So, I thought I would have my first post on this be something that I hold very dear to my heart, and that's my thoughts on players' use of the word "clone." A clone tends to be commonly referred to a game that effectively copies everything from another game.
You see this word thrown around a lot in the mobile and social networking games market. Due to the simplicity of most of games in those markets, it can be very hard to understand the difference between the games and in turn make it seem like they are a clone.
So here is my definition of a game clone: When a new game becomes almost indistinguishable to another game and adds no significant design/mechanic change compared to an already released game.
I believe it is important to understand the term I use here as "indistinguishable." Since games are more than just mechanics, they are a medium in which content like art and stories play a significant role in defining a game. So to fall into my "indistinguishable" category, the game's art must be very close to that of a previous game, play very similar to the other game, and have a very similar story.
A good example would be the FPS genre. Before time slow downs, terrain manipulation, as so on, it was what your gun selection was, a first person view, and killing things. Maybe even killing things with an objective. You would not call "Call of Duty" a clone of "Castle Wolfenstien" would you? Of course not—the graphics are so much better, the guns shoot so much harder, the bullet physics are more advanced, and the story is completely different. But if you boil it down, you're just a person with a gun shooting things. Just like "Castle Wolfenstein." It is important to note that games build on previous games and thus we are all building on the foundations laid out before us. Sometimes it's the subtle changes that can make a game feel completely different from another.
I feel strongly that this word, which among the industry, is a considerably offensive term to place on a game, that we, as the community, should be more careful how we use it. Does it happen? Sadly, yes. Does it happen as often as people rant about it? Not really. (excluding flash games/kongregate it is pretty common there)
As a gaming community, we should be mature enough to not wield such labels so lightly so when we use them they will have more impact. If a game really is a clone, it should receive the full negative impact of that word, but otherwise using the term to quickly could stunt the growth of a genre.
I challenge you: Next time you see a game you think is a clone, instead of looking for all the things it seems to copy from another game, look at all it does that is different.