Game Genre Definitions

Basic Genres

Action: Any game where action (movement, quick thinking, reflexes, etc.) is the main focus of gameplay.

Adventure: Denotes any game where the emphasis is based on experiencing a story through the manipulation of one or more user-controlled characters and the environment they exist in. Gameplay mechanics emphasize decision over action.

Role-playing games (RPGs) are a common sub-genre of all adventure games, as are the classic Sierra “Quest” series of games. Text adventures (Interactive Fiction) are also, by definition, adventure games.

Educational: Denotes a game specifically designed to educate the player in an area. Usually intended for younger children, educational games offer a fun, indirect way to practice “non-fun” subjects like spelling, math, history, etc.

Racing / Driving: Any game that involves using a motorized vehicle to move faster than an opponent to reach a specified goal or beat a specified time. Usually racing games use cars, but motorcycle, powerboat, and flight/space racing games also exist.

Role-Playing (RPG): Denotes any game for which character development is the main driving gameplay mechanic. Typically one or more characters are created and shaped by the player, then embark on a series of encounters that increase the inventory, wealth, or combat statistics of said character(s). Traditional RPGs are turn-based and in a fantasy setting (Rogue-like games, The Bard’s Tale, Wizardry, Pool of Radiance, etc.) but many fit into either different settings (Wasteland, Fallout, etc.) or are real-time instead of turn-based (Diablo, Nox, etc.) or even a combination of real-time and turn-based (later Final Fantasy games, Anachronox, etc.)

Simulation: Models real-life situations and/or variables. Strategy wargames mimicking historic battles are simulations; so are racing games that allow you to adjust tire pressure, spoiler drag, etc. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator is probably the most well-known game in the simulation genre.

Sports: Any sporting activity. Examples: Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey are the most popular sports games.

Strategy: Gameplay emphasis is on thinking, rationalizing, theorizing, problem-solving, etc.–in other words, “using your brain”. Examples: Chess games are strategy games, as are real-time war simulations like Command and Conquer.

Perspectives and Viewpoints

1st-Person Perspective: Displayed from a 1st-person perspective or view; ie. from the viewer’s own eyes. (Not used in describing interactive fiction, because all interactive fiction is 1st-person by definition.)

3rd-Person Perspective: Displayed from a 3rd-person perspective or view; ie. player is able to see him/herself.

Isometric: Playfield is technically two-dimensional, but drawn using an axonometric projection so as to look three-dimensional. Movement input is usually diagonally-biased to match the player’s orientation (as opposed to straight up/down/left/right movement, which matches the game avatar’s orientation).

While the perspective term has traditionally been labeled Isometric, in typical use it includes isometric (eg. Knight Lore, The Immortal), dimetric (eg. SimCity 2000, Diablo), and trimetric (eg. Fallout/Fallout 2, SimCity 3) projections.

Platform: Describes any action game where the playfield is set up as a series of floors, levels, or platforms for the player to navigate. Platform games usually require a small bit of strategy and/or puzzle solving. Examples: Prince of Persia, Dark Castle, etc.

Side-Scrolling: Used to describe any game where the main setting of gameplay involves the player moving from one side of the playfield to the other horizontally for a length of time; so named because the player character stays in the same place on-screen, but the entire playfield scrolls left or right to accomodate keeping player movement on-screen at all times. Usually used as a modifier in describing action games; “shooters”, etc. Not to be confused with Platform games, which may or may not scroll.

Top-Down: Used to describe any game where the main setting of gameplay is represented by a “top-down” view of the playfield; used in describing both shooters and adventure games.

Sports Themes

Baseball: Simulation of a baseball game, or variant.

Basketball: Simulation of a basketball game, or variant.

Bike/Bicycling: Description to come

Bowling: Simulates the common ten-pin alley experience of bowling.

Boxing: Simulation (or close variant) of boxing.

Cricket: Any game that simulates a cricket match.

Fishing: Simulation of the traditional hobby of catching fish for sport.

Football (American): Refers to a simulation of an American football game (for European football, see “Soccer”)

Golf: Simulation of a traditional golf game. (To describe Miniature Golf, combine with the “Arcade” genre.)

Hockey: Simulation of a traditional hockey game.

Horse / Derby: Denotes any game that simulates horse racing or “fantasy” betting on horse races, like the Kentucky Derby.

Hunting: Describes gameplay that simulates hunting wildlife or game. Examples: Deer Hunter, Turkey Shoot, etc.

Motorcycle: Specifically denotes motorcycle or motocross (dirtbike) racing.

Off-Road / Monster Truck: Denotes any racing game based on off-road driving conditions or using “monster trucks”. Examples: 4×4, Offroad, Monster Truck Madness, Test Drive: Off-Road, Extreme Mountain Bike, etc.

