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A Student’s Question: What genre is Hide & Seek?

January 29, 2008

I liked this question a lot, so decided to post it here. What do you think? Is it a genre at all? I’ll post my thoughts later.

My student Evan Sittler asked the question.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2008 1:18 pm

    In my opinion, Hide-and-Seek is a game for the Seeker. So, it’s a Tactical Stealth FPS.

    Tactical – In my case, the Seeker does not just run around frantically looking for people. Instead, he needs to calculatingly progress from area to area, sweeping his field of view for the Hiders.

    Stealth – The Seeker needs to be hidden from the Hiders as much (if not more) as the Hiders are hidden from the Seeker. A game of Hide-and-Seek can easily escalate into a several-hour ordeal (so long as the Hiders don’t get bored) if the Hiders can continue to evade the Seeker, knowing full well where he is.

    FPS – While we’re not shooting guns, we *are* shooting glances. Once you’re shot, you’re getting chased down and caught.

    Alternatives – Not a strategy game, there’s generally only one Seeker. Not a role-playing game. Not a simulator. Yeah – I think that about covers it. : )

  2. January 29, 2008 1:25 pm

    Perhaps it’s the definitive article of “Hide & Seek games” (or minigames), of which there are several in various guises in games, it is perhaps a genre tag itself, much like a “Maze” genre game, or “Sport” games…or maybe not.

    If it is classic hide and seek – not moving when you’ve chosen a spot, and having a “time limit” of sorts, then it’s a static version of tag – which is, in itself, a pure sport game, so it is comparable to that (when you have to run around to hide, seeker runs a lot to find people), and has additional elements of maze-like searching (for the seeker looking for the hiders).

    Since you can hide though, you get an element of strategy, especially in larger areas to search. Both the hiders need to know where best to go, and outwit the searcher, and the searcher must know good places to hide specifically so they can search them.

    Maybe “thinking mans tag” is a good line, hehe.

    I wonder what the twist of “sardines” and suchlike would add to the games genre definition 🙂

    Okay, conclusion; it doesn’t fit well in any one mechanical genre definition in my opinion, taking bits of strategy, sport and maze-like searching into it – that is, if it isn’t itself so basic it can be considered it’s own “genre”. It’s very debatable, since unlike most sport-like games (tag, jumprope) it requires more thinking then physical ability.

    (And as for examples of hide and seek, I know one of the Metal Gear Solid games has a Hide and Seek sniper boss, and many action games require finding things; either static hidden bonus objects (GTA) or dynamic mini-puzzle things (zelda I think has had a few). For games based on it; multiplayer survival zombie games work well with it; Zombie Panic comes to mind, since humans go slow when armed, and so need to play “hide and seek” with attacking zombies)

  3. January 29, 2008 1:28 pm

    What a coincidence! For the last couple of months I’ve been working on my first game design, a hide and seek game! When I was over the draft design I did a research on the game to see if there were differences between the game played here in Brazil and the game played around the world. Obviously I ended up discovering that there are many variants of the game even here on Brazil, needless to say that it’s just like everywhere else.

    But the basic mechanics are a) to hide or run away from the seeker and b) to find or catch the hider.

    That said, I would classify it as a hunting game. Because the two existing roles are hunter and prey.

  4. January 29, 2008 1:32 pm

    Ooh, posted after Michael – notably, I’d agree with stealth, but would still say a lot of strategy is in it.

    And I didn’t talk about varients which involved moving after you chose an initial hiding place – in that case, “FPS” would be much more apt, and involves a lot less strategy, but a lot more tactics.

  5. January 29, 2008 2:06 pm

    Well I didn’t think of any actual digital game genre mostly because I think that a “hunting” game could be implemented in various ways. You could create it as a platform game, FPS and even as a RTS. I think that the quest for a genre lies more on the game core mechanics definition than the “top” genre itself.

    It’s like David McD Kernels theory, you have to define the game’s kernels, and for me there is only one:

    – Hiders hide from the seeker and the seeker seeks for teh hiders.

