Video game genres
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Video game genres are used to categorize video games based on their gameplay interaction rather than visual or narrative differences. A video game genre is defined by a set of gameplay challenges. They are classified independent of their setting or game-world content, unlike other works of fiction such as films or books. For example, an action game is still an action game, regardless of whether it takes place in a fantasy world or outer space. Within game studies there is a lack of consensus in reaching accepted formal definitions for game genres, some being more observed than others. Like any typical taxonomy, a video game genre requires certain constants. Most video games feature obstacles to overcome, so video game genres can be defined where obstacles are completed in substantially similar ways.
Following is a listing of commonly used video game genres with brief descriptions and examples of each. This list is by no means complete or comprehensive. Chris Crawford notes that "the state of computer game design is changing quickly. We would therefore expect the taxonomy presented here to become obsolete or inadequate in a short time." As with nearly all varieties of genre classification, the matter of any individual video game's specific genre is open to personal interpretation. Moreover, it is important to be able to "think of each individual game as belonging to several genres at once."
- 1 Action
- 1.1 Ball and paddle
- 1.2 Beat 'em up and hack and slash
- 1.3 Traditional Fighting game
- 1.4 Mascot Fighting game
- 1.5 MOBA
- 1.6 Maze game
- 1.7 Pinball game
- 1.8 Platform game
- 1.9 Shooter
- 2 Action-adventure
- 3 Adventure
- 4 Role-playing
- 5 Simulation
- 6 Strategy
- 7 Sports
- 8 Other notable genres
- 9 Idle gaming
- 10 Video game genres by purpose
- 11 Scientific studies
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
An action game requires players to use quick reflexes, accuracy, and timing to overcome obstacles. It is perhaps the most basic of gaming genres, and certainly one of the broadest. Action games tend to have gameplay with emphasis on combat. There are many subgenres of action games, such as fighting games and first-person shooters.
Ball and paddle
The predecessor of all console game genres, a ball-and-paddle game was the first game implemented on a home console (Pong). Later renditions have included Breakout, which was a driving influence behind the Apple II computer, and Arkanoid, an arcade staple for many years. A version of Breakout called Block Buster was also packaged with the first handheld console with swappable cartridges, the Microvision.
Beat 'em up and hack and slash
Beat 'em up and hack and slash games have an emphasis on one-on-many close quarters combat, beating large numbers of computer-controlled enemies. Gameplay involves the player fighting through a series of increasingly difficult levels. The sole distinction between these two genres are that beat 'em ups feature hand-to-hand combat, and hack and slash games feature melee weaponry, particularly bladed weapons. Both genres feature little to no use of firearms or projectile combat. This genre became popular in 1987 with the release of Double Dragon, leading to a large number of similar games. The fighting style is usually simpler than for versus fighting games. In recent times, the genre has largely merged with that of action-adventure, with side-scrolling levels giving way to more open three-dimensional areas, and melee combat co-existing with shooting and puzzle elements.
Traditional Fighting game
Fighting games emphasize one-on-one combat between two characters, one of which may be computer controlled. These games are usually played by linking together long chains of button presses on the controller to use physical attacks to fight. Many of the movements employed by the characters are usually dramatic and occasionally physically impossible. Combat is always one-on-one. This genre first appeared in 1976 with the release of Sega's Heavyweight Boxing and later became a phenomenon, particularly in the arcades, with the release of Street Fighter II. Later, in 1992, the Mortal Kombat series debuted and brought with it new features for future fighting games, features such as a dedicated block button; the performance of a "finishing move" on a defeated opponent; and in-game secrets such as hidden and otherwise unplayable characters.
Mascot Fighting game
Mascot Fighting games, often called 'party brawlers', are fighting games usually developed to showcase a particular brand's line up of intellectual properties. Unlike traditional fighting games, mascot fighting games allow for up to four characters on the screen at a given time, up to three of which may be computer controlled. These games are played similarly to traditional fighting games, with the exception that stages in mascot fighting games are usually bigger than those in traditional fighting games and may or may not have platforms, allowing for vertical combat. Another feature exclusive to mascot fighting games is the ability for items to spawn on stage, giving a lesser skilled players assistance against tough opponents. A stage hazard, which is an attack at an area of the stage that causes damage to players that are unfortunate enough to get caught in it, may appear that players will have to look out for, unless the feature is turned off for the match. Notable releases in this genre are Super Smash Bros, Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), also known as action real-time strategy (ARTS), is a subgenre of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre of video games, in which often two teams of players compete with each other in discrete games, with each player controlling a single character through an RTS-style interface. It differs from traditional RTS games in that there is no unit construction and players control just one character. In this sense, it is a fusion of action games and real-time strategy games. The genre emphasizes cooperative team-play; players select and control one "hero", a powerful unit with various abilities and advantages to form a team's overall strategy. The objective is to destroy the opponents' main structure with the assistance of periodically spawned computer-controlled units that march towards the enemy's main structure via paths referred to as "lanes". Notable examples include Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends, and Smite.
Maze games have a playing field which is entirely a maze, which players must navigate. Quick thinking and fast reaction times are encouraged by the use of a timer, monsters obstructing the player's way, or multiple players racing to the finish. The most famous game of this genre is Pac-Man. One of the earliest maze games was Rogue, played on a 28x40 text terminal on Version 7 Unix systems in 1980, each level consisting of 9 rooms, with a dungeon theme.
