Action game

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An action game is a video game genre that emphasizes physical challenges, including hand–eye coordination and reaction-time. The genre includes a large variety of sub-genres, such as fighting games, beat 'em ups, shooter games and platform games. Multiplayer online battle arena and some real-time strategy games are also considered action games.

Contents

In an action game, the player typically controls a character often in the form of a protagonist or avatar. This player character must navigate a level, collecting objects, avoiding obstacles, and battling enemies with their natural skills as well as weapons and other tools at their disposal. At the end of a level or group of levels, the player must often defeat a boss enemy that is more challenging and often a major antagonist in the game's story. Enemy attacks and obstacles deplete the player character's health and lives, and the player receives a game over when they run out of lives.

Alternatively, the player gets to the end of the game by finishing a sequence of levels to complete a final goal, and see the credits. But some action games, such as early arcade games, are unbeatable and have an indefinite number of levels; with the player's only goal being to get as far as they can to maximize their score.

Defining elements

The action genre includes any game where the player overcomes challenges by physical means such as precise aim and quick response times. [1] Action games can sometimes incorporate other challenges such as races, puzzles, or collecting objects, but they are not central to the genre. Players may also encounter tactical and exploration challenges, but these games first-and-foremost require high reaction speed and good hand–eye coordination. The player is often under time pressure, and there is not enough time for complex strategic planning. In general, faster action games are more challenging. Action games may sometimes involve puzzle solving, but they are usually quite simple because the player is under immense time pressure. [2]

Game design

Levels

Players advance through an action game by completing a series of levels. Levels are often grouped by theme, with similar graphics and enemies called a world. Each level involves a variety of challenges, whether dancing in a dance game or shooting things in a shooter, which the player must overcome to win the game. Older games force players to restart a level after dying, although action games evolved to offer saved games and checkpoints to allow the player to restart partway through a level. Increasingly, though, some games allow for 'resurrection' or 'cloning' and the opportunity to regain lost items upon death for a certain sum of ingame currency, typically increasing exponentially the more times the player dies. The obstacles and enemies in a level do not usually vary between play sessions, allowing players to learn by trial and error. However, levels sometimes add an element of randomness, such as an enemy that randomly appears or that takes an unpredictable path. [2]

Levels in an action game may be linear or nonlinear, and sometimes include shortcuts. For levels that require exploration, the player may need to search for a level exit that is hidden or guarded by enemies. Such levels can also contain secrets—hidden or hard-to-reach objects or places that contain something valuable. The prize can be a bonus (see below) or a non-standard exit that allows a player to access a hidden level, or jump ahead several levels. Action games sometimes offer a teleporter that will cause the player's avatar to re-appear elsewhere in the same level. Levels often make use of locked doors that can only be opened with a specific key found elsewhere in the level. [2]

Action games sometimes make use of time restrictions to increase the challenge. However, game levels typically do not react to time passing, and day/night cycles are rare. [2] When the timer expires, the player typically loses a life, although some games generate a difficult enemy or challenge. If the level is completed with time remaining, this usually adds to the player's score. [2]

Character abilities

In most action games, the player controls a single avatar as the protagonist. [2] The avatar has the ability to navigate and maneuver, and often collects or manipulates objects. They have a range of defenses and attacks, such as shooting or punching. Many action games make use of a powerful attack that destroys all enemies within a limited range, but this attack is rare. [2]

Players may find a power-up within the game world that grants temporary or permanent improvements to their abilities. For example, the avatar may gain an increase in speed, more powerful attacks, or a temporary shield from attacks. Some action games even allow players to spend upgrade points on the power ups of their choice. [2]

Obstacles and enemies

In action games that involve navigating a space, players will encounter obstacles, traps, and enemies. Enemies typically follow fixed patterns and attack the player, although newer action games may make use of more complex artificial intelligence to pursue the player. Enemies sometimes appear in groups or waves, with enemies increasing in strength and number until the end of the level. Enemies may also appear out of thin air. This can involve an invisible spawn point, or a visible generator which can be destroyed by the player. These points may generate enemies indefinitely, or only up to a certain number. [2] At the end of a level or group of themed levels, players often encounter a boss. This boss enemy will often resemble a larger or more difficult version of a regular enemy. A boss may require a special weapon or attack method, such as striking when the boss opens their mouth or attacking particular part of the Boss. [2]