Olympiad: Represents multiple sporting events in a single game, similar to the Olympics. Examples: Summer Games, Winter Games, Boot Camp, Ski or Die, etc.

Paintball: Simulation of a non-violent sport where participants use markers to shoot paintballs (gelatin capsules filled with paint) at other players, or using the game mechanics.

Ping Pong/Table Tennis: Simulations of the sport of ping pong/table tennis.

Pool / Snooker: Denotes any game that simulates the popular bar game of pool (all variations), snooker, or similar.

Rugby: Gameplay mimicks the action or managerial aspects of professional rugby.

Sailing / Boating: Denotes any simulation of piloting or racing sailboats, windsails, powerboats, etc.

Skateboarding: Simulation of traditional skateboard racing and stunts.

Snowboarding / Skiing: Games that have a snowboarding or skiiing theme, such as the Cool Boarders series.

Soccer / Football (European): Simulation of a traditional soccer game.

Surfing: Simulation of traditional surfing.

Tennis: Simulation of a traditional tennis match.

Tricks / Stunts: Denotes gameplay where scoring and/or advancement is achieved via performing “tricks” or “stunts”. Games in this genre are usually (but not always) sports-related. Common terms for this kind of game are “Action Sports” or “Extreme Sports”. Examples: Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, California Games, Trickstyle.

Volleyball: Denotes any game that simulates volleyball-style gameplay.

Wakeboarding: Simulation of traditional wakeboarding.

Wrestling: Simulation of “Pro” wrestling.

Non-Sports Themes

Adult: Denotes any game with explicit sexual situations.

Anime / Manga: Having a traditionally “Japanese” style or flavor, like that of Japanese animation (“Japanimation” or “anime”) or Japanese comics (“manga”). (Or even Hentai — just make sure to tick “adult” as a genre as well.)

Arcade: Denotes an arcade or “arcade-like” game, whose gameplay mimics or was inspired by a traditional coin-op arcade game. Arcade games usually have very little puzzle-solving, complex thinking, or strategy skills needed; the focus is on reflexes and “twitch”. The Arcade genre is usually used as an additional modifier to Action games.

Note: For exact conversions of coin-op arcade games to computer platforms, don’t forget the “Coin-Op Conversion” genre as well.

BattleMech: Any game using ideas, machines, weapons, or ‘mechs similar to the FASA BattleTech series. This includes all ‘Mech and “Giant Robot” games, including titles that are not explicitly from the FASA universe (Earthsiege, etc.).

Board / Party Game: Simulation of a traditional board game or party game where gameplay involves two or more players.

  • Examples of board games include checkers, chess, Monopoly, Yahtzee, dominoes, backgammon, etc. This also includes computer-based “synthetic” board games like Jones in the Fast Lane, and also games that mimic traditional board games like Hexxagon.
  • Examples of the new style of “party games” for consoles include Sonic Shuffle and Mario Party.

The main thrust of board games and party games is that they are designed for multiple players. If it is only playable by a single player (ie. Solitaire, Mah-Jongg, etc.), it is not a board/party game and should not be listed here.Cards: Computer implementation of a card game; poker, blackjack, solitaire, etc.

Casino: Simulation of a casino game; slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, etc.

Chess: Refers to the classic board game of the same name. Most computer chess games allow playing the computer at varying levels of difficulty.

Comics: Denotes any game that uses characters or settings based off comic books (or strips). Examples: The Punisher, X-Men, etc.

Cyberpunk / Dark Sci-Fi: Denotes adventure-style gameplay with a dark futuristic setting. Sometimes modeled around the concept of a “cyberpunk”, or a human individual in the future that can interface directly with computers or a computer network, and has to “take down The Corporation”. Science fiction with an explicitly dark and/or moody tone. Examples: Neuromancer, Circuit’s Edge, Blade Runner, etc.

Detective / Mystery: An adventure game that centers around a traditional detective story or murder mystery.

Fighting: Refers to a classic one-on-one or one-on-many hand-to-hand combat game. Sometimes called “Beat-em-up”. Examples: Double Dragon, Street Fighter, etc.

Flight: Simulation of aircraft flight, usually represented in three-dimensional (3D) graphics.

Game Show: Simulation of a TV “game show”. Examples: The Price Is Right, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, etc.

Helicopter: Simulation of helicopter flight or battle.

Historical Battle (specific/exact): Any strategy game that recreates, closely mimics, or attempts to show different outcomes of a historical battle or battles. Examples: Gettysburg, Patton vs. Rommel, European Air War, Close Combat 3, etc.

Horror: Denotes any game with classic “horror” elements. Usually refers to traditional gothic horror, but can include other horror styles. Examples: Alone in the Dark, The Lurking Horror, etc.