Pinball games are designed to replicate the look and feel of a real-life pinball table in virtual reality. Most pinball games feature the same gameplay style, where the player controls a right and left flipper, and tries to make the ball hit various parts of the playfield to gather up points. The control scheme in pinball games is, for the most part, the same. On consoles, left and right "shoulder" buttons are often used to approximate the left and right flipper buttons of a real-world pinball game. In some cases, a pinball game may feature more than two flippers: two are generally located at the bottom of the playfield, and others (generally only one or two more) are found above the bottom two. Some games automatically fire the ball into the playfield, while others require the player to press a button to pull down the spring-loaded plug and fire the ball into the playfield. One significant way that video game pinball games can progress beyond pinball table emulation is the inclusion of features impossible to incorporate in a real pinball table, such as multiple table layouts or direct ball control. Pinball games have become more popular in recent years on handheld systems, as opposed to consoles.
Platform games (platformers) are a subgenre of action game. These games involve travelling between platforms by jumping (very occasionally other means are substituted for jumping, like swinging or bouncing, but these are considered variations on the same mechanic). Other traditional elements include running and climbing ladders and ledges. Platformers frequently borrow elements from other genres like fighting and shooting (such as the Castlevania series, which features role-playing elements). They are most often associated with iconic video game mascots like Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, Megaman, Samus, Crash Bandicoot and Rayman, though platform games may have any theme. The term itself first came into use to describe any game in which the player travels between platforms, and Space Panic, a 1980 arcade release, has been cited as the first platform game for featuring obstacles and gaps to jump over, making it a platformer by the modern sense of the term. Pitfall! can also be classified as an early platformer. Traditionally, platform games were 2D, with players viewing the environment from a profile, "cutaway" perspective. This could be done easily with sprites and was simple for early computers to handle. 3D computer graphics have opened these games up for movement in all directions. However, 3D perspectives make it more difficult to judge distance, which is an important part of platformers. Because of this, many 3D platformers have a player character's shadow always be cast straight down, tracking their location on the ground while the character is jumping and making it easier to judge where you are and where you will land. At their peak, platformers were the most popular games on the market. The genre experienced a sharp decline, from 15% of total market share in 1998 to 2% in 2002. Although there are many 3D platform games, few have proven to have the universal appeal of their older games. However, this could merely be a result of a changing market and an increase in game variety as many 3D action games use sparse platform elements such as climbing or jumping.
A shooter game focuses primarily on combat involving projectile weapons, such as guns and missiles. They can be divided into 2D, first-person and third-person shooters, depending on the camera perspective. Some first-person shooters use light gun technology.
First-person shooter video games, commonly known as FPSs, emphasize shooting and combat from the perspective of the character controlled by the player. This perspective is meant to give the player the feeling of "being there", and allows the player to focus on aiming. Most FPSs are very fast-paced and require quick reflexes on high difficulty levels. The fast-paced and 3D elements required to create an effective looking FPS made the genre technologically unattainable for most consumer hardware systems until the early 1990s. Wolfenstein 3D was the first widely known FPS, and Doom was the first major breakthrough in graphics; it used a number of clever techniques to make the game run fast enough to play on consumer-grade machines. Since the release of Doom, most FPS games now have a multi-player feature to allow competition between multiple players.
Massively multiplayer online first person shooter
Massively multiplayer online first person shooter games (MMOFPS) are a genre of massively multiplayer online games that combines first-person shooter gameplay with a virtual world in which a large number of players can interact over the Internet. Whereas standard FPS games limit the number of players able to compete in a multiplayer match (generally the maximum is 64, due to server capacity), hundreds of players can battle each other on the same server in an MMOFPS. An example of a MMOFPS is PlanetSide 2.
Light gun shooter
Light gun shooters are a genre of shooter genre designed for use with a pointing device for computers and a control device for arcade and home consoles. The first light guns appeared in the 1930s, following the development of light-sensing vacuum tubes. It wasn't long before the technology began appearing in arcade shooting games, beginning with the Seeburg Ray-O-Lite in 1936. These early light gun games used small (usually moving) targets onto which a light-sensing tube was mounted; the player used a gun (usually a rifle) that emitted a beam of light when the trigger was pulled. If the beam struck the target, a "hit" was scored. Modern screen-based light guns work on the opposite principle—the sensor is built into the gun itself, and the on-screen target(s) emit light rather than the gun. The first light gun of this type was used on the MIT Whirlwind computer. Some "light gun" games actually use guns mounted on joysticks, giving the illusion of using a light beam, but all control is transferred through the movement of the stick; notable examples of this include T2: The Arcade Game, Revolution X, Silent Scope, and Space Gun.
Shoot 'em up
A shoot 'em up, or arcade shooter, is a genre of shooter game in which the player controls a character or vehicle (most often a spacecraft) and shoots large numbers of enemies, while dodging incoming projectiles. Games in this genre call for fast reactions and memorization of enemy patterns. These games are played from either top-down or side-view perspective. The genre became prolific with the release of Space Invaders in 1978 and this popularity continued as the genre evolved throughout the 1980s and 90s. Shoot 'em ups currently retain a niche appeal, particularly in Japan. The roots of the genre can be traced back to Spacewar!, developed in 1962 and later released as an arcade game.
