This essay documents one editor's experience in writing articles on video game genres. The biggest challenge in writing such articles is research. There are lots of reviews, previews, and features on individual games, but reliable facts about a genre are harder to find.
- 1 Creating a new genre article: when is the right time?
- 2 Starting and building a genre article
- 3 Reaching Good Article class
- 4 Writing a featured genre article
Creating a new genre article: when is the right time?
Use reliable third-party research
Because of the general notability guideline, any article that is not referenced by reliable sources may be deleted. Make sure that you are writing about a genre that has been covered by reliable writers and scholars, rather than something made up on a random website. Wikipedia is not for things made up one day. The Video Games WikiProject has a list of sources that are considered reliable, and might help you with your research.
Avoid stubs: create a new section in an existing genre article
Assuming that you find research on a video game genre, remember that many genre articles already exist. Rather than starting a short stub article about a genre, it may make more sense to expand an existing genre article with more specific information. For example, you might be writing about a specific kind of first-person shooter or vehicle simulation game, rather than a completely new genre that is completely unprecedented. Avoid creating a new short stub article. Try expanding an existing genre article with a new section on a subgenre. Once this section has enough reliable information, you might be able to split it out later. There is no deadline.
Game genres are about gameplay, not plot or setting
Also keep in mind that video game genres, unlike film genres, are categorized by gameplay. Writing an article on "space games" will likely be an indiscriminate mess of games from Space Quest to StarCraft to Descent. There's very little you can say here beyond "Space games are video games that take place in space". If you believe this information is useful and can be properly researched, you might want to create a list or a category instead of an article.
Starting and building a genre article
A good article will be well-referenced and comprehensive. But it is sometimes hard to expand an article and verify every single fact at the same time. When you are just starting an article, begin by adding information that you feel is true. Give it time. If certain information is disputed, prove it with reliable references, or remove it.
Writing "gameplay" section
If an article is paralyzed by the inability to find reliable research, consider a brainstorm. Think about games in the genre, and write down some of the common features you've seen in all of them. Visit a web forum and ask fans of the genre what they think the genre is. Discuss the genre with other Wikipedians. Once you've finished brainstorming, add information that most people agree is true. For controversial statements, try to WP:PROVEIT with a reliable third-party source. If it can't be proven, don't include it.
Genres are not always consistent. Even if there is a general formula for games in the genre, there may be several games that do not follow this formula exactly. If something is not 100% true, you may be able to rephrase and qualify it. Instead of "all games do X", you might say "most games do X", or "these games usually include X, although some games do Y." Qualified statements can resolve a dispute between editors who have differing experiences with the same genre.
Perhaps the hardest part of writing a genre article is determining its scope. The boundary between genres can be fuzzy, and two completely different genres may have a lot in common. As you write about every common feature of a genre, pay special attention to the features that distinguish that genre from other genres. If possible, create a "definition" section to highlight those features.
Writing "history" section
Still, a list of games may provide a good starting point for writing a "history" section. Organize the list of games into chronological order, and try to determine how each game helped define the genre's gameplay conventions. Identify games that represent turning points in the genre's history. If a game had no major impact on the sale or development of other games in that genre, consider removing it from the article. Remember, this is supposed to summarize the genre. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list of games.
Several reliable gaming websites and magazines have published special features on the history of specific genres. A source like this is invaluable, and might even give you important facts for the "gameplay" section. In order to fill in the gaps in the "history" section, you might be able to analyze the history of a major series in the genre.
Once the "history" and "gameplay" sections have reached a decent size, it is time to begin verifying unsourced statements. This is the most challenging aspect of improving a genre article.
Web searching can be your best friend. Rather than a blind search through every hit for the genre, try a few of the following search strategies:
- Search for the "genre_name" AND "key_feature" (e.g.:
4X and "Technology tree")
- Search for the "genre_name" AND "reliable_website" (e.g.:
"Real-time strategy" and GameSpy)
- Search for the "genre_name" AND "key_title" (e.g.:
"First person shooter" and Doom)
- Search for "key_title" AND "key_feature" (e.g.:
Ultima and "Experience point"for Role-playing games)
It may also be useful to research a key title extensively. Choose the most important game in the genre. Read reliable reviews about that game, and look out for any statement that mentions the genre and explains what it is. Learn which game developer is responsible for that game, and look for interviews with the development team.