    With that kernel as start point you can continue to evolve the design based on the Kernel Theory, moving on to the basic mechanics (here would go the FPS, RTS, platform or else) and then to the final mechanics.

  6. January 29, 2008 2:08 pm

    Oh, I forgot to add a link to David’s post on Kernel Theory, as WordPress won’t allow me to edit my previous entry, here it goes:

  7. danwilkins permalink
    January 29, 2008 2:11 pm

    What if we’re looking at a larger scale version of the game, with say 15 hiders and 3 seekers, like I often played.

    Seekers often split up, rather than sticking together, as it covers more ground more quickly; if we saw each other we would pass word on potential spots we suspected or areas we believed to be clear.

    Then we have to decide whether we trust that other seekers ability to scan a locale completely before moving on. Do we spend the time retracing a teammates steps, or move on and potentially miss out on a catch? Is there a large group of people in one location that I surely can’t capture all by myself and need to perform cohesive movements with my partners to ensure we get as many as possible.

    In addition, the environment itself lends to the game; playing in a graveyard at night with only moonlight certainly gives a different feel than in your house during a lazy Sunday afternoon!

    I’ve always viewed the game as more of a race for the seeker; the other team just started at a different point and continues to stay in the lead until you catch up to them by finding them. The time element, of course, is when everyone gets bored or too scared to stay in their current setting.

    And there certainly is a game in there for the hiders! We’ve never played where you had to remain in one spot indefinitely. So, we’re almost looking at all of Michael’s viewpoints as entirely flippable to apply to the Hiders as well.

    When it comes down to it, hide and seek, depending heavily on environment and team make up, can be a psychological thriller stealth racing game.

  8. January 29, 2008 3:28 pm

    Hide & Seek’s a game on the person-to-person scale, and the gameplay is dependent on human relationships (can you guess where someone will hide if you know them well enough?).

    It’s a social game, similar to games like Werewolf, and Assassins. Obviously less complex, but a social game nonetheless.

    At least, I think it is ^_^

  9. January 29, 2008 4:18 pm

    Genre: Casual.

    Very simple rules. You hide, people seek you out. Or objects are hidden randomly, and you seek them out. There isn’t really much strategy. You could hide in the bush, in the tree, or in the rafters… An object on your screen is hidden behind a bunch of other objects… In the end, you’re (or the object) is just hiding in a random location. You don’t need any special skill to play, which is why kids or adult kids can easily get into it.

    And the typical thought of a casual game: It’s to entertain, but with a much less commitment than other things. Seems to fit.

  10. January 29, 2008 7:14 pm

    Casual isn’t so much a way to describe the gameplay as much as it is just a way to describe the type of game it is. Yes, it is a casual game by definition of what level and learning curve it presents.

    I believe the core mechanic is strategy.

    As Alvero has stated above, the best way to categorize this would be to break it down to it’s very essense. The goal is either to find hidden players or to hide from other players. The way the players go about doing so on both sides requires a fair bit of strategy: knowing your opponents and their behaviours and a basic principle of logic/probability.

    When you play hide and seek as the seeker you think: Where would I hide if I were not the seeker? Where will my opponents that I know hide? In an obvious place, or some place that is not so obvious?

    And as the hidee, you think of similar things.

    So there, I think Hide and Seek is a game of Strategy primarily.

  11. January 29, 2008 8:06 pm

    I think there needs to be a clear definition between genre and strategy. Genre is a grouping of games with similar mechanics, while strategy is a method that a player may use to take advantage of those mechanics.

    The concept of “finding the best hiding spot” or “where would I hide” are strategies, and not inherent to the mechanics of the game. For instance, in most variants there is a base, to which Hiders can run to escape the Seeker and become safe. This is a mechanic that alters the base of the game, but doesn’t change it’s genre. The kernel of the game determines what it’s genre is, not how you play the game.

    How many of you have done this. The Seeker is counting at the base with eyes covered and you stand right behind them. As soon as they finish counting, you touch the base and become safe. This is a strategy. The same as being a seeker and trying to figure out which area the Hiders are based off of speculation. Could I not just run around and use entropy as my method for finding people without changing the genre?