Tactical shooters are variations on the first-person shooter genre, which focus on realism and emphasize tactical play such as planning and teamwork (for example, co-ordination and specialised roles) such as in Ghost Recon and SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs. In single player modes, the player commands a squad of AI controlled characters in addition to their own; in multi-player modes, players must work in teams to win the game. Winning is likely to be dependent on capturing an objective of some sort rather than gaining the most kills.
A rail shooter is a subgenre of the first-person shooter in which the player's navigation through the game environment is not under their explicit control. A rail shooter restricts the player's interactions to the tactical objectives in each scene, and progresses between scenes by moving the player's camera into specific positions along the game map. A notable example is The House of the Dead.
Third-person shooter video games, known as TPSs or 3PSs, emphasize shooting and combat from a camera perspective in which the player character is seen at a distance. This perspective gives the player a wider view of their surroundings as opposed to the limited viewpoint of first-person shooters. Furthermore, third-person shooters allow for more elaborate movement such as rolling or diving, as opposed to simple jumping and crouching common in FPS games. Greater interaction with the player's environment is often possible. The emphasis remains on shooting, however; these games lack the platforming and puzzle elements of action-adventure shooting games. Some 3PSs have a function that allows you to switch to first-person in-game, such as in the "Star Wars Battlefront" and classic Ratchet And Clank series. Third person shooters have recently begun incorporating dedicated cover systems, an example of which would be Gears of War. Other genres of games have begun incorporating elements of third person shooters, such as the RPG Mass Effect.
Action-adventure games combine elements of their two component genres, typically featuring long-term obstacles that must be overcome using a tool or item as leverage (which is collected earlier), as well as many smaller obstacles almost constantly in the way, that require elements of action games to overcome. Action-adventure games tend to focus on exploration and usually involve item gathering, simple puzzle solving, and combat. "Action-adventure" has become a label which is sometimes attached to games which do not fit neatly into another well known genre.
The first action-adventure game was the Atari 2600 game Adventure (1979). It was directly inspired by the original text adventure, Colossal Cave Adventure. In the process of adapting a text game to a console with only a joystick for control, designer Warren Robinett created a new genre. Because of their prevalence on video game consoles and the absence of typical adventure games, action-adventure games are often confusingly called "adventure games" by gamers.
Stealth games are a somewhat recent subgenre, sometimes referred to as "sneakers" or "creepers" to contrast with the action-oriented "shooter" subgenre. These games tend to emphasize subterfuge and precision strikes over the more overt mayhem of shooters.
Survival horror games focus on fear and attempt to scare the player via traditional horror fiction elements such as atmospherics, death, the undead, blood and gore. One crucial gameplay element in many of these games is the low quantity of ammunition, or number of breakable melee weapons. A notable example is Silent Hill.
Adventure games were some of the earliest games created, beginning with the text adventure Colossal Cave Adventure in the 1970s. That game was originally titled simply "Adventure," and is the namesake of the genre. Over time, graphics have been introduced to the genre and the interface has evolved.
Unlike adventure films, adventure games are not defined by story or content. Rather, adventure describes a manner of gameplay without reflex challenges or action. They normally require the player to solve various puzzles by interacting with people or the environment, most often in a non-confrontational way. It is considered a "purist" genre and tends to exclude anything which includes action elements beyond a mini game.
Because they put little pressure on the player in the form of action-based challenges or time constraints, adventure games have had the unique ability to appeal to people who do not normally play video games. The genre peaked in popularity with the 1993 release of Myst, the best-selling PC game of all time up to that point. The simple point and click interface, detailed worlds and casual pace made it accessible, and its sense of artistic surrealism caused news outlets such as Wired Magazine, The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle to declare that the gaming industry had matured. It had four proper sequels, but none managed to experience the same level of success. The success of Myst also inspired many others to create similar games with first person perspectives, surreal environments and minimal or no dialogue, but these neither recaptured the success of Myst nor of earlier personality-driven adventures.
In the late 1990s the genre suffered a large drop in popularity, mass-market releases became rare, and many proclaimed the adventure game to be dead. More accurately, it has become a niche genre. Adventure games are not entirely uncommon, but they tend to be very low budget in anticipation of modest sales. The genre was somewhat rejuvenated with the release of The Longest Journey in 1999, which emphasized stronger story elements and more interaction with different characters. A recent resurgence of adventure games on Nintendo consoles might signify a new interest in the genre.
Real-time 3D adventures
Around this time, real-time 3D adventure games appeared. These included Nightfall in 1998, realMyst in 2000, and Uru: Ages Beyond Myst in 2003. They augmented traditional adventure gameplay with some of the attributes more commonly associated with action games. For example, freedom of motion and physics based behavior.
The earliest adventure games were text adventures, also known as interactive fiction. Games such as the popular Zork series of the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed the player to use a keyboard to enter commands such as "get rope" or "go west" while the computer describes what is happening. A great deal of programming went into parsing the player's text input.
Graphic adventure games emerged as graphics became more common. Adventure games began to supplement and later on replace textual descriptions with visuals (for example, a picture of the current location). Early graphic adventure games used text-parsers to input commands. The growing use of mice led to the "point-and-click" genre of adventure games, where the player would no longer have to type commands. The player could, for example, click on a hand icon and then on a rope to pick up the rope.
