Understanding Video Game Subgenres
Games, in the strictest sense, are not necessarily played for fun or entertainment. A game is generally a well-structured form of non-active play, normally undertaken for fun or entertainment, and at times used as an educational instrument. Games are very different from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration; work is normally carried out for the purpose of creating a product, while games are an expression of personal or aesthetic elements. Games may also be played for competitive advantage. The term ‘games’ encompasses a wide variety of activities, including athletic activities, such as running, climbing, jumping and cycling, as well as mathematical, musical and skill games.
A major part of the explosion in the popularity of games is the fact that they can be played by almost anybody. Today, a game such as tower defense requires no previous knowledge of programming or architecture to play and can be played on a standard computer. Likewise, most people can master the turn-based strategy genre of games such as the Fall of Rome within a few hours, while others, even those not easily tech-savvy, can spend weeks learning the intricacies of the sci-fi classic, Halo. Many video games today involve some element of skill or strategy. Some of these games require a great deal of manual dexterity, for example, while others simply require a player’s strategic thinking and application of scarce resources to achieve a set goal.
Another important aspect of the genre is its inherent simplicity. In the case of most casual gaming, the mechanics are built into the game itself; thus, a player does not have to learn complex interaction strategies or advanced game mechanics. Tower defense games involve a unique set of mechanics that are easy to understand, requiring no prior knowledge to implement and enjoy. Likewise, most action-oriented games have a solid narrative that gives the player a reason to explore and enjoy his or her character. However, the complexity of narrative and gameplay is usually built into the genre as well, meaning that a gamer is required to either work around or learn the narrative in order to fully enjoy his character and game experience. This is a distinct advantage over other genres that rely on advanced game mechanics only.
Finally, the most popular segment of the gaming population includes simulation games and strategy games. Simulator games are generally designed to replicate real-life experiences, and therefore a great deal of detail is given to every aspect of the real-life setting. Simulators are ideal for providing an excellent simulation of real-life driving, flight, skiing, or surfing. In fact, just about any activity imaginable can be reproduced using a computer program, ensuring that gamers never get a chance to experience the difficult challenges that real-world drivers and athletes face. In contrast, strategy games provide an excellent choice for anyone interested in mastering a particular scenario or game concept. For example, military simulation games and first person shooter games are both very popular choices for simulation games, as they allow a player to master a specific type of military operation, weapon, or even aircraft.
Finally, there are two other main segments of the video game population: adventure games and adventure titles. Adventure games are usually fantasy in nature, with a heavy emphasis on solving puzzles or locating a specific artifact in order to advance the storyline. Adventure titles are quite popular with those who enjoy puzzle-solving and discovering hidden items within the game environment. These titles often times require players to complete a number of mini-games or other obstacles in order to progress the story and achieve a particular goal.
Within this broad genre of video games, a wide range of genres and types exist. We have shown that subgenres exist for all genres, but there are certainly more to discover! One of the most exciting areas of research for historians of science fiction is to discover the relationships among subgenres. Perhaps we will soon learn the secrets of Xenon Pearl’s Star Wars trilogy and Star trek: The Wrath of Khan! Or perhaps we will learn the true secrets of Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Galaxy. Who knows?