Health and lives

In many action games, the avatar has a certain number of hit-markers or health, which are depleted by enemy attacks and other hazards. Sometimes health can be replenished by collecting an in-game object. When the player runs out of health, the player dies. The player's avatar is often given a small number of chances to retry after death, typically referred to as lives. Upon beginning a new life, the player resumes the game either from the same location they died, a checkpoint, or the start of the level. Upon starting a new life, the avatar is typically invincible for a few seconds to allow the player to re-orient themselves. Players may earn extra lives by reaching a certain score or by finding an in-game object. Arcade games still limit the number of player lives, while home video games have shifted increasingly to unlimited lives. [2]

Graphics and interface

Action games take place in either 2D or 3D from a variety of perspectives. 2D action games typically use a side view or top-down view. The screen frequently scrolls as the player explores the level, although many games scroll through the level automatically to push the player forward. In 3D action games, the perspective is usually tied to the avatar from a first-person or third-person perspective. However, some 3D games offer a context-sensitive perspective that is controlled by an artificial intelligence camera. Most of what the player needs to know is contained within a single screen, although action games frequently make use of a heads-up display that display important information such as health or ammunition. Action games sometimes make use of maps which can be accessed during lulls in action, or a mini-map that is always visible. [2]

Scoring and victory

Action games tend to set simple goals, and reaching them is obvious. [2] A common goal is to defeat the end-of-game boss. This is often presented in the form of a structured story, with a happy ending upon winning the game. In some games, the goal changes as the player reveals more of the story. [2]

Many action games keep track of the player's score. Points are awarded for completing certain challenges, or defeating certain enemies. Skillful play is often rewarded with point multipliers, such as in Pac-Man where each ghost that the avatar eats will generate twice as many points as the last. Sometimes action games will offer bonus objects that increase the player's score. There is no penalty for failing to collect them, although these bonus objects may unlock hidden levels or special events. In many action games, achieving a high score is the only goal, and levels increase in difficulty until the player loses. Arcade games are more likely to be unbeatable, as they make their money by forcing the player to lose the game. On the other hand, games sold at home are more likely to have discrete victory conditions, since a publisher wants the player to purchase another game when they are done. [2]

Subgenres

Action games have several major subgenres. However, there are a number of action games that don't fit any particular subgenres, as well as other types of genres like adventure or strategy games that have action elements. [2]

Character action games (also called "character-driven" games, "character games" or just "action games") are a broad category of action games, referring to a variety of games that are driven by the physical actions of player characters. The term dates back to the golden age of arcade video games in the early 1980s, when the terms "action games" and "character games" began being used to distinguish a new emerging genre of character-driven action games from the space shoot 'em ups that had previously dominated the arcades in the late 1970s. Classic examples of character action games from the early 1980s include Frogger , maze games like Pac-Man , and platformers like Donkey Kong . [3] [4] [5]

Shooter games allow the player to take action at a distance using a ranged weapon, challenging them to aim with accuracy and speed. This subgenre includes first-person shooters, third-person shooters, light gun shooters, rail shooters, run-and-gun shooters, and a plethora of shoot 'em up games taking place from a top-down or side-scrolling perspective. [2] Space shooters were initially categorized as a separate genre from action games in the early 1980s, when the term was used to refer to character action games, [3] [4] [5] up until character-driven shooters (particularly scrolling run-and-gun shooters) became popular by the late 1980s. [4] The setting of shooter games often involves military conflicts, whether historical (such as World War II), contemporary (such as Middle East conflicts) or fictional (such as space warfare). Shooter games do not always involve military conflicts; other settings include hunting games, or follow the story of a criminal (as seen in the popular Grand Theft Auto franchise). Although shooting is almost always a form of violence, non-violent shooters exist as well, such as Splatoon which focuses on claiming more territory than the opposing team by covering the playable environment with colored paint or ink.