A visual novel (ビジュアルノベル bijuaru noberu?) is a game featuring mostly static graphics, usually with anime-style art. As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays. Many visual novels track statistics that the player must build in order to advance the plot, and permit a variety of endings, allowing more dynamic reactions to the player's actions than a typical linear adventure plot. Many visual novels are dating sims, including bishōjo games. Visual novels are especially prevalent in Japan, where they make up nearly 70% of PC games released. They are rarely produced for video game consoles, but the more popular games are sometimes ported to systems such as the Dreamcast or the PlayStation 2. The market for visual novels outside of Japan, however, was nearly non-existent prior to the success of the Nintendo DS, for which several Japanese visual novels were released in the West, such as the Ace Attorney series.
The interactive movie genre came about with the invention of laserdiscs. An interactive movie contains pre-filmed full-motion cartoons or live-action sequences, where the player controls some of the moves of the main character. For example, when in danger, the player decides which move, action, or combination to choose. In these games, the only activity the player has is to choose or guess the move the designers intend him to make. Interactive movies usually differ from games that simply use full motion video, FMV, extensively between scenes in that they try to integrate it into the gameplay itself. This has been used in everything from racing games to fighting games. A few adventure game have tried to use the term to liken the storytelling of their games to those in movies, most notably the later Tex Murphy games and the more recent Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy), although they are more aptly classified as genre hybrids. Elements of interactive movies have been adapted for game cut scenes, in the form of Quick Time Events, to keep the player alert. Games like Resident Evil 4 present obvious in-game prompts for the player to react to. Not doing so usually results in the player character either getting hurt or outright killed.
Role-playing video games draw their gameplay from traditional role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Most of these games cast the player in the role of one or more "adventurers" who specialize in specific skill sets (such as melee combat or casting magic spells) while progressing through a predetermined storyline. Many involve manoeuvring these character(s) through an overworld, usually populated with monsters, that allows access to more important game locations, such as towns, dungeons, and castles. Since the emergence of affordable home computers coincided with the popularity of paper and pencil role-playing games, this genre was one of the first in video games and continues to be popular today. Gameplay elements strongly associated with RPGs, such as statistical character development through the acquisition of experience points, have been widely adapted to other genres such as action-adventure games. Though nearly all of the early entries in the genre were turn-based games, many modern role-playing games progress in real-time. Thus, the genre has followed the strategy game's trend of moving from turn-based to real-time combat. The move to real-time combat began with the release of Square's (now Square Enix's) Final Fantasy IV, the first game to use the Active Time Battle system; this was quickly followed by truly real-time role-playing games such as the Mana series, Soul Blazer and Ultima VII. Some throwbacks to older turn based system did exist such as the Golden Sun series for Game Boy Advance.
Western RPGs and Japanese RPGs (JRPGs)
Cultural differences in role-playing video games have caused RPGs to tend towards two sets of characteristics sometimes referred to as Western and Japanese RPGs (also referred to as "JRPG" or "JRPGs"). The first (Western RPGs) often involves the player creating a character and a non-linear storyline along which the player makes his own decisions. In the second type (JRPGs), the player controls a party of predefined characters through a dramatically scripted linear storyline (though there are additional features such as Xenoblade Chronicles which contains action elements and sandbox environments, and The Last Story which incorporates stealth gameplay and strategy). There are described advantages to -and dedicated fans of- each system, including fans of Western RPGs in East Asia and Japanese RPGs in Europe/North America. Western RPGs include the Fallout series and Elder Scrolls series, while JRPGs include the Final Fantasy series and Dragon Quest series.
Some RPGs give the player several choices in how their story goes and such. Typically the player can effect if a character dies or whether they kill an enemy or simply knock them out non-lethally, one example being Dishonored. These are very popular to gamers because they have to deal with the consequences of their own choices, rather than the game's developer's, whenever they fail to save someone or don't get the ending they desired. This gives a much more interactive experience between gamers and gameplay thus also explaining their popularity. One notable example is the Mass Effect series, another is the Elder Scrolls series.
Use of fantasy in RPGs
Due to RPG origins with Dungeons and Dragons and other pen and paper role-playing games, the most popular setting for RPGs by far is a fantasy world, usually with heavy medieval European influences with Diablo series (by Blizzard), Final Fantasy series, Elder Scrolls series and Baldur's Gate series (all different kinds of RPGs) all sharing a basic fantasy setting. However exceptions do exist, with some more notable ones being the east Asian Jade Empire setting, and the science fiction settings of Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect by Bioware. The Fallout series is set in a post-apocalyptic retro-futuristic America in which nuclear war destroyed a world in which culture had never advanced beyond that of the 1950s.
Sandbox RPGs or Open World allow the player a huge amount of freedom and usually contain a somewhat realistic free-roaming (meaning the player is not confined to a single path restricted by rocks or fences etc.) world. Sandbox RPGs are almost always western rather than Japanese and contain similarities to other sandbox games such as the Grand Theft Auto series with a large number of interactable NPCs, large amount of content and typically some of the largest worlds to explore and longest playtimes of all RPGs due to an impressive amount of secondary content not critical to the game's main storyline. Sandbox RPGs often attempt to emulate an entire region of their setting. Popular examples of this small subgenre include Ultima series by Origin Systems, Wasteland by Interplay Entertainment, System Shock 2 by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios, Deus Ex by Ion Storm, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series by Bethesda Softworks and Interplay Entertainment, Fable by Lionhead Studios, Minecraft owned by Microsoft, and the Gothic series by Piranha Bytes.
