Genre fatigue is something that can occur in audiences for all forms of entertainment. It’s an affliction caused when people begin to feel bored with a particular category of movies, books, or video games. However, the idea of genre fatigue is something I’ve never fully understood at its initial level. For example, it implies that a person can become sick of comedies; yet, who in the right mind would get bored of laughing? That might be a narrow-minded view, but it’s one worth considering when this topic is brought up. Because lately, especially in the realm of film and video games, audiences have found themselves beginning to grow apathetic and tired for specific genres that have been experiencing a boom in popularity. For movies, this is often attributed to the superhero genre. And for games, the latest target for dissatisfaction is the triple-A open world sandbox. But it’s not actually these genres people are beginning to grow bored of. At its core, I think there’s a much bigger issue here, regarding creativity and the moderns trends that companies seem to follow blindly.
As stated before, it’s pretty hard for anyone to actually get bored of a type of fiction. And that’s because entertainment is always going to be comprised of different inspirations and genres. You’ll never watch a superhero film that isn’t also somewhat sci-fi or fantasy. Furthermore, an action movie must have some layer of drama, romance, or comedy, in order to lighten the tension in between action scenes.
The same goes for action video games, as you can’t have a ten-hour shooting gallery with no time for players to catch their breath. This is often why there are non-violent mechanics in otherwise violent games, like puzzles in God Of War, and stealth sections in pretty much every game out on the market. You can’t have constant shots of adrenaline without time to process things in between, which is where these other genres come in handy. Plus, it would just be tedious to experience a story that is only ever one thing. Imagine reading a horror novel that is literally nothing but scares, or watching a fantasy movie that has nothing but narration about the lore of a universe; put simply, they would suck.
However, all of this doesn’t explain why people, including myself, still feel a sense of fatigue when encountering a particular genre in entertainment. But don’t blame the categories, instead, blame what’s populating them. And at the moment—in relation to superhero movies and open world games—those are the problem. What people are getting sick of, are lazy hacks that pump out the same thing over and over again, and do that to the tune of whatever is currently popular. When companies try and repeat the success of something without adding anything new of their own, what they are essentially doing is digging a grave for that genre and their future in it.
Ubisoft’s insistence on making every open world game homogenous through the use of samey mechanics, is doing more harm than it is good. They are a billion-dollar company that strives to create games that have no substance within their empty, yet large size.
And when it comes to superhero movies, the problem is split across even more corporations. With everyone trying to take a slice of the pie, there is only so little for the audience enjoy. Furthermore, the idea of universe building limits creativity, as it would clash with endless sequels and prequels.
Genre fatigue is a bad way to label the real problem going on here. We’re not getting bored of a genre, but the multiple copies that are trying to emulate an original success, by going through a paint-by-numbers formula. The fatigue is felt for the style and essence, not the type.
Nowadays, creativity is playing second to focus testing and market research. Men in suits see money in repetition rather than originality, except, quite ironically, they’re in industries that value artistry and innovation above all else. And in this trap, it’s a lose-lose situation for everyone. Creators aren’t able to express themselves through their work, meaning they lose passion for their job. And audiences aren’t given anything new, meaning they grow fed-up and put their money back in their wallets.
It’s an issue that can never be solved. Because as soon as someone comes out with something truly new and interesting, the sea of imitators will already be there to do what they do best.
Perhaps the solution is that game and movie studios should endeavour to become more like bands and musicians. After all, you never hear people getting genre fatigue over rock music.