Hybrid action games are games that combine elements of action games with elements from other genres.

Physical impact

Studies have shown that people can improve their eyesight by playing action video games. Tests by scientists at the University of Rochester on college students showed that over a period of a month, performance in eye examinations improved by about 20% in those playing Unreal Tournament compared to those playing Tetris . [24] Most arcade games are action games, because they can be difficult for unskilled players, and thus make more money quickly. [2]

Researchers from Helsinki School of Economics have shown that people playing a first-person shooter might secretly enjoy that their character gets killed in the game, although their expressions might show the contrary. The game used in the study was James Bond 007: Nightfire . [25]

History

1970s

Shooter games have been around since the beginning of the video game industry. Notable examples of shooting arcade video games during the early-to-mid-1970s include Syzygy Engineering's Computer Space (1971), Galaxy Game (1971), Tank (1974) by Kee Games, Gun Fight (1975) by Taito and Midway Manufacturing, and Midway's Sea Wolf (1976). In turn, early arcade shooter video games were inspired by early mainframe games such as Spacewar! (1962) as well as arcade electro-mechanical games such as Periscope (1965) and gun games.

A major turning point for action video games came with the 1978 release of Taito's shoot 'em up game Space Invaders , [26] which marked the beginning of the golden age of arcade video games. [27] As a result of Space Invaders' mainstream success, the industry came to be dominated by action games, [26] which have remained the most dominant genre in video arcades and on game consoles through to the present day. [28] Space Invaders set the template for later games in the shooter subgenre, [26] [29] and it is considered one of the most influential games of all time. [30]

During the arcade golden age, from the late 1970s to early 1980s, a wide variety of new subgenres were created. [4] The success of Space Invaders led to space shooters becoming the dominant genre in arcades for a few years, before a new genre of character-driven action games emerged in the early 1980s. [31]

1980s

The term "action games" began being used in the early 1980s, in reference to a new genre of character action games that emerged from Japanese arcade developers, drawing inspiration from manga and anime culture. According to Eugene Jarvis, these new character-driven Japanese action games emphasized "character development, hand-drawn animation and backgrounds, and a more deterministic, scripted, pattern-type" of play. Terms such as "action games" or "character games" began being used to distinguish these new character-driven action games from the space shooters that had previously dominated the video game industry. [3] [4] [5] The emphasis on character-driven gameplay in turn enabled a wider variety of subgenres. [4]

Namco's hit maze game Pac-Man (1980) [32] [2] popularized the genre of "character-led" action games. [31] It was one of the first popular non-shooting action games, defining key elements of the genre such as "parallel visual processing" which requires simultaneously keeping track of multiple entities, including the player character, the character's location, the enemies, and the energizers. [16] Other classic examples of character action games that followed include Nintendo's Donkey Kong (1981), [31] which established the template for the platform game subgenre, [33] as well as Konami's Frogger (1981) [3] and Universal Entertainment's Lady Bug (1981). [31] Martial arts action games eventually emerged in the mid-1980s, with Data East's Karate Champ (1984) establishing the one-on-one fighting game subgenre. [34]

While Japanese developers were creating a character-driven action game genre in the early 1980s, American developers largely adopted a different approach to game design at the time. [3] According to Eugene Jarvis, American arcade developers focused mainly on space shooters during the late 1970s to early 1980s, greatly influenced by Japanese space shooters but taking the genre in a different direction from the "more deterministic, scripted, pattern-type" gameplay of Japanese games, towards a more "programmer-centric design culture, emphasizing algorithmic generation of backgrounds and enemy dispatch" and "an emphasis on random-event generation, particle-effect explosions and physics" as seen in arcade games such as his own Defender (1981) [3] and Robotron: 2084 (1982) [2] as well as Atari's Asteroids (1979). [35]

