Video game genre

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Video game genres are used to categorize video games based on their gameplay interaction rather than visual or narrative differences.[1][2] A video game genre is defined by a set of gameplay challenges and are classified independent of their setting or game-world content, unlike other works of fiction such as films or books. For example, a shooter game is still a shooter game, regardless of whether it takes place in a fantasy world or in outer space.[3]

As with nearly all varieties of genre classification, the matter of any individual video game's specific genre is open to personal interpretation. Moreover, each individual game may belong to several genres at once.[1]


The first attempt to classify different genres of video games was made by Chris Crawford in his book The Art of Computer Game Design in 1984. In this book, Crawford primarily focused on the player's experience and activities required for gameplay.[4] Here, he also stated that "the state of computer game design is changing quickly. We would therefore expect the taxonomy presented [in this book] to become obsolete or inadequate in a short time."[5] Since then, among other genres, the platformer and shooter genres, which hardly existed at the time, have gained a lot of popularity.

Though genres were mostly just interesting for game studies in the 1980s, in the following decade, more money was made in the video game industry and smaller and independent publishers had little chance of surviving. Because of this, games settled more into set genres that publishers and retailers could use for marketing.[2]


Due to "direct and active participation" of the player, video game genres differ from literary and film genres. Though one could state that Space Invaders is a science-fiction video game, such a classification "ignores the differences and similarities which are to be found in the player's experience of the game."[4]

In contrast to the visual aesthetics of games, which can vary greatly as well, it is argued that it is interactivity characteristics that are common to all games. Focusing on these characteristics would allow a more "nuanced, meaningful and critical vocabulary for discussing video games." Regardless, there is little agreement on how game genres are created or classified, resulting in multiple classification schemes.[6]

Descriptive names of genres take into account the goals of the game, the protagonist and even the perspective offered to the player. For example, a first-person shooter is a game that is played from a first-person perspective and involves the practice of shooting.[7] The term "sub-genre" may be used to refer to a category within a genre to further specify the genre of the game under discussion. Whereas "shooter game" is a genre name, "first-person shooter" is a common sub-genre of the shooter genre.[8]

The target audience, underlying theme or purpose of a game are sometimes used as a genre identifier, such as with "games for girls," "Christian game" and "Serious game" respectively. However, because these do not indicate anything about the gameplay of a game, these are not considered genres.[2]


Video game genres vary in specificity, with video game reviews using genre names varying from "action" to "baseball." In this practice, simple themes and more fundamental characteristics are used alongside each other.[9]

A game may combine aspects of multiple genres in such a way that it becomes hard to classify under existing genres. For example, because Grand Theft Auto III combined shooting, driving and roleplaying in an unusual way, it was hard to define existing terms. Since then, the term Grand Theft Auto clone has been used to describe games mechanically similar to Grand Theft Auto III.[7] The term Roguelike has been developed for games that share similarities with Rogue.[10]

Elements of the role-playing genre, which focuses on storytelling and character improvements, have been implemented in many different genres of video games. This is because the addition of a story to action, strategy or puzzle video games does not take away from the core gameplay, but adds an incentive other than survival to the experience.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Apperley, Thomas H. (2006). "Genre and game studies". Simulation & Gaming 37 (1): 6–23. doi:10.1177/1046878105282278. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  2. ^ a b c Adams, Ernest (2009-07-09). "Background: The Origins of Game Genres". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  3. ^ Adams, Ernest; Andrew Rollings (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall. p. 67. 
  4. ^ a b Wolf, Mark J.P. (2008). The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to Playstation and Beyond. ABC-CLIO. p. 259. ISBN 031333868X. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  5. ^ Chris, Crawford (1982). "A Taxonomy of Computer Games". The Art of Computer Game Design. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  6. ^ Management Association, Information Resources (2010-11-30). Gaming and Simulations: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications. IGI Global. p. 503. ISBN 1609601963. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  7. ^ a b Lecky-Thompson, Guy W. (2008-01-01). Video Game Design Revealed. Cengage Learning. p. 23. ISBN 1584506075. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  8. ^ Thorn, Alan (2013-05-30). Game Development Principles. Cengage Learning. p. 4-5. ISBN 1285427068. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  9. ^ Egenfeldt-Nielson, Simon; Smith, Jonas Heide; Tosca, Susana Pajares (2013-04-27). Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction. Routledge. p. 46. ISBN 1136300422. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  10. ^ "ManaPool Guide to Roguelikes". ManaPool. 2010-11-21. Retrieved 2014-11-06. 
  11. ^ Clements, Ryan (2012-12-12). "RPGs Took Over Every Video Game Genre". IGN. Retrieved 2014-12-03.