How do you describe a piece of interactive entertainment? Chances are the first thing you mention is the way it plays, or the supposed “genre” it is part of.
Final Fantasy is a JRPG; Gears of War is a third-person shooter; Mario games are platformers. And this isn’t only true for mainstream games, either — even the most esoteric indie games tend to be described in terms of their mechanics. Fez is a puzzle-platformer; The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike shooter; Minecraft is an open-world building and survival sim.
While you may then elaborate on that by describing the setting — sci-fi, fantasy, cartoonish crazytown — it’s highly likely that this is not the first thing you mention. Interactive entertainment is pretty much the only artistic medium in which we do this.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.