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"Clumsimulations": Let's name this genre

by Mike Rose on 04/24/13 08:41:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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I was playing Surgeon Simulator 2013 earlier this week, when it occurred to me that I have absolutely no idea how to simply describe the game. The official website calls it an "over-the-top operation sim game", but if I were to describe the game in this way to another person, they wouldn't even come close to understanding exactly what it's about, and why it's hilariously entertaining.

But this isn't the first time this has happened. I've struggled to easily describe plenty of similar games in the past, to the point where I've finally said, "You know what? Here, let me show you."

Games like Enviro-bear 2010, Octodad, pretty much every single game by Bennett Foddy... these games each have control schemes that are purposely obtuse and/or difficult to user, let alone master. They're games that manage to be both brilliant and frustrating at the same time, and can cause crowds to gather around, eager to watch the person fail and get a good laugh out of it.

I'm not sure where this genre of games began. I know that Jurassic Park: Trespasser in the '90s had a crack at allowing players to more freely control the protagonist's arms, resulting in hilariously painful gameplay that was unintentionally funny to watch. But I'd question whether something like the physical game Twister, first launched in the '60s, was the precedent for the twisted-controls genre.

I've called it the "twisted-controls" genre there, but that's just my own sub-par placeholder name. In reality, this genre of games doesn't yet have a name - or at least, I don't believe it does - and it's always nice to have a quick method for describing what style of game you're talking about, without having to resort to multiple sentences that dig more deeply into each specific game's mechanics.

I put the question to Twitter earlier today - Is there a name for the genre of games like QWOP, Octodad, Envirobear and Surgeon Simulator? - and plenty of people had their own ideas.

So: What would you call the genre? Is there a phrase that best describes each example without being too specific?


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