Outer Wilds — Is it My Genre?

Video Transcript:

Is it my genre? This is the question that we ask every time that we open up any game trailer or any trailer but especially indie game trailers where genre isn’t always very clear. We kind of have to figure out pretty quickly if this is going to be our thing. 

It becomes especially tricky to figure this out when you have a game like Outer Wilds. So that’s why I want to talk about that one today, especially after I have played through the whole game. I feel like I fully understand what genre the game is and could tell you if it weren’t for the fact that there would be spoilers. That’s the thing you don’t have to worry about in this video. 

I’m not going to spoil the game but I will help you to understand why it’s so hard to make a game trailer that has these kinds of problems…. That is, I don’t know, I guess the challenge of it is, “It’s so hard to talk about!” You can show things; you just can’t show everything. So today we’re going to talk about Outer Wilds and Is it my Genre?

Okay, let’s check it out.

I want to say so much about all of what is going on in this trailer but I am going to keep it focused on the genre. There is the key thing that you need to understand. What are the genre definitions of this game?

Break-down the genre definitions

You can tell a few things by watching the trailer. Number 1: it’s in first person perspective. Number 2: it’s got some maybe sort of puzzle solving and it’s in a solar system, a hand crafted solar system. Those are the genre definitions of the game, which still doesn’t fully tell you everything and the key is because you can’t. I would call this genre a Myst-Like. It’s the genre that Cyan started with the first Myst game, developed with Ribbon and all of the sequels. It’s this combination of puzzle game and first person walking. I can’t tell you what exactly you are doing because the moment that you do you are spoiling the experience. You’re revealing what’s happening underneath the hood of the engine, which is kind of like if I were to give you the treasure from solving things on your own you would never be able to own that solution unto yourself. 

That’s the first key point: Break-down the genre definitions. When you break down the genre definitions you can know what kind of game you are getting into. 

Know what the audience loathes.

Like I said, the biggest thing that you need to stay away from with this kind of game is spoilers, is any kind of solution provided to a puzzle. I am making trailers, I don’t know if I said that. One of the key things that I found when I made a game trailer for this kind of game genre is we were a little too on the nose with explaining what you are doing, how the puzzles get solved. So I had to try to make it associative so you might feel like you are solving the puzzles but you are really just seeing parts coming together. Those moments when you saw the waterfall, which is actually a sand fall and transitioning to another sandfall, the exchange between the two planets… Those kinds of associations implicatively establish what your game is trying to do. So keep those kind of ideas in mind. The other thing is Number 3:

Speak your audience’s love language.

This is, like I said all associations, applications and just not overtly stating how things work. This is really hard for this genre but it’s a universal rule for any kind of game trailer. You want to make sure you’re speaking your core player’s love language. Now that leaves you with a problem in that some people don’t know they are your core players. They don’t know that they are going to love this kind of game cause they have never played one. 

So that’s the fourth point: Don’t forget your audience, your ignorant audience. Don’t forget your new players. We’ll call them that.

Don’t forget your new players.

These are the people who have no idea what your game is and they don’t know how to make sense of whether or not this is their genre and we’re not going to get everybody. It’s so hard but if you can effectively tease, this is the important part, if you can effectively tease and say do you like what you’re seeing here or would you like to see more? I feel like that is what the Outer Wilds launch trailer does most effectively. It says, do you like the style, do you like the vibe, do you like the shots that associate with other shots?

Does this feel like your thing?

Especially this one line in here; Explore a handcrafted solar system. This line, this would grab my dad. My dad’s in his sixties. He doesn’t play games. We’ve only played like two games together. This is one that he would adore, simply because it’s space exploration and it’s intimate. So these titles, these title cards might be a little bit too overt in establishing what they are saying about the game but they rope in the unfamiliar players.

So that’s it for today. I’m M. Joshua. I hope you liked finding out whether or not Outer Wilds is your game genre — and I hope you tune in next time.

So join me next time on Is it my Genre. Bye bye.