video & computer game genres

meta genre #1: arcade
you may consider the term 'performance' to be 'over-the-top', flamboyant even. but most of the original video arcade games relied on high-score tables. the high-score table by its very nature will attract competitors. the games themselves were built to be difficult and long, so as to make more money - but what this meant for players was that they had to have real skills to play the game, or they'd lose straight away. the arcade tradition has mainly flourished in japan, but its influence can be seen today in music games such as rock band, bayonetta and blaz blue. they all share common ground in their arcade sensibilities (combos, rhythm, harsh difficulty, and competitive play). some of these types of games are more sport than artistic or creative performance, but dedication and achievement figure into both. you don't play these games to lose; winning is often the only option, but a consideration of player sty.le elevates the genre from its traditional game-centric roots. arcade games all rely on instinct and quick reflexes. example genres: sidescrollers, rhythm/music games, traditional arcade games, SHMUPs, fighting games example games: breakout, bayonetta, metroid zero mission, rock band, rez, gitaroo man, alien soldier, viewtiful joe, street fighter 4, PN3, demon's souls, pacman, mirror's edge, canabalt, ikaruga, paper plane, every extend, r-type... example players: achievers, athletes, performers, killers, destroyers, conformists

----------------------meta genre #2: world
world suggests both a physical planet of places and opportunities, but also evokes the immersion of the player in their own imagination or in the imagination of others. virtual worlds can be places with many attractions and diversions, or they can simply bestow a vast field upon the player to travel through, or it can be more conceptual than that, giving a world of choices or opportunities for physical play. world games contrast with arcade games and story games which are mostly linear because you're concentrated on either a gripping narrative, or your own performance. sandbox games allow many more options, side quests and diversions. some, like GTA, do this with jobs or hobbies you can take on within the main world, and others such as garry's mod and noby noby boy offer lots of physical objects to play around with. though sandbox is on the purer end of the spectrum as it relies a lot on the player for creativity. games such as zelda and final fantasy go halves by entertaining the player with a story as well as providing big maps and lots of dungeons.

worlds pleasure the mind and immerse the senses. example genres: MMO, sandbox, open-world, RPG, third person action-adventure, first-person adventure example games: noby noby boy, the legend of zelda, metroid prime, super metroid, ico, garry's mod, gran theft auto: san andreas, deus ex, bioshock, crysis, demon's souls, oblivion, morrowind... example players: explorers, wanderers, vagrants, performers, achievers, collectors, speed runners, disruptors, killers, destroyers, devients

-------------------------------meta genre #3:pop
one of the biggest genres, pop, borrowing from music, indicates several things. one, a wide audience, two a focus on fun and entertainment at no detrimental cost to the player. for instance, these kinds of games often do not need you to constantly farm for loot or virtual money to play the game normally. the important thing to note here is that these games are specifically balanced in a way that excludes the learning of deep skillsets. these games do not have steep difficulty curves because they focus on the pure enjoyment of visual feedback, movement, and spectacle. example genres: platformers, puzzle games, sports mini-games, portable games, j-pop games, longrunning franchises example games: super mario world, tetris, pixel junk series, wii sports, peggle, madworld, donkey kong jungle beat, sonic the hedgehog, modern warfare 2, assasin's creed, wario ware, super mario kart, flower, god of war, henry hatsworth, scribblenauts, wii fit... example players: conformists, pleasure-seekers, collectors, achievers, wanderers


meta genre #4: reality
another broad category, but an important one. this includes both photo-realism (gran turisimo), but also gameplay that is based on imitating life (animal crossing). it's important to note that photo-realism affects gameplay in the development process. a realistic-looking game will reflect detail in the story or mechanics. for example, there is a reason that crysis was not a '2.5D' platformer; it wouldn't make coherent design sense. high-end graphics go hand in hand with free-roaming character, detailed maps, serious tone, fullyrotatable camera and GUNS! simulators are at the purer end of the spectrum, as they're a niche. example genres: FPS, racing, flying simulators, life sims, RTS, baseball, basketball, football, wrestling example games: forza, gran turisimo, the sims, nintendogs, animal crossing, shenmue, yakuza, HL2, brain training, wii fit... example players: performers, athletes, collectors, socialisers


meta genre #5: story
the main thing here is that the developers want to tell a story. this forces most games of this type to be linear, and gameplay to be interupted with cut-scenes. the pure end of the spectrum is the adventure genre, the latest one being heavy rain that has a strict focus on drama. whether heavy rain is a game or not is your own opinion, but FFXIII blends the japanese arcade tradition with a dramatic and emotional story, while other games simply try to tell a story according the conventions of film or literature. just because i believe story is a genre in its own right, doesn't mean other games in other genres don't tell a story; they just do it in less obvious ways.

example genres: text-based adventure, adventure, action-adventure, RPGs example games: final fantasy XIII, persona series, heavy rain, monkey island series, MGS4, bioshock, shadow of the colossus, ico... -----------------------------

meta genre #6: cerebral
cerebral is a genre that demands the player think using their intellect and planning abilities, rather than acting quickly or on instinct and intuition. the main entry in this genre is strategy, but also some puzzle games. while strategy has a strong corelation with the reality genre, what with its focus on war, grainy realism and historical battles, i think due to the nature of the gameplay it has its own category. strategy and puzzle games also share a lot in common, which is why i've put games like braid alongside advance wars. games like peggle and zuma fit more in the pop/casual space. although i would say strategy is more of a continuation of strategical board games, than an entirely new genre pioneered by the computer format. example genres: RTS, TBS, tactical shooters, tactical RPGs, puzzle games example games: command & conquer, advance wars, starcraft, ff tactics, civilization, braid, scribblenauts, portal... example players: thinkers, planners, achievers

---------meta genre #7: multiplayer
multiplayer is a genre that is focused on more than one person interacting at the same time. this is how these games are built. the content can be anything, what's important is that you're not playing alone. example genres: FPS, fighting games, racing games, MMOs example games: project gotham, left 4 dead, world of warcraft, halo, modern warfare, lost planet 2

example players: winners, n00bs, socialisers


of course, most games have elements of all of these genres. genre is only a tool that allows people to compare stuff. i would argue that there are clear traditions and divisions though, in which lines can be drawn. this is useful as it shows the sheer diversity of the medium. the idea of judging games based on perspective (first-person, third-person, sidescroller) is another concrete way to define the type of game you're playing, but i feel it's not as useful to me as a player. as a designer it is very useful to consider perspective and its effects on creating a type of play, but for communication i prefer to consider game verbs, like 'performing' or 'exploring' - because that's generally what the experience offers, interactively speaking. it's worth adding also, that there are some games that are hard to categorize; stuff like killer7 or katamari damacy, or some of the many indie games. i have not included these, as they're not often made according to genre; they choose not to use the conventions. as a final thought, it's worth considering how each meta-genre may be changing us as people without us knowing. games are addictive and fun, but they are also rule sets that we abide by, and things we repeat over and over...