The action role-playing game or action RPG is a type of role-playing video game which incorporates elements from action games or action-adventure games. The first action role-playing games were produced by Nihon Falcom in the 1980s, such as the Dragon Slayer series and Ys series. Later so-called "Diablo clones" are also part of this genre. Although the precise definition of the genre varies, the typical action RPG features a heavy emphasis on combat, often simplifying or removing non-combat attributes and statistics and the effect they have on the character's development. Additionally, combat always takes place using a real-time system (hence the "action") that relies on the player's ability to perform particular actions with speed and accuracy to determine success, rather than mainly using the player character's attributes to determine this. Typically action RPGs focus more on the collection of randomized treasure than story progression that is found in other types of RPGs.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs, emerged in the mid to late 1990s as a commercial, graphical variant of text-based MUDs, which had existed since 1978. By and large, MMORPGs feature the usual RPG objectives of completing quests and strengthening one's player character, but involve up to hundreds of players interacting with each other on the same persistent world in real-time. The massively multiplayer concept was quickly combined with other genres. Fantasy MMORPGs like The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, remain the most popular type of MMOG, with the most popular "pay-to-play" game being World of Warcraft (by Blizzard), which holds over 60% of the MMORPG market, and the most popular free game being RuneScape (by Jagex), yet other types of MMORPG are appearing. Sci-fi MMORPGs, which began with Phantasy Star Online, hold a smaller part of the MMOG market, with the popular space sci-fi game EVE Online being the most notable. Other massively multiplayer online games which do not have a conventional RPG setting include Second Life and Ingress.
The roguelike video game subgenre borrows its name and gameplay elements from the 1980 computer game Rogue. Superficially, a roguelike is a two-dimensional dungeon crawl with a high degree of randomness and an emphasis on statistical character development. Though traditionally featuring a text user interface, many such games utilize graphic tiles to overcome character set limitations.
The tactical role-playing game subgenre principally refers to games which incorporate gameplay from strategy games as an alternative to traditional RPG systems. Like standard RPGs, the player controls a finite party and battles a similar number of enemies, but this genre incorporates strategic gameplay such as tactical movement on an isometric grid. The genre has its origins in tabletop role-playing games, where each player has time to decide his or her character's action.
Simulation video games is a diverse super-category of games, generally designed to closely simulate aspects of a real or fictional reality.
Construction and management simulation
Construction and management simulations (or CMSs) are a type of simulation game which task players to build, expand or manage fictional communities or projects with limited resources.
In city-building games the player acts as overall planner or leader to meet the needs and wants of game characters by initiating structures for food, shelter, health, spiritual care, economic growth, etc. Success is achieved when the city budget makes a growing profit and citizens experience an upgraded lifestyle in housing, health, and goods. While military development is often included, the emphasis is on economic strength. Perhaps the most known game of this type is SimCity, which is still popular and has had great influence on later city-building games. SimCity, however, also belongs to the God Games genre since it gives the player god-like abilities in manipulating the world. Caesar was a long-running series in this genre, with the original game spawning three sequels.
Business simulation games generally attempt to simulate an economy or business, with the player controlling the economy of the game.
A government simulation game (or "political game") involves the simulation of the policies, government or politics of a country, but typically excludes warfare. Recently, these types of games have gained the moniker "serious game".
Life simulation games (or artificial life games) involve living or controlling one or more artificial lives. A life simulation game can revolve around individuals and relationships, or it could be a simulation of an ecosystem.
Biological simulations may allow the player to experiment with genetics, survival or ecosystems, often in the form of an educational package. An early example is SimLife, while relatively recent ones are Jurassic Park:Operation Genesis and Spore. In other educational simulations such as Wolf, the player "lives the life" of an individual animal in a relatively realistic way. Hailed as one of the greatest life simulation games, however, is Creatures, Creatures 2, Creatures 3, where the player breeds generations of a species in a hugely detailed ecosystem.
Unlike other genres of games, god games often do not have a set goal that allows a player to win the game. The focus of a god game tends to be control over the lives of people, anywhere from micromanaging a family to overseeing the rise of a civilization.
Pet-raising simulations (or digital pets) focus more on the relationship between the player and one or few life forms. They are often more limited in scope than other biological simulations. This includes popular examples of virtual pets such as Tamagotchi, the Petz series, and Nintendogs.
A flight simulation tasks the player with flying an aircraft, usually an airplane, as realistically as possible. Combat flight simulators are the most popular subgenre of simulation. The player controls the plane, not only simulating the act of flying, but also combat situations. There are also civilian flight simulators that do not have the combat aspect.
Racing games typically place the player in the driver's seat of a high-performance vehicle and require the player to race against other drivers or sometimes just time. This genre of games is one of the staples of the computer gaming world and many of the earliest computer games created were part of this genre. Emerging in the late 1970s, this genre is still very popular today and continues to push the envelope in terms of graphics and performance. These games "tend to fall into organized racing and imaginary racing categories". Organized racing simulators attempt to "reproduce the experience of driving a racing car or motorcycle in an existing racing class: Indycar, NASCAR, Formula 1, and so on." On the other hand, imaginary racing games involve "imaginary situations, driving madly through cities or the countryside or even fantasy environments". These "imaginary" racing games are sometimes called arcade racing games, in contrast to their more realistic "racing simulation" counterparts. Rollings and Adams note that "racing games are often sold in the sports category," but "from a design standpoint, they really belong in ... vehicle simulations".