Interactive Fiction: Gameplay is language-based in nature. All interaction with the player, both input and feedback, is done through the input and output of pure text. Input mimics natural language using verb-noun (action-item) commands (Abbreviations also qualify, because they abbreviate a verb-noun construct, like “w” for “go west” or “i” for “list inventory”). Output is rendered in full, natural-language, grammatically-correct sentences.

Sometimes referred to as “text-adventure” or “Infocom” games (after the company that made them famous).

Interactive Fiction with Graphics: Same mechanics as Interactive Fiction, with modifications for graphics made to the input and output interface. Output can include graphics, which can either be turned off (Transylvania, Tau Ceti, etc.) or are mandatory (Sierra “Quest” and Lucasarts “SCUMM” games). Input is still text-based requiring verb-noun input, but the method of selection does not have to rely on the keyboard (meaning, you can pick from a visual list of verbs and nouns, like Lucasarts adventures).

To remain in the Interaction Fiction with Graphics subgenre, verb-noun input using text labels must be maintained. If the verbs (actions) and nouns (items) are replaced by icons or pictures, or accepts verb-only or noun-only input, it no longer qualfies as Interactive Fiction.

Interactive Movie: Gameplay consists of a running “movie” with several different storylines that the user can follow by making choices during the viewing, although occaisionally an action/arcade sequence may be included. Interactive Movies are best suited for novice gamers looking for entertainment without too much effort. Examples: Any Multipath movie; Infocomics; Star Trek: Borg, etc.

Managerial: Gameplay centers mainly around the management of resources instead of controlling the resources or gameplay itself. Both sports-management (fantasy football, etc.) and real-life simulations (Railroad Tycoon, Simcity, etc.) are applicable to this genre.

Martial Arts: Simulation specifically geared towards traditional martial arts situations or combat. Examples: Budokan, Sword of the Samuri, etc.

Medieval / Fantasy: Denotes any (presumably adventure) game that has a fantasy, otherworldly, and/or medieval-times-with-sorcery setting. Common fantasy settings include Dungeons and Dragons-style games, the Ultima series, etc. Fantasy is not limited to adventure games only; some non-adventure games can also be of a fantasy style (Dragonstrike, etc.)

Meditative / Zen: Gameplay elements are specifically oriented around relaxing, meditative, and contemplative thought processes. Careful manipulation of objects and thoughts are stressed over knee-jerk reactions.

Mental training: Games based around intellectual activities to exercise your mental capacity.

Naval: Denotes any game with a naval theme, such as battleship wargaming/strategy, submarine simulations, or other type of combat/gameplay based on seafaring vessels.

Paddle / Pong: Denotes any game patterned after the original Pong arcade game, where a paddle is moved back and forth (or up and down) to deflect a ball thrown at it. The ball can be “aimed” by deflecting off of different parts of the paddle to hit targets for points; missing the ball results in loss of life. Examples: Popcorn, Arkanoid, etc.

Persistent Universe: Denotes any game that takes place in a constantly-running environment, even when the player is not actively playing the game. Attributes of such an environment include other players actively playing the game, game-created characters interacting with the environment or other players, etc. such that, when gameplay resumes for a particular user, the environment has changed from when the user last interacted with the environment.

Since most persistent universe games are played on remote servers, an internet connection is usually required to play them to perform updates to the game world.

Pinball: Simulation of an arcade pinball machine.

Post-Apocalyptic: Describes any game where the setting is soon after a world-wide nuclear war, where radiation has created mutants, entire cities are leveled, and necessities like gas, food, and water are hard to come by. Think shortly after a nuclear holocaust. Think “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”. Examples: Wasteland, Fallout, etc.

Puzzle-Solving: Denotes any game with puzzle-solving or strategy elements. Said elements do not necessarily have to be the game’s main focus; for example, many action games also contain puzzles to solve to continue to the next area, like Heart of Darkness, Prince of Persia, etc.

Real-Time: Describes gameplay that happens without waiting for player input; ie. in “real time” and not turn-based. Mostly used in describing strategy and wargame/historical simulation games.

Rhythm / Music: Denotes a type of action game whose mechanics are based on the player’s command of timing and reflexes, and the gameplay environment uses musical rhythm as timing. Examples include Parappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5, Frequency, Samba De Amigo, etc.

Sci-Fi / Futuristic: Used as a modifier when the gameplay setting takes place in the future, outer space, or other Sci-Fi setting. Examples: Wing Commander would be a Sci-Fi Action game; Master of Orion and Alpha Centauri are Sci-Fi Simulation games; etc.