An invaluable resource on the topic has been the book Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. Even if it does not go into detail about specific subgenres, it is useful to understand the overall gameplay of broader genres such as action games and sports games. This is one of the few resources that attempts to classify all computer and video games, and explain the boundaries of those genres. (Most resources only focus on one or two genres without putting them in the context of other genres. For resources that do talk about all genres, they tend to be unreliable, or fail to define those genres with clear boundaries.)
Other important information
While this does not apply to all genres, a few key facts to look for:
- When was the name of the genre coined, and which was the first game to be called that?
- What was the first game to exhibit some/all of the features of this genre?
- What is the most critically/commercially successful game in this genre?
- Are there any notable common criticisms of the genre? How has the genre adapted to this criticism?
- Are there any major controversies associated with the genre as a whole?
Because these facts can be contentious, research is especially important here. In order to present the article with a neutral point of view, these claims must be backed by a reliable source.
Reaching Good Article class
Before nominating an article for good article status, consider a peer review from the Video Games WikiProject. Aside from grammar, copy-editing, and formatting, the two major challenges will be meeting standards of verifiability and improving organization.
Verification can be improved by further web searches. But by now, the article should be supported by numerous reliable resources. In essence, the article becomes its own research database. You might be surprised to find a nugget about the genre tucked in a resource that you have already used. Read, re-read, and re-re-read the sources you've found.
Primary sources such as instruction manuals and game guides might provoke the ire of some reviewers. But when used sparingly and carefully, an instruction manual or game guide can fill in key gaps in research. A statement such as "the genre is defined by X" will probably need a reliable third-party source. But one or two instruction manuals can support more qualified statements, such as "some games have used Y".
As a last resort, trim information that cannot be verified. This may offend you as an expert on the genre, but the article might still be comprehensive enough for most readers.
A good article will be organized into meaningful sections and paragraphs. Be patient, and keep making efforts to organize and re-organize the article's table of contents.
In the case of the "history" section, try to organize it based on the major milestones set out by your research. One major milestone, if you can find research to support it, is the moment the genre terminology was invented and applied to a popular game. Everything up until this point is the origin of the genre. Another alternative is to organize the history by technological milestones such as generations of consoles, or 2D versus 3D. If all else fails, organize the information by decade.
The "gameplay" section is trickier. Try to choose headings that result in subsections that are neither too large nor too small. Inevitably, you will end up with a short subsection or paragraph that focuses on one specialized area, and there will be no meaningful way to expand it. Try to broaden the scope of another subsection by changing its heading, and find a way to tie-in the short subsection or paragraph. When all else fails, try creating a lead-in at the top of the "gameplay" section that includes details that don't entirely fit anywhere else.
Don't get dragged into listing specific games and their specific designs. Especially when talking about a common feature in the genre, the temptation is to list several games that have that feature. Try to keep this to a minimum. Even worse is to describe how several games have implemented different versions of the same feature. Trim this back into generalizations such as "many games have X", or "many of the games have A, but several have B". If one game has a unique feature, there is probably no need to detail it in the genre article, and it should be left to the article about the game itself.
You will likely have to make better use of citation templates. This requires a lot of patience, but is relatively easy to do.
Writing a featured genre article
The standards for prose and research will be raised. Copy-editing will be tedious. Research requirements may reveal some statements as unreliable, and they may have to be removed. Be patient. Consider a peer review. This will be a good intermediate step, as featured article reviewers can be very unforgiving and hard on articles. A peer review shows that you tried to get feedback before nominating the article for featured status.
The last major concern will be meeting the non-free content criteria for the use of images. Look at several open source games for images, since they may have looser copyright requirements than other releases. It may help to know that Ubisoft has been more flexible with its copyright requirements for a few games, and so it might be possible to use images from some of their games. If you are running out of options, try using an image that isn't from any specific game, such as a sketch, or a photograph of a relevant person.