When it comes to the genres of games for console, handheld and computer platforms, there will always be dispute over which games are categorized where since this, much like music or film, is not an exact science. Understanding these genres, however, can help gamers find more of the titles they enjoy playing.
Action – Some consider the action game genre to be one of the most basic of all genres. It is the style of game that relies on quick thinking, fast reflexes and a strong survival instinct on the part of the player. From early titles like Pac Man right on up to the latest Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, action games have been able to gather huge fan bases. They may or may not have a deep story, but they always focus on the player’s decisions to keep their character alive. Fighting games, hack and slash, maze, platform and even pinball games all fall into this category in their own way. When the focus is on motion and responding to either the computer or another human opponent, the genre is action.
Shooter – In the past, shooter games would have been lumped in with action games, but due to the depth and diversity of these titles in today’s gaming market they are now considered their own genre. These types of games involve the player shooting at human controlled or computer opponents, usually as they work their way through levels or in an attempt to control a certain pre designated battle field. In this genre, the FPS (First Person Shooter) that began with Wolfenstein 3D on the computer, rules the roost. This is the type of game where a player looks through the eyes of their character while the go about shooting enemies such as in Call of Duty or Halo. There are also far less popular third person shooters where the camera follows the characters. Shoot ‘em up games differ in that they normally have waves of multiple opponents coming after a vehicle such as the ship in Space Invaders. Tactical shooters are heavily realistic play in any of the shooting sub genres that focus more on the simulation aspects of the shooting situation. Finally, there are light gun games such as Duck Hunt or Revolution X that use a specific type of gun which lets players point and shoot opponents on the screen. These days many shooters are immensely popular as massive multiplayer online games.
Adventure – Another hugely popular segment of the gaming world comes in the form of adventure games which typically send a hero character on a quest. They differ from role playing games in that the character is normally created specially for the game and the player has no real control over them. These games make use of a lot of interactive fiction and typically have very well developed worlds and specific plots which the character must work their way through, similar to if they were in a movie. There are all sorts of subgenres of adventure games ranging from visual novels to survival horror games such as Silent Hill or Siren. These games tend to have very strong cult fan bases online and cover all types of different adventure stories, often making use of many hidden Easter eggs for players to discover within the game along the way.
Construction/Management – These types of games are of the simulation variety and they usually involve managing mass groups of workers or populations as a whole. They may involve the building and maintaining of a city, airport, zoo, prison or other similar situation where the player must handle large quantities of resources and man power. Business, stock trading and political games all fall into this genre, as well. With the rise of mobile smart phones and social networking sites like Facebook, games of this type have become wildly popular and titles like Farmville and Cafe World have garnered huge numbers of players who compete as well as work cooperatively to obtain in game rewards. This is one of the fastest growing genres for computer and handheld games.
Life Simulation - This is another emerging genre that has some deep roots in simulation titles. The Sims is one of the hottest in this group, but there are a huge number of other similar games where players will take control of a character, usually one they have created, and manage all of its needs while making life decisions for it along the way. This ability to manage the artificial life forms has become central to the games and now there are also digital pet raising games on nearly all gaming platforms. These games can be handheld such as a Tamagotchi or they can also be played online where the life forms are allowed to interact with one another or even be traded.
Role Playing – Role playing games (RPGs) are another very large genre of games that have become increasingly complex over the years. These make heavy use of fictional story lines and generally allow the player to create a custom character that has stats, abilities and traits which will affect what it can do in the RPG world. This genre encompasses many genres in common entertainment from horror to science fiction to fantasy and more. The key component of most RPGs is a huge fictional world created just for the game itself. Players will manage the resources of their characters, make decisions for them and often these games are played in a massively multiplayer online setting where they are referred to as MMORPGS.
Strategy – This genre includes and is primarily composed of games based on war fare. There are real time strategy (RTS) games as well as turn based strategy games. These games trace their roots back to board games like chess where out maneuvering and eventually defeating one’s opponent was the primary aim. There are varying levels of strategy games which may incorporate resource management, but many are simply tactical war games where players control armies or other combative units while struggling to dominate a game board.
Vehicle Simulation/Racing – Games involving cars, planes, trains, boats, motorcycles or other vehicles fall under this genre. Some of these games are highly realistic simulations of the real vehicles in the game with fine tuned physics, while others take a more arcade style approach. There are even games in which the player will pursue vehicular combat such as in a demolition derby in order to win.
Music/Party Games – These are fairly recent in their popularity and this genre consists of games like Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution. These games are geared towards the players being able to either sing along or play the music in popular songs, but there are party games that are of a simple variety which do not focus on music and are primarily geared towards being easily accessible to a range of players who may not be average game enthusiasts. These generally fast paced and easy to play.
Puzzle Games – Games where players navigate through mazes or stack blocks, such as in Tetris, fall into this genre. These are generally abstract in nature and do not involve story lines.
Trivia, Board & Card Games – These types of games are simply translations of a popular card game such as poker or Magic: The Gathering to a video game format. Their purpose is simply to allow the players to take the game with them on a hand held system without needing others to play or to connect them over the web with other players who might not be nearby at the time.
Sports - Sports games are generally of the simulation variety that attempts to recreate the experience of playing on or managing a pro sports team. This genre has an enormous fan base and covers nearly every type of pro sport on the planet.
Educational - Games in this genre are generally designed for children and marketed to parents. The core purpose of these games is education rather than entertainment, but many titles strive to do both. There is a lot of talk about this becoming a premiere way to educate students in the modern world who might do better at absorbing educational concepts by acting them out rather than simply observing them.
Exercise Games – These games have come into prominence with the arcade version of Dance Dance Revolution and also the arrival of the Nintendo Wii. There are games developed specifically to provide exercise for children or adults, but there are also games where the physical motion is simply a by product of the controller’s type and style.
Art/Experimental Games – This is a genre of games that are not as much designed for entertainment purposes alone, but to create a specific reaction from the player. This might be to the aesthetics of the game or through the story in the game. This is a nascent form of underground indie gaming that is looking to evolve the common form of video games much the same way that underground music or film attempts to advance their respective genres of entertainment.