Shooter: Gameplay emphasis is fast action and twitch reflexes; mostly involving shooting things. Also referred to as “shoot-’em-up” games. Examples: Defender, Tyrian, Xevious, etc. Also used when describing traditional 1st-person shooters such as Doom, Quake, Unreal, etc.

Spy / Espionage: Denotes any game where gameplay centers around performing covert operations, searching for government documents, and otherwise generally being a spy. The protagonist is usually a spy or government operative, performing espionage or otherwise working covert operations. Examples: Covert Action, James Bond games, etc.

Stealth: Denotes any game where gameplay strongly centers around not being detected, searching for hidden/secret items, and otherwise avoiding conflict. The protagonist is usually a spy or government operative, however any game that has stealth as its core gameplay mechanic qualifies. Examples: Splinter Cell, Hitman, etc.

Survival Horror: Survival horror is typically a 3rd person perspective game in which the player has to survive an onslaught of undead, human, animal or monster like opponents, usually in claustrophobic environments. Horror film elements are used liberally. The player is typically armed, but not nearly as well-armed or armoured as a player in a first person shooter game. The player’s goal is generally to escape from an isolated house or town that is inhabited mostly by zombies and monsters through shooting and puzzle solving.

Tank: Denotes any game that explicitly centers around tanks, for the purposes of action, arcade, or simulation (or all three). Examples: M1 Tank Platoon, Battlezone, Soldier Boyz, Panzer General, etc.

Train: Games involving train management, simulation, and general use for more than 50% of a game.

Turn-based: Game where the flow of play is well defined into “turns”. A player has time to decide what his/her next move will be. The next player then gets time to make their move(s). When all the player have been made any shared processes happens which is then goes into the next round of play.

Video Backdrop: Denotes any action game based on interacting with a motion-video backdrop, either as scenery or as an enemy. Examples: Rebel Assault, Novastorm, etc.

Educational Categories

Ecology / Nature: Denotes any game that studies the ecosystem, the environment, etc.

Foreign Language: Denotes any educational game where an emphasis is put on learning a language foreign to native English speakers, such as French, German, Spanish, etc.

Geography: Denotes any educational game where the focus is on learning geography, locations, landmarks, etc. Example: the “Where is Carmen Sandiego” series.

Graphics / Art: Denotes any educational game that develops or explores visual creativity.

Health / Nutrition: Attempts to teach healthy habits such as nutrition, exercise, “clean living”, etc.

History: Denotes any educational game that teaches history.

Math / Logic: Educational game centering on building mathematical and/or logic skills, such as addition, subtraction, geometry, etc.

Music: Educational game centering on building tonal and music theory skills.

Pre-school / Toddler: Educational game centering on entertaining and teaching pre-school children or toddlers. Typing skills are usually not required.

Reading / Writing: Educational game centering on building English reading, writing, spelling, or grammar skills.

Religion: Denotes any educational game that teaches or emphasizes religious teachings.

Science: Denotes any educational game with an emphasis on learning biology, chemistry, physics, etc.

Sociology: Denotes any educational game that attempts to teach sociology, social studies, or any other study of the science of society or social institutions.

Typing: Educational game centering on building typing and keyboard skills. Examples: “Mavid Beacon Teaches Typing”, “Dvorak on Typing”, etc.

Other Attributes

Add-on: Denotes a commercial package that enhances an existing game (additional levels, race tracks, etc.) or requires an existing game to run (Quake “total conversions”, etc.).

Coin-Op Conversion: Denotes a game that originally appeared in stand-up, coin-operated, arcade game form (or pinball form) and later converted to a personal computer version. Examples: Pac-man, Space Invaders, Pinball Jam, etc.

Compilation / Shovelware: Denotes any retail package that contains a combination of game titles. “Compilations” are two or more games in a series (prequels/sequels) or a similar genre. “Shovelware” is the term given to dissimilar games packaged together, usually at a low price, to try to make up for lost or sagging profits.

Editor / Construction Set: Denotes the addition of an editor bundled with the game so as to facilitate tweaking game variables, drawing new playfields/maps, drawing new graphics, etc. Built-in editors greatly extend the life of games because they extend playability infinitely. Games that are exclusively built around this concept are called “Construction Set” games; ie. “Pinball Construction Set” or “Adventure Construction Set”.

Emulator: Denotes any game or game collection running on an included emulator.

Emulators facilitate the execution of foreign game code on a platform it was not designed for; this allows the coin-op arcade game Defender, for example, to run on a PC.

Licensed Title: Denotes any game where the gameplay, storyline, or setting was taken from or inspired by a specific movie, television show, book, board game or other work that predated the game. Examples: Die Hard Trilogy, Rendezvous with Rama, Below the Root, Mechwarrior, Blade Runner, etc.



3 Responses

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