Naughty Dog: We Need A New Word For “Platformer”

What is a “platformer”?

Or what isn’t a “platformer”?

That’s the question that came up in my interview last week with Naughty Dog’s Amy Hennig, the Game Director of “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune,” which is in stores tomorrow. According to her, “Uncharted” is not a platformer.

The third-person action-adventure game is similar to “Tomb Raider” and “Prince of Persia.” While there’s plenty of shooting/fighting sequences and some puzzle-solving, “Uncharted” is still essentially a platformer at its core: The player navigates Nathan Drake as he scales ledges and jumps to and from suspended platforms. So if it’s not a platformer, what is it?

Reps from Sony and Naughty Dog (the development studio that created “Crash Bandicoot” and “Jak and Daxter“) have been calling the game “traversal,” so I asked Hennig to explain…

She said:

“I feel like some of the language we use is getting a little outdated. I think that ’Jak’ is a platformer, I think ’Ratchet [& Clank’] is more of a platformer, but I’m not sure what we should call games like ours and ’Prince of Persia’ and ’Tomb Raider’ because it’s not technically a platformer — not in the classic sense. We tend to call it ’traversal’ because at least what it conveys is exploration, navigation and moving through the environment, which is generally what these games are about: how do I get from here to there and how do I use the environment to do it. But not in the traditional sort of ’Mario’ platforming sense. So I just wanted to make sure if we used that word that it almost sounds reductive in a way.

I wish we could come up with something better than ’traversal’ which it sounds kind of clinical, or worse — boring — because it might just sound like I’m running across the ground from here to there. But yeah, I think when I say ’traversal’ it’s because I’m talking about all the different dimensions — vertical as well as horizontal — and all that that entails in those kind of games and all the environmental and architectural interactions that you have, as well as folding together the gunplay and using the environment in combat… And that’s why ’platforming’ almost sounds like it’s its own thing. I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like it fits anymore. So if somebody comes up with a better word, I will use it immediately!”

What do you think? Is the word “platformer” outdated? Do we need a new word for games like “Uncharted” and “Prince of Persia”?