How To Invent New Genres

2016 Artwork Inventing a new genre

The day before I wrote this article, I may have invented a new genre. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had an experience like this, but it’s always fascinating when it happens. Of course, it’s possible that someone else has discovered this particular idea earlier, but I thought that I’d share it and, more importantly, how I found it (in case it’s useful to you).

Although I’ll include some general pointers about how to invent new genres at the end of this article, I’ll start with the story of how I (possibly) invented a new genre.

It all started when I found a fascinating series of videos about game design on Youtube. As long-term readers of this site probably know, I’ve always wanted to make computer games. But this ambition has never really come to fruition due to my almost complete aversion to programming, my short creative attention span and the fact that the very small number of user-friendly game creation programs I’ve ever found are either not quite what I’m looking for or they are free trial versions of programs that are far outside my price range.

After a while, I found myself having a familiar thought “If only computer games were as fast, intuitive and solitary to make as making art is“.

Then I started wondering what a low-tech version of a computer game would look like. After all, comics can (and have) been used as low-tech substitutes for TV shows and movies. After all, when popular TV shows have been cancelled, their creators have sometimes continued the story via comic books. Comics are the closest medium to film and TV for a solitary creator (or small group of creators) without a large budget.

So, knowing that low-tech versions of modern mediums existed. I held the idea in my mind and began daydreaming about creating computer games using nothing more than a pen and paper. I didn’t quite know how such a thing was possible, but I tried to hold on to the idea that it was possible.

Naturally, my thoughts first settled on the gamebook/ interactive fiction genre. I’ve known about this genre for quite a while and, last October, I even wrote something in it which- by virtue of being on the interent – is technically an extremely primitive computer game. However, with a few changes, it would work well as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style gamebook (and this is how I originally designed and structured it). But that wasn’t what I was looking for.

I didn’t want to write, I wanted to make art.

Still, I realised that gamebooks were probably the closest things to non-electronic computer games in structural terms. Then I thought about comics again and about the short-lived “wordless novel” genre from the early 20th century. All of these ideas suddenly clicked together and I drew a few small sketches of a “wordless” sci-fi gamebook:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] The idea is that, to go to another page, you follow the numbers in the middle of the pictures.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] The idea is that, to go to another page, you follow the numbers in the middle of the pictures.

At the time of writing, I don’t know whether I’ll actually turn this into anything (or whether it’ll inspire anyone else to work in the genre). But, just having the idea was quite a cool experience.

The important thing here is that, like with all “new” genres, there isn’t really that much new stuff involved. Structurally, my idea is similar to gamebooks, comics and/or modern Hidden Object Games (with a few changes, it could even include hidden object scenes). It isn’t so much a new genre as a mixture of several existing genres.

This can be seen with every other “new” genre that people have been created. Often, they don’t actually contain anything particularly new. They’re just a slightly altered version and/or mixture of existing things.

Even when a new creative medium (eg: video games) has been created, the “new genres” that are created for it are often based on pre-existing things (or pre-existing ideas). However, they are altered or remixed in an interesting way that turns them into a totally new genre.

So, yes, it’s impossible to invent a totally “new” genre. But, you don’t need to. All you need to do is to work out how to do something interesting with everything that currently exists.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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