It is rather frequently that I get asked the question from friends and acquaintances, "What game should I buy?" Generally, my first response to them is to ask what genre they play. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to see how insignificant that question can be, especially in more recent times.
The clear genre distinctions we had from the 80's and 90's no longer exists. There are still some clear remnants of those genres. It's pretty clear what a "First Person Shooter" or "Fighting" game are. However, we have so many games, even from back then, that are hard to quantify in any one genre. Games like Zelda and Metroid have almost become genres in and of themselves. Furthermore, there are genre classifications that no longer quantify exactly what the experience may be like.
Case in point, the long running genre of "RPG" is too much of a blanket term anymore. Final Fantasy, Fallout, and Mass Effect all come to mind as games you could qualify as an RPG, but that's unfair and cheapens all of their experiences.
Final Fantasy is on one end of the spectrum, a purely story and character driven experience. You control the characters, but they still are who they are. You don't have much say in what they do outside of battle, except for maybe which path to take or who to talk to. Is it still a role playing game? Technically, yes. It uses systems found in the ancestor of D&D, but has changed and taken them into their own systems now, which get further and further away from their original inspiration with each passing iteration.
Fallout, 3 in particular, is on the other complete extreme opposite of the spectrum. You create your own character, breathe life into them, decide who they are what drives them and what you're going to do. It's a sandbox, you get a world to play in, and you get to decide who you are in this world. There is a story still, but it's generally more 'incidental' to the overall game. It's something that's there, but you're not penalized for not doing it, because you have other things that are far more interesting and in the forefront of your mind. Is it still an RPG? 3 could almost be argued as being a first person shooter, and could play out as such. All in all, however, you are playing a role, in a game. So it's more literal in it's interpretation.
Mass Effect, and other Bioware RPGs, are in their own classification as well. It's a mix of the two. You have the ability to create your character, to select how you're going to interact with a situation. The battle in earlier games was still very much dice rolling, (Especially in Neverwinter Nights and KOTOR). I understand they've moved away from that in Mass Effect 2, but that's just more of that innovation and separation from the original inspiration. Mass Effect, in contrast with Fallout 3, has a story that keeps you on track, directs where you go and when. So in all it's almost a hybrid between what Final Fantasy and Fallout do. More open than the sandbox, but not as restrictive as 100% story driven.
RPGs are only one example of a term that's no longer applicable, and I don't want to waste more of the article in trying to define all the differences in various genres. Instead, when a friend asks, "What game should I play?" I plan to ask the responding question, "Why do you play games?"
There are many good reasons to play games. I, myself, play games for various different reasons as well. Sometimes I focus more on having an 'experience'. Something that couldn't have been done in other games. Heavy Rain's a rather good example of a game that's more of an 'experience'. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories would also be more in that category, in my eyes. Some people play games competitively, which is more grounds for games like Call of Duty, or World of Warcraft, or even the Street Fighter series. There's also people that probably play games for the more all encompassing term "fun". I, too, play games for fun, which will more need a qualifying follow up question of what sort of games someone has fun with. For pure fun, I'd say look no further than Just Cause 2, or maybe even something like WET. There are times when you just wanna go through and mow down tons of people with ease, and I find those are both two very good experiences where you can do just that.
In closing, I point the question to you, users of GamerDNA: Why do you play games? If you'd like to, follow it up with some games that you would give as good examples of the 'why'.