In the mid-1980s, side-scrolling character action games emerged, combining elements from earlier side-view, single-screen character action games, such as single-screen platformers, with the side-scrolling of space shooters. These new side-scrolling character-driven action games featured large character sprites in colorful, side-scrolling environments, with the core gameplay consisting of fighting large groups of weaker enemies using attacks/weapons such as punches, kicks, guns, swords, ninjutsu or magic. [4] The most notable early example was Irem's Kung-Fu Master (1984), [4] the first beat 'em up [36] and the most influential side-scrolling martial arts action game; [37] in turn, it was based on two Hong Kong martial arts films, Bruce Lee's Game of Death (1973) and Jackie Chan's Wheels on Meals (1984), [36] [38] This side-scrolling arcade action format became popular during the mid-to-late 1980s, with examples including ninja action games such as Taito's The Legend of Kage (1985) and Sega's Shinobi (1987), run-and-gun shooters such as Namco's Rolling Thunder (1986), and beat 'em ups such as Technōs Japan's Renegade (1986) and Double Dragon (1987). [4]

Shigeru Miyamoto combined the platforming of Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. (1983) with side-scrolling elements from racing game Excitebike (1984) and beat 'em up Kung-Fu Master to create Super Mario Bros. (1985) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). [39] [40] It went on to have a significant impact on the video game industry, establishing the conventions of the side-scrolling platformer sub-genre and helping to reinvigorate the North American home video game market (after it had crashed in 1983). [4]

Alongside side-scrollers, rail shooters and light gun shooters also became popular during the mid-to-late 1980s. Popular examples include first-person light gun shooting gallery games such as Nintendo's Duck Hunt (1984), pseudo-3D third-person rail shooters such as Sega's Space Harrier (1985) and After Burner (1987), and Taito's Operation Wolf (1987) which popularized military-themed first-person light gun rail shooters. [41] [42]

1990s

A trend that was popularized for action games in the early 1990s was competitive multiplayer, including what would later be known as esports tournaments. The arcade fighting game Street Fighter II (1991) by Capcom popularized the concept of direct, tournament-level competition between two players. [43] Previously, action games most often relied on high scores to determine the best player, but this changed with Street Fighter II, where players would instead challenge each other directly, "face-to-face," to determine the best player, [43] paving the way for the competitive multiplayer and deathmatch modes found in modern action games. [44] Inspired by Street Fighter II, along with the SNK fighting games Fatal Fury (1991) and Art of Fighting (1992), John Romero created the deathmatch mode in id Software's Doom (1993), which popularized competitive multiplayer online games. [45]

In the 1990s, there was a "3D Revolution" where action games made the transition from 2D and pseudo-3D graphics to real-time 3D polygon graphics. 3D arcade system boards that were originally designed for 3D racing games during the late 1980s to early 1990s, such as the Namco System 21, Sega Model 1 and Sega Model 2, were used to produce 3D arcade action games in the early 1990s, including 3D rail shooters such as Namco's Galaxian 3 (1990) and Solvalou (1991), 3D fighting games such as Sega AM2's Virtua Fighter (1993) and Namco's Tekken (1994), and 3D light gun shooters such as Sega AM2's Virtua Cop (1994) and Namco's Time Crisis (1995). [4] On personal computers, the first-person shooter (FPS) genre was popularized by Doom; it is also considered, despite not using 3D polygons, a major leap forward for three-dimensional environments in action games. [46] 3D polygon texture mapping appeared in action games around the mid-1990s, introduced to fighting games by Sega AM2's Virtua Fighter 2 (1994), [47] to light gun shooters by Sega AM2's Virtua Cop in 1994, [48] [49] and to FPS games by Parallax Software's Descent (1995). [50]

Related Research Articles

Player character Game character controlled by a game player

A player character is a fictional character in a video game or tabletop role-playing game whose actions are directly controlled by a player of the game rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character.

