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Stop to think – how do we describe those games where you jump around on platforms, often die from falling on pits, and sometimes you kill enemies by jumping on them? As game developers, we are responsible for how we describe the games we make, yet continually trap ourselves in a loop of calling our own game essentially a clone of someone else’s, with lengthy footnotes explaining why that isn’t actually the case.
Loosening the labelup into “Mario-likelike” or “Mario-lite” might make it less limiting, but actuallymorevague and potentially confusing.
The short answer: Imagine an alternate universe in which all "jumper games" feltobligated to include plumbers and mushrooms as thematic elements.
We aren’t used to the idea that we’re shaping the player’s narrative about our game – that the terms we use on our websites, in our Kickstarters, or elsewhere in our marketing might skew the attitudesof our fans, and our industry. If you don’t remember, ’s release in 2001 was a major event in our industry.
In fact, the idea of changing our fanbase’s vocabulary about our game can seem terrifying, if not downright impossible. For some years afterwards, it seemed every game had to have some element of wandering around aimlessly, destroying your surroundings and causing chaos, or else it wasn’t considered AAA.
Some,such as the good folks at Roguelike Radio, would say these are simply traits that all modern games should aspire to, and is part of why we're seeing them pop up in every genre and platform. Most of these “heavily inspired” products (to put it kindly) also included similar themes of guns, crime, and dense urban environments.
Unsurprisingly, it was natural to call these games “Grand Theft Auto clones”, becausethey were, in fact, trying to replicate the success of the GTA series and doing their best to improve on it.
However, journalists some of these so-called clones, and many of them had new mechanics or themes that didn’t quite fit the bill.