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By Nelson Schneider - 03/18/18 at 05:08 PM CT

I have a history of making a fuss about RPGs and the definitions of certain real and imagined subdivisions of my long-time favorite genre. I’m not going to rehash any of those arguments today, though. However, my reasons for demanding clarity, reason, and logic in the definition of RPGs radiates out from that one genre to encompass the whole of videogames as a hobby and a community. Genres and terminology are being diluted, and with this corruption of language, we are left with confusion, frustration, and lack of clarity and direction.

What brings me to the topic of the decadence of videogame terminology, once again, is the current cooperative game the MeltedJoystick Crew has been playing on Monday nights: “Shadow Warrior 2.” This game has affected me in a way no other shooter has before. It’s ostensibly an ‘old-school’ ‘fast-paced’ FPS with lots and lots of action and gore, yet as one of the world’s leading haters of the ‘DOOM,’ ‘Quake,’ ‘Heretic,’ and ‘Unreal Tournament’ franchises, I find it very difficult to stop playing “Shadow Warrior 2” once I’ve started, and also rather difficult to stop thinking about it once I’ve stopped. The unprecedented mobility of the main character and the deep, deep rabbit hold of weapon customization engage me in ways no ‘old-school’ FPS ever did, and the perk system is so beautiful and unlimited that killing monsters never feels like a waste of time or ammunition. Look for my full (glowing) review of “Shadow Warrior 2” in the next few weeks.

What does a person do when they enjoy something? They try to find more things like that something in order to enjoy them too. Hence I set about scouring the Internet for leads on games that are “like” “Shadow Warrior 2.” The results were laughable. There are apparently a multitude of gaming websites out there dedicated solely to the endeavor of grouping like things together in order to assist gamers in finding their next favorite game by showing them titles that are “like” the titles they already enjoy. When I searched for games “like” “Shadow Warrior 2,” the top three hits were from websites called ‘SimilarGames.org,’ ‘MoreGamesLike.com,’ and ‘IGDB.com.’

Before we can find games “like” “Shadow Warrior 2,” we need to define its important characteristics. It’s a Shooter, it’s Fast, it has Deep Weapon Customization and a Perk System for improving the player’s character, plus it is a Dark Comedy that can be fully enjoyed Single Player or Co-Op, while completely Devoid of PvP and can be played Fully Offline. The immediate games the MJ Crew has already played that come to mind as similar to “Shadow Warrior 2” are the three main ‘Borderlands’ games, as well as the Buy2Play-turned-Free2Play MMOTPS, “Defiance,” though ‘Borderlands’ suffers for its lack of weapon customization and “Defiance” suffers for its online-only core.

So knowing the key traits of our target game and a handful of similar-ish games already, let’s take a look at what a fantastic job those three websites did!

The ‘SimilarGames.org’ list starts us off with a couple of fast-but shallow shooters (one being a Roguelite, so puke on that) before finally putting ‘Borderlands’ on the list. Things get much worse from there, however, as “DiveKick,” the Wii version of “Punch-Out!!,” “Shovel Knight,” “Surgeon Simulator,” “Mugen Souls,” and… “UnderTale” all received accolades for being at least 33% similar to “Shadow Warrior 2.” Not only are most of these games NOT even the same genre, they have literally nothing in common. I feel like this list is maintained by an AS: Artificial Stupidity.

The ‘MoreGamesLike.com’ list is even worse. Not a single ‘Borderlands’ title appears on it, nor does “Defiance.” Out of the 115 recommendations on this list, EVERY friggin’ ‘Dark Souls’ game appears (“Dark Souls 3” and “Bloodborne” even appear TWICE), along with a huge number of other games from completely unrelated genres: ‘Metal Gear,’ ‘Darksiders,’ ‘Devil May Cry,’ “Pillars of Eternity,” “Guacamelee,” “Legend” of Grimrock,” and ‘The Witcher’ series? These games are “like” “Shadow Warrior 2?!” IN WHAT UNIVERSE!? To be fair, this list is technically for games like the 2013 remake/reboot of the first “Shadow Warrior,” but come on!

Finally, the much shorter list on the International Gaming Database consists almost entirely of Shooters, but misses out on the big picture entirely, with tone-deaf recommendations such as “Vermintide” (which looks visually similar to “Shadow Warrior 2” on the surface, but is mechanically so far off it’s not even funny) and “Senran Kagura.” I do know that this list is being regularly updated, though, and possibly by a human, as when I first stumbled upon it earlier in the week it listed one ‘Borderlands’ game: “Tales from the Borderlands,” an Adventure/Visual Novel based on the FPS series’ IP. Now “Tales from the Borderlands” no longer appears on the list of games “like” “Shadow Warrior 2.” Unfortunately, NO ‘Borderlands’ games do at the time of writing.

In sum, THIS is why I get upset by people flagrantly misclassifying games. It makes the classifications themselves meaningless, and therefore useless. The loss of meaningful terminology doesn’t just affect so-called “W”RPGs, which, if it was an actual genre would lump games like “Divinity: Original Sin,” “Legend of Grimrock,” “The Witcher 3” and “Wizardry” into the same bucket while ostracizing the ‘Dragon Quest’ series for arbitrary reasons. It affects gamers’ ability to discover enjoyable new experiences across all genres. Instead of being able to simply find a list of games “like” “Shadow Warrior 2” in order to continue building my small, heavily curated library of Shooters, I’ll have to carefully read the description of each new Shooter on the market, while painstakingly picking apart user reviews for pertinent nuggets of truth. Genres and the terminology implied by them exist to serve as mental shorthand, but when we intentionally muddy their meanings for the purpose of pedantic, legalistic debates, we lose far more than we gain.

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