Platform game Platform video game genre

Platform games are a video game genre and subgenre of action games in which the core objective is to move the player character between points in a rendered environment. Platformers are characterized by their level of use in jumping and climbing to navigate the player's environment and reach their goal. Levels and environments feature uneven terrain and suspended platforms of varying height that requires use of the player character's abilities in order to traverse. Other acrobatic maneuvers factor into the gameplay as well, such as climbing, swinging from objects such as vines or grappling hooks, jumping off walls, air dashing, gliding through the air, being shot from cannons or bouncing from springboards or trampolines. Games where jumping is automated completely, such as 3D games in The Legend of Zelda series, fall outside of the genre.

Fighting game Video game genre

A fighting game is a video game genre based around close combat between a limited number of characters, in a stage in which the boundaries are fixed. The characters fight each other until they defeat their opponents or the time expires. The matches typically consist of several rounds, in an arena, with each player character having different abilities but each is relatively viable to choose. Players must master techniques such as blocking, counter-attacking, and chaining attacks together into "combos". Starting in the early 1990s, most fighting games allowed the player to execute special attacks by performing specific input combinations. The fighting game genre is related to but distinct from beat 'em ups, which involve large numbers of enemies against the human player.

Boss (video games) Significant and especially strong enemy in video games

In video games, a boss is a significant computer-controlled enemy. A fight with a boss character is commonly referred to as a boss battle or boss fight. Bosses are generally far stronger than other opponents the player has faced up to that point and winning requires a greater knowledge of the game's mechanics. Boss battles are generally seen at climax points of particular sections of games, such as at the end of a level or stage or guarding a specific objective. A miniboss is a boss weaker or less significant than the main boss in the same area or level, though more powerful than the standard enemies and often fought alongside them. A superboss is generally much more powerful than the bosses encountered as part of the main game's plot and often an optional encounter. A final boss is often the main antagonist of a game's story and the defeat of that character provides a positive conclusion to the game. A boss rush is a stage where the player faces multiple previous bosses again in succession.

Shoot em up Subgenre of shooter game

Shoot 'em up is a sub-genre of shooter video games, which are in turn a sub-genre of action video games. There is no consensus as to which design elements compose a shoot 'em up; some restrict the definition to games featuring spacecraft and certain types of character movement, while others allow a broader definition including characters on foot and a variety of perspectives.

<i>Virtua Cop</i> 1994 video game

Virtua Cop is a 1994 light gun shooter game developed by Sega AM2 and designed by Yu Suzuki. It was originally an arcade game on the Sega Model 2 system, and was ported to the Sega Saturn in 1995 and Windows in 1997. The Saturn version included support for both the Virtua Gun and Saturn mouse, as well as a new "Training Mode" which consists of a randomly generated shooting gallery.

Action-adventure game Action-adventure video game genre

Action-adventure is a video game genre that combines core elements from both the action game and adventure game genres.

Shooter game Action video game genre

Shooter video games or shooter games are a subgenre of action video games where the focus is almost entirely on the defeat of the character's enemies using the weapons given to the player. Usually these weapons are firearms or some other long-range weapons, and can be used in combination with other tools such as grenades for indirect offense, armor for additional defense, or accessories such as telescopic sights to modify the behavior of the weapons. A common resource found in many shooter games is ammunition, armor or health, or upgrades which augment the player character's weapons.

<i>Kung-Fu Master</i> (video game) Video game

Kung-Fu Master, known as Spartan X in Japan, is a side-scrolling beat 'em up game developed by Irem as an arcade game in 1984, and distributed by Data East in North America. Designed by Takashi Nishiyama, the game is based on Hong Kong martial arts films. It is loosely adapted from the Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung film Wheels on Meals (1984), called Spartan X in Japan, with the protagonist Thomas named after Jackie Chan's character in the film. However, the game is more heavily inspired by the Bruce Lee film Game of Death (1972), which was the basis for the game's concept. Irem and Data East exported the game to the West without the Spartan X license.