Space flight simulator games are a subgenre that involve piloting a spacecraft. Space simulators are different from other subgenres, and are not generally considered to be simulators, as their simulated objects do not always exist and often disregard the laws of physics. However, simulators of real spacecraft do exist: Orbiter is one example.
Train simulators simulate the vehicles, environments and often economics associated with railway transport. These are frequently historical in nature, reminiscing on the evolution and emergence of the railroad in various countries and the economic booms that often accompanied them.
Vehicular combat or car combat games focus on fast-paced action, as the player operates a car or other vehicle and attempts to disable or destroy CPU or human opponents. Vehicular combat games often allow a player to choose from a variety of potential vehicles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Vehicular combat was born out of racing/shooter combinations like Spy Hunter, RoadBlasters and Rock 'N' Roll Racing, but differs in that the players can, if desired, take their vehicles off predefined routes and do battle wherever they please. A subgenre of vehicular combat is Mecha combat, where vehicles generally include giant robot-like tanks.
Strategy video games focus on gameplay requiring careful and skillful thinking and planning in order to achieve victory and the action scales from world domination to squad-based tactics. In most strategy video games, says Andrew Rollings, "the player is given a godlike view of the game world, indirectly controlling the units under his command." Rollings also notes that "The origin of strategy games is rooted in their close cousins, board games." Strategy video games generally take one of four archetypal forms, depending on whether the game is turn-based or real-time and whether the game's focus is upon strategy or military tactics. Real time strategy games are often a multiple unit selection game (multiple game characters can be selected at once to perform different tasks, as opposed to only selecting one character at a time) with a sky view (view looking down from above) but some recent games such as Tom Clancy's EndWar, are single unit selection and third person view. Like many RPG games, many strategy games are gradually moving away from turn based systems to more real-time systems.
4X refers to a genre of strategy video game with four primary goals: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. A 4X game can be turn-based or real-time. Perhaps the best known example of this genre is Sid Meier's Civilization series. 4X games often cover a very large period of time, giving the player the control of an entire civilization or species. Typically these games have a historical setting, encompassing a large amount of human history (Empire Earth, Civilization) or a science fiction setting where the player controls a species set to dominate the galaxy (Master of Orion, Galactic Civilizations).
Artillery is the generic name for early two or three-player (usually turn-based) computer games involving tanks fighting each other in combat or similar derivative games. Artillery games were among the earliest computer games developed and can be considered an extension of the original use of computers, which were once used for military-based calculations such as plotting the trajectories of rockets. Artillery games are a type of strategy game, though they have also been described as a "shooting game."
Real-time strategy (RTS)
The moniker "real-time strategy" (RTS), usually applied only to certain computer strategy games, (however, this genre is probably the most well known of strategy games and is what most websites mean when they say "strategy games") indicates that the action in the game is continuous, and players will have to make their decisions and actions within the backdrop of a constantly changing game state. Real-time strategy gameplay is characterised by obtaining resources, building bases, researching technologies and producing units. Blizzard's Starcraft is a popular RTS played competitively in South Korea and televised to large audiences. Other notable games include the Warcraft series, Age of Empires series, Dawn of War, Command and Conquer and Dune II (essentially the first RTS game). Very few non-computer strategy games are real-time; A few examples are Icehouse, Battle for Middle-earth II, Pikmin and Halo Wars.
Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy games, also known as "MMORTS", combine real-time strategy (RTS) with a persistent world. Players often assume the role of a general, king, or other type of figurehead leading an army into battle while maintaining the resources needed for such warfare. The titles are often based in a sci-fi or fantasy universe and are distinguished from single or small-scale multiplayer RTSes by the number of players and common use of a persistent world, generally hosted by the game's publisher, which continues to evolve even when the player is offline.
A real-time tactics game shares features of the simulation and wargame genres, for example the battle system (though not the entire game) in the Total War series. These titles focus on operational aspects and control of warfare. Unlike in real-time strategy games, resource and economical management and building plays no part of the gameplay. These games often feature an overarching "campaign map" with different regions the player must vie for control of -not dissimilar to the board game Risk. Base building in the traditional sense is usually relegated to building up the infrastructure of regions you own.
Tower defense games have a very simple layout. Usually, computer-controlled monsters called creeps move along a set path, and the player must place, or "build" towers along this path to kill the creeps. In some games, towers are placed along a set path for creeps, while in others towers can interrupt creep movement and change their path. In most tower defense games different towers have different abilities such as poisoning enemies or slowing them down. The player is awarded money for killing creeps, and this money can be used to buy more towers, or buy upgrades for a tower such as increased power or range.
The term "Turn-based strategy game" (TBS) is usually reserved for certain computer strategy games, to distinguish them from real-time strategy games. A player of a turn-based game is allowed a period of analysis before committing to a game action, and some games allow a certain number of moves or actions to take place in a turn. Like real time strategy games, this genre can include many strategy games which are not solely turn based games, and games which may contain other features not related to whether the game is turn based or not.
Some recent turn-based strategy games feature a different gameplay mechanic, with a simultaneous resolution of the turns, every player preparing their future actions in the planning phase, then letting the game follow the orders given at the same time, causing orders to be interrupted by the opponent(s) actions, changing the gameplay from reacting to the opponent's action into guessing them. No definite name has been decided for this new genre, but STBS - Simultaneous Turn-based Strategy - seems to be the unofficial name. The first game of the genre was Combat Mission.
