the hang of (I'm looking at you, Ornstein and Smough).
Tabletop RPGs, especially those with a heavy focus on story and characterization. Big fan of White Wolf stuff like World of Darkness and Exalted, as well as a lot of smaller, independent games that aren't so well known.

Sticking to video games, I guess it's still RPGs, with a particular fondness for grandiose and arcane JRPGs. Adventure games, the pointier and clickier the better, probably squeeze in between them and Western RPGs. Those are relegated to third place because so few break out of the "D&D with a twist" mould, and because I struggle with the "freedom" to choose between a narrow list of possibilities that can totally ruin your intended path from just one innocuous event. But I still like them!
I don't know if my preference for games can really be split into genres. What usually happens for me is that two or three times a year I get super into one particular game and put hundreds of hours into it, then sort of fade out until the next one grabs me. In 2012 it was Mass Effect 3, World of Warcraft, and Dishonored, so one RPG(ish), one MMORPG, and one action game. In 2013 it was Guild Wars 2, Dota 2, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, so one MMORPG, one MOBA, and one strategy game.

This year the first grab was executed by Dark Souls, which is very much a classical old-school adventure RPG. If I had to pick one thing I'd say my second-favorite genre is "Games With Important Decisions to Make," whatever the gameplay style. In Mass Effect 3, Dishonored, XCOM, and Dark Souls, the things you choose to do (or not to do) have very real consequences for your characters and the game world, and you have a bit of freedom in how to approach the problems presented by the game's universe. I like games with player agency and usually seek those games out whether they be strategy, RPG, shooters, or otherwise.
To be honest, when you take MMOs out of the equation, I like actual games. You know, the kind you pull out and play with family and friends around the table, like cards, board games, and especially trivia and word games. Euchre, Phase 10, Scrabble, Boggle, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Name That Tune, Trivial Pursuit... I could go on a while here, but I think you get the idea. Call me retro. Or the odd duck. I like duckies!

Table top RPGs take a very close second, if not tied. I know you probably meant on the computer, so if I had to answer that, I'd say The Sims (but it has been years) and my architect program.
Normally, my second favorite genre are single-player roleplaying games, but lately slinging cards in Hearthstone has been my eating up the lion's share of my non-MMO time. I also enjoy adventure games like Tomb Raider, Diablo-style loot-piñata romps, and pretty much any game with zombies in it.
For me, it's all about turn-based RPGs. Shadowrun Returns is probably one of my recent favorites, along with Wasteland 2. On more of a broad spectrum, I really enjoy indie games more than anything. There are some really amazing gems out there that have yet to be discovered by too many people.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.

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