    My guess: Competitive One-To-Many Tactile Game. There’s lots of variants, but they belong to the genre of “Tag”, in which one person is it and others are not. Freeze Tag, Red Rover, even most sports, in which the person that is “it” is the ball holder, are all variants on this kernel.

  12. January 29, 2008 9:35 pm

    Exploration Strategy.

    I mean you have to explore environments to determine if any individuals are present. It is strategy because you have to determine if it is acceptable to go back to base now or if the person is still there.

    I dunno, it is an interesting question. Strategy is definitely involved, if there was none it wouldn’t matter where you hid or where you looked for the hider. But then again strategy is kind of a given for nearly every game. Humans natural try to use strategy with any game or situation.

    I’m probably going to say a Exploration Tag game. It seems to fit the best. But would “tag” work? I mean isn’t that another kind of game that is just related to Hide and Seek due to similar rules?

  13. January 29, 2008 11:41 pm

    This is a great post 🙂 Look at all the thoughtful, analytic responses! I like Andrew’s line, “Thinking Man’s Tag.” Or “Slow Tag.” It seems clear that it’s a cross-genre game, not easily defined. Small wonder, really, as it is a game created and modified by children—by nature versatile and innovative game designers 🙂

  14. January 30, 2008 7:03 am

    What great answers! I didn’t see any of those coming, that’s for sure.

    As for my own answer – which is way less creative – I’d say Hide and Seek isn’t necessarily a genre, but a play dynamic that can be added to just about any game and overlaid with a particular narrative and modified depending on who’s hiding and who’s seeking. That’s certainly true, but I like your answers more.

    I had one student who wrote this amazing paper on a modified game of hide and seek that he and his brothers morphed into a LARP of sorts (minus all the LARP baggage).

  15. January 30, 2008 5:19 pm

    Great comments, really got my mind racing – I’d comment that “Hide & Seek” was in the hardcore category of games, given some of the games I used to play were *intense* 😉

    And it’s a good point it can be a play dynamic – the “Hide & Seek” in on of the Metal Gear Solid games, is really a sniper level with that as it’s main dynamic, as so do many other games add it into the main game somehow (in minipuzzles or whatnot).

    “Exploration Strategy” – that’s catchy too 🙂

  16. January 30, 2008 6:04 pm

    I’m gonna say–this is even less creative than you, Ms. Braithwaite–the genre for that game is “Hide & Seek”. To me, it’s the fundamental base that can be used in other games… just like “shoot gun in 1st person” for FPS games. We call it hide & seek because no one person put a copyright on it and gave it a seperate name.

  17. January 30, 2008 7:46 pm

    I did a bit of research on Hide and Seek and all I could really turn up in my short search was that it has been dated all the way back to ancient Greece where a similar game was played.

    From the nature of the game, I have a feeling that it started out as a military game or variation there-of. It reminds me a lot of the phrase ‘Seek and Destroy’ for some reason.

    Anybody else know of the origins of this game?

  18. January 30, 2008 9:50 pm

    Genre… depends on how the game is played. If you play with a home base (and hiders who can be safe by reaching home base without getting tagged), I’d call it a derivative of Tag. If you simply play that everyone waits in their hiding spot until found (and no tagging is needed) then it becomes its own genre.

    I forget who it was who was credited with the quote, “A genre is one hit game and its imitators”… but this would imply that genre is defined by the first ‘hit’ game, so it’s hard to call Hide and Seek a “stealth game” — if anything, we should call Metal Gear and Thief “Hide & Seek games” 🙂

    If “Sports” is a genre (defined roughly as “realtime, offline games involving physical activity” or such) then I’d classify H&S as a Sport. (By some definitions of the word “game”, H&S isn’t even a game, hence “game genre” wouldn’t even apply, any more than you could ask for the genre of walking, or cooking, or light conversation.)

    @JB: I can’t speak for certain of the origins of hide-and-seek, but to me it looks an awful lot like play, derived from chasing/avoiding play like Tag, which itself is so old that it predates humans (just watch kittens or puppies playing with each other in this way).


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