Tomohiro Nishikado Japanese video game developer

Tomohiro Nishikado is a Japanese video game developer and engineer. He is best known as the creator of the arcade shooter game Space Invaders, released to the public in 1978 by the Taito of Japan, often credited as the first shoot 'em up and for beginning the golden age of video arcade games. Originally Nishikado wanted to use airplanes as enemies for Space Invaders, but would have encountered problems making them move smoothly due to the limited computing power at the time. Humans would have been easier to render, but management at Taito forbade the use of human targets.

Though not a complete history, herein is a list of what many would consider most of the "game" changers that made arcade experiences so powerful and nostalgic.

Beat em up Subgenre of action game featuring hand-to-hand combats

Beat 'em up is a video game genre featuring hand-to-hand combat between the protagonist and an improbably large number of opponents. Traditional beat 'em ups take place in scrolling, two-dimensional (2D) levels, though some later games feature more open three-dimensional (3D) environments with yet larger numbers of enemies. The gameplay tends to follow arcade genre conventions, such as being simple to learn but difficult to master, and the combat system tends to be more highly developed than other side-scrolling action games. Two-player cooperative gameplay and multiple player characters are also hallmarks of the genre. Most of these games take place in urban settings and feature crime-fighting and revenge-based plots, though some games may employ historical, science fiction or fantasy themes.

Side-scrolling video game Video game genre

A side-scrolling game or side-scroller is a video game in which the gameplay action is viewed from a side-view camera angle, and as the player's character moves left or right, the screen scrolls with them. These games make use of scrolling computer display technology. The move from single-screen or flip-screen graphics to scrolling graphics, during the golden age of video arcade games and during third-generation consoles, would prove to be a pivotal leap in game design, comparable to the move to 3D graphics during the fifth generation.

In video games, first person is any graphical perspective rendered from the viewpoint of the player's character, or a viewpoint from the cockpit or front seat of a vehicle driven by the character. The most popular type of first-person video game today is the first-person shooter (FPS), in which the graphical perspective is an integral component of the gameplay. Many other genres incorporate first-person perspectives, including other types of shooter games, adventure games, amateur flight simulations, racing games, role-playing video games, and vehicle simulations.

Light gun shooter

Light gun shooter, also called light gun game or simply gun game, is a shooter video game genre in which the primary design element is aiming and shooting with a gun-shaped controller. Light gun shooters revolve around the protagonist shooting targets, either antagonists or inanimate objects. Light gun shooters generally feature action or horror themes and some may employ a humorous, parodic treatment of these conventions. These games typically feature "on-rails" movement, which gives the player control only over aiming; the protagonist's other movements are determined by the game. Games featuring this device are sometimes termed "rail shooters", though this term is also applied to games of other genres in which "on-rails" movement is a feature. Some, particularly later, games give the player greater control over movement and in still others the protagonist does not move at all.

A variety of computer graphic techniques have been used to display video game content throughout the history of video games. The predominance of individual techniques have evolved over time, primarily due to hardware advances and restrictions such as the processing power of central or graphics processing units.

Cover system

A cover system is a video game gameplay mechanic that allows a virtual avatar to hide from and avoid dangers, usually in a three-dimensional world. This method is a digital adaptation of the real-life military tactic of taking cover behind obstacles, for purposes of attaining protection from enemy ranged or area effect attacks, such as gunfire or explosions.

Video games in Japan Overview of video games in Japan

Video gaming in Japan is a major industry. [some people call it the video game city. golden age of video games, including Nintendo under Shigeru Miyamoto and Hiroshi Yamauchi, Sega during the same time period, Sony Computer Entertainment when it was based in Tokyo, and other companies such as Taito, Namco, Capcom, Square Enix, Konami, NEC, and SNK, among others.

History of arcade video games Aspect of history

An arcade video game is an arcade game where the player's inputs from the game's controllers are processed through electronic or computerized components and displayed to a video device, typically a monitor, all contained within an enclosed arcade cabinet. Arcade video games are often installed alongside other arcade games such as pinball and redemption games at amusement arcades. Up until the late 1990s, arcade video games were the largest and most technologically advanced sector of the video game industry.

Arcade game Coin-operated entertainment machine

An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are presented as primarily games of skill and include arcade video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games or merchandisers.

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