The gameplay of turn-based tactics games is characterized by the expectation of players to complete their tasks using the combat forces provided to them, and usually by the provision of a realistic (or at least believable) representation of military tactics and operations.
Wargames are a subgenre of strategy video games that emphasize strategic or tactical warfare on a map. Wargames generally take one of four archetypal forms, depending on whether the game is turn-based or real-time and whether the game's focus is upon military strategy or tactics.
Sports are games that play competitively one team, containing or controlled by you, and another team that opposes you. This opposing team(s) can be controlled by other real life people or artificial intelligence.
One competes against time or opponent using some means of transportation. Most popular subgenre is racing simulators.
Sports games emulate the playing of traditional physical sports. Some emphasize actually playing the sport, while others emphasize the strategy behind the sport (such as Championship Manager). Others satirize the sport for comic effect (such as Arch Rivals). One of the best selling series in this genre is the FIFA (video game series) series. This genre emerged early in the history of video games (e.g., Pong) and remains popular today.
Games that have high competitive factor but does not represent any traditional sports or the concept is fictional designed by the developer (e.g. Ball Jacks).
Other notable genres
A massively multiplayer online game (also called MMO and MMOG) is a multiplayer video game which is capable of supporting large numbers of players simultaneously. By necessity, they are played on the Internet. Many games have at least one persistent world, however others just have large numbers of players competing at once in one form or another without any lasting effect to the world at all. These games can be found for most network-capable platforms, including the personal computer, video game console, or smartphones and other mobile devices.
MMOGs can enable players to cooperate and compete with each other on a large scale, and sometimes to interact meaningfully with people around the world. They include a variety of gameplay types, representing many video game genres.
Casual games are the games that, regardless of specific gameplay features, are targeted at audiences (casual gamers) who do not wish to dedicate much time and effort to playing video games (unlike hardcore gamers who do). For that kind of people, gaming is meant to be a short and relaxing pastime, a rest in between other occupations. As such, these games feature very low requirements to simply make progress (yet allow the player to increase the challenge to their liking by attempting to do things faster/cleaner etc., for additional reward), colorful, attractive graphics and sound, no negative connotations like violence or confrontations per se and highly rewarding gameplay with small and frequently awarded achievements yielding imminent motivation. Besides that, they allow the player to pause or quit at any time and for any amount of time (e.g. "minimize" the game while still having it loaded) with little or no loss in their progress.
Due to the aforementioned requirements, many of these games are simple logic games (Color Lines being an early successful title) or action games with dumped challenge levels, and vast majority of them are released on portable platforms.
Music games most commonly challenge the player to follow sequences of movement or develop specific rhythms. Some games require the player to input rhythms by stepping with their feet on a dance pad, or using a device similar to a specific musical instrument, like a replica drum set. These games have changed the way players' interact with their consoles by making the gaming experience more active and sociable, and paving the way for exergaming. Music video games have also influenced the music industry by significantly raising the number of legal downloads of songs. Other games avoid rhythm-based gameplay and instead focus on pitch-based, memory-based, or sandbox-style gameplay. Recently, music games such as Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Sing Star have achieved huge popularity among casual gamers.
Party games are video games developed specifically for multiplayer games between many players. Normally, party games have a variety of mini-games that range between collecting more of a certain item than other players or having the fastest time at something. Such games include the Mario Party series, Crash Boom Bang!, and Rayman Raving Rabbids. Versus multiplayer games are not generally considered to be party games.
A programming game is a computer game where the player has no direct influence on the course of the game. Instead, a computer program or script is written in some domain-specific programming language in order to control the actions of the characters (usually robots, tanks or bacteria, which seek to destroy each other). In SpaceChem, for example, players design circuits used for creating molecules from raw materials. Final Fantasy XII also includes some elements of a programming game, as the player creates the AI of his characters, although the player can also choose to directly control the action.
Puzzle games require the player to solve logic puzzles or navigate complex locations such as mazes. They are well suited to casual play, and tile-matching puzzle games are among the most popular casual games. This genre frequently crosses over with adventure and educational games. Some arcade games, in particular Tetris variants, are often labeled puzzle games, despite the fact that gameplay depends on hand/eye coordination and quick reflexes, rather than thought and logic.
Trivia games are growing in popularity, especially on mobile phones where people may only have a few minutes to play the game. In trivia games, the object is to answer questions with the goal of obtaining points. They may be based on real-life trivia shows such as Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? or Family Feud.
Board game / Card game
Many popular board games and card games have computer versions. AI opponents can help improve one's skill at traditional games. Chess, Checkers, Othello (also known as Reversi), and Backgammon have world class computer programs. Mah-jongg and related games are immensely popular in China and Japan. Go is popular in East Asia, though it is infamously difficult to program a computer to play Go well. Magic: The Gathering has had computer versions for some time, most notably Magic: The Gathering Online.
This genre involves games that orient the player with a trivial task, such as clicking a cookie; and as the game progresses, the player is gradually rewarded certain upgrades for completing said task. In all, these games require very little involvement from the player, and in most cases they play themselves; hence the use of the word "idle". This process of rewarding a simple action, or positive reinforcement, is what causes idle games to be commonly known as “super addictive”. The design is such that, with each reward, the player feels a sense of pride as if they have accomplished something important, thus creating the urge to continue to play.
However, due to their mockingly simple mechanics, idle games are also considered by many of being relatively simple or, as stated in the IGN article, "super dumb". Games such as Cookie Clicker have used this blend of simplicity and complexity to create a new genre that some may not even consider as actual games. Orteil himself described his works as "non-games". However, even though idle games, or "non-games", do not contain many aspects that one looks for in a game, they have still managed a prolific presence on the Internet. In early 2014, Orteil has released an early version of Idle Game Maker, a tool allowing customized idle games to be made without coding knowledge.
Video game genres by purpose
While most video games are designed as entertainment, many video games are designed with additional purposes. These purposes are as varied as the nature of information itself—to inform, persuade, or stimulate. These games can have any kind of gameplay, from puzzles to action to adventure.
Advergames, in the context of video game genres, refers to promotional software specifically made to advertise a product, organization or viewpoint. The first advergames were distributed on floppy disk by the Chef Boyardee, Coca-Cola, and Samsung brands, while the first cereal box advergame was Chex Quest in 1996. The majority of advergames are found online and mostly include simple and cheaply made Flash games.
Art games are designed so as to emphasize art or whose structures are intended to produce some kind of non-ludological reaction in its audience. Art games typically go out of their way to have a unique, unconventional look, often standing out for aesthetic beauty or complexity in design. This concept extends to the realm of modified ("modded") gaming when modifications have been made to existing non-art-games to produce graphic results intended to be viewed as an artistic display, as opposed to modifications intended to change game play scenarios or for storytelling. Modified games created for artistic purposes are sometimes referred to as "videogame art."
Casual games have very simple rules or play techniques and a very low degree of strategy. They also require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play, making them easy to learn and play as a pastime. There are comparatively low production and distribution costs for the producer. Casual games typically are played on a personal computer online in web browsers, although they now are starting to become popular on game consoles. The purpose of the casual game is to entertain, but with a much lower commitment than other video games.
Christian games attempt to provide the dual purposes of spreading the Christian religion to non-believers through the medium of video games, and providing gamers who identify as Christian with a common pool of games that neither challenge their beliefs nor offend them. Christian video games were first developed by Wisdom Tree for the NES, without license. While largely regarded as derivative titles by the mainstream gaming culture, Christian games have nevertheless expanded in distribution since their inception.
Educational games, as the name implies, attempt to teach the user using the game as a vehicle. Most of these types of games target young users from the ages of about three years to mid-teens; past the mid-teens, subjects become so complex (e.g. Calculus) that teaching via a game is impractical. Numerous subgenres exist, in fields such as math or typing.
Electronic Sports games are multiplayer games that are usually played competitively at the professional level. These games are often targeted at the "hardcore" gaming audience, and are usually first-person shooter games, requiring twitch-based reaction speed and coordination, or real-time strategy games, requiring high levels of strategic macro- and micromanagement.
An exergame (portmanteau of "exercise" and "game") is a video game that provides exercise. "Exergames" sub-divide into two main implementations, those with a game specifically designed to use an exercise input device (for example, the game Wii Fit using the Wii Balance Board) and those implementations using a genre of a game. Games fit into the category of entertainment, and similarly "exergames" are a category of "exertainment" (formed from "exercise" and "entertainment"). "Exertainment" refers to one aspect of adding entertainment to an exercise workout.
Pornographic video game
Pornographic video games are erotic video games and are intended for an adult audience. There exists a wide variety of adult games, though many lack mainstream appeal and represent a niche category. The object of an adult game may differ from a mainstream video game, in that the reward can be a visual representation of nudity, partial nudity, or sexual activity rather than points, etc. Some games may focus on humor or drama rather than arousal.
Serious games are intended to educate or train the player. These games tend to promote "education, science, social change, health care or even the military." Some of these games have no specific ending or goal in the game. Rather, the player learns a real life lesson from the game. For example, games from websites such as Newsgaming.com and gamesforchange.org raise political issues using the distinct properties of games.
As video games are increasingly the subject of scientific studies, game genres are themselves becoming a subject of study.
An early attempt at analysis of the action and adventure genres appeared in a Game Developers Conference 2000 paper 'Mostly Armless: Grabbing the 3D World'. This critiqued a variety of adventure and action games to categorize gameplay and interaction for adventure, action, and hybrid genres. It provided a graph of the genres along the axes of 'immediacy' vs 'complexity', with an 'ideal-zone' for gameplay that covered and linked adventure and action games. It detailed various interaction styles present in these genres and extrapolated to future user interface and gameplay possibilities for these and other genres. Some of these have since been adopted by persistent worlds. For example, Second Life uses some of the gameplay investment and interface elements described in section 4 of the paper.
In a University of Queensland study, game enjoyment was correlated with attributes such as immersion, social interaction, and the nature of the goals. These may be underlying factors in differentiating game genres.
Statistical scaling techniques were used in a study presented at the 2007 Siggraph Video Game Symposium to convert subject ratings of game similarity into visual maps of game genres. The maps reproduced some of the commonly identified genres such as first-person shooters and god games. A Michigan State University study found that men have a higher preference for genres that require competition and three-dimensional navigation and manipulation than women do.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Video games by genre.|
- Rollings, Andrew; Adams, Ernest (2003-05-11). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders Games. ISBN 978-1-59273-001-8.