Video game genre

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This space-themed video game is a shoot 'em up, or a horizontally scrolling shooter. RosAsmGameSpace.png
This space-themed video game is a shoot 'em up, or a horizontally scrolling shooter.
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A video game genre is a classification assigned to a video game based primarily on its gameplay (type of interaction) rather than visual or narrative features. [1] [2] A video game genre is normally defined by a set of gameplay challenges considered independently of setting or game-world content, unlike works of fiction that are expressed through other media, such as films or books. For example, a shooter game is still a shooter game, regardless of where or when it takes place. [3] [4]


As with nearly all varieties of genre classification, the matter of a specific game's genre is open to subjective interpretation. An individual game may belong to several genres at once. [1]


In Tom Hirschfeld's 1981 book How to Master the Video Games , he divides the included games into broad categories in the table of contents: Space Invaders -type, Asteroids -type, maze, reflex, and miscellaneous. [5] The first two of these correspond to the still-used genres of fixed shooter and multidirectional shooter. Maze is also a modern genre.

The platform game genre is another that started out with a different name. After the release of Donkey Kong , there was a spate of games with ladders and jumping. Steve Bloom, in his 1982 book Video Invaders, labeled these "climbing games." [6] The same term was used by the US and UK press in 1983, including magazines Electronic Games and TV Gamer. [7] [8]

Chris Crawford attempted to classify video games in his 1984 book The Art of Computer Game Design . In this book, Crawford primarily focused on the player's experience and activities required for gameplay. [9] Here, he stated that "the state of computer game design is changing quickly. We would therefore expect the taxonomy presented [in this book] to become obsolete or inadequate in a short time." [10] As hardware capabilities have increased, new genres have become possible, with examples being increased memory, the move from 2D to 3D, new peripherals, online functionalities, and location-based mechanics.

The video game industry expanded in the 1990s and both smaller and independent publishers had little chance of surviving. Because of this, game developers settled more into set genres that larger publishers and retailers could use for marketing. [2]


The use of "Doom clone" (red) versus "first-person shooter" (blue) over time Doom clone vs first person shooter.png
The use of "Doom clone" (red) versus "first-person shooter" (blue) over time

Due to "direct and active participation" of the player, video game genres differ from literary and film genres. Though one could state that Space Invaders is a science fiction video game, author Mark J.P. Wolf wrote that such a classification "ignores the fundamental differences and similarities which are to be found in the player's experience of the game." [9] In contrast to the visual aesthetics of games, which can vary greatly, it is argued that it is interactivity characteristics that are common to all games. [1]

Like film genres, the names of video game genres have come about generally as a common understanding between the audience and the producers. [9] Descriptive names of genres take into account the goals of the game, the protagonist and even the perspective offered to the player. For example, a first-person shooter is a game that is played from a first-person perspective and involves the practice of shooting. [11] Whereas "shooter game" is a genre name, "first-person shooter" and "third-person shooter" are common subgenres of the shooter genre. [12] Other examples of such prefixes are real-time, turn based, top-down and side-scrolling. Genre names are not fixed and may change over time because of the nature of audience-producer agreement on genre naming. One of the best known examples of such changes is with the waning of "Doom clones", initially used for games like 1993's Doom , into "first-person shooters" over the next several years with the latter becoming most predominate for the genre by around 2000. [13]

The target audience, underlying theme or purpose of a game are sometimes used as a genre identifier, such as with "Christian game" and "serious game" respectively. However, because these terms do not indicate anything about the gameplay of a video game, these are not considered genres. [2]


Video game genres vary in specificity, with popular video game reviews using genre names varying from "action" to "baseball". In this practice, basic themes and more fundamental characteristics are used alongside each other. [14]

A game may combine aspects of multiple genres in such a way that it becomes hard to classify under existing genres. For example, because Grand Theft Auto III combined shooting, driving and roleplaying in an unusual way, it was hard to classify using existing terms. The term Grand Theft Auto clone has been used to describe games mechanically similar to Grand Theft Auto III. [11] Similarly, the term roguelike has been developed for games that share similarities with Rogue. [15]

Elements of the role-playing genre, which focuses on storytelling and character growth, have been implemented in many different genres of video games. This is because the addition of a story and character enhancement to an action, strategy or puzzle video game does not take away from its core gameplay, but adds an incentive other than survival to the experience. [16]

In addition to gameplay elements, some games may be categorized by other schemes, those these are typically not used as genres: [1]


According to some analysts, the percentage of each broad genre in the best-selling physical games worldwide is broken down as follows. [17] [18] [19]



VGC top 100ESASta
Action 613412152725222922.526.9
Adventure 11247621017.87.9
Fighting 15105253555.87.8
Platform 1071094349
Puzzle 92610011
Racing 6613854663.35.8
Role-playing 1818257161215171212.911.3
Shooter 1118142224191327.520.9
Simulation 67504402
Sports 91917161213151311.711.1
Strategy 10783100214.33.7

Related Research Articles

Video game Electronic game that involves a user interface and visual feedback

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device -- such as a joystick, controller, keyboard, or motion sensing devices, to generate visual feedback for a player. This is then shown on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV set, monitor, touchscreen, or virtual reality headset. Video games are augmented with audio feedback from speakers or headphones, and optionally with other types of feedback systems including haptic technology.

Platform game Video game genre

Platform games are a video game genre and subgenre of action games. Platformers are characterized by their heavy use of jumping and climbing to navigate the player's environment and reach their goal. Levels and environments tend to 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 often factor into the gameplay as well, such as climbing, swinging from objects such as vines or grappling hooks, jumping off of walls, air dashing, gliding through the air, being shot from cannons or bouncing from springboards or trampolines. These mechanics, even in the context of other genres, are commonly called platforming. The most common unifying element of games of this genre is the ability to jump. Games where jumping is automated completely, such as 3D games in The Legend of Zelda series, fall outside of the genre.

Roguelike Subgenre of role-playing video games

Roguelike is a subgenre of role-playing video games characterized by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and permanent death of the player character. Most roguelikes are based on a high fantasy narrative, reflecting their influence from tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

<i>Space Invaders</i> Landmark fixed shooter arcade video game from 1978

Space Invaders is a 1978 arcade game created by Tomohiro Nishikado. It was manufactured and sold by Taito in Japan, and licensed in the United States by the Midway division of Bally. Within the shooter genre, Space Invaders was the first fixed shooter and set the template for the shoot 'em up genre. The goal is to defeat wave after wave of descending aliens with a horizontally moving laser to earn as many points as possible.

Shoot em up Subgenre of shooter game

Shoot 'em up is a subgenre of video games within the shooter subgenre in the action genre. 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; others allow a broader definition including characters on foot and a variety of perspectives.

Survival horror Subgenre of action-adventure video games

Survival horror is a subgenre of action-adventure and horror video games that focuses on survival of the character as the game tries to frighten players with either horror graphics or scary ambience. Although combat can be part of the gameplay, the player is made to feel less in control than in typical action games through limited ammunition or weapons, health, speed and vision, or through various obstructions of the player's interaction with the game mechanics. The player is also challenged to find items that unlock the path to new areas and solve puzzles to proceed in the game. Games make use of strong horror themes, like dark mazelike environments and unexpected attacks from enemies.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replay value and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

Action-adventure game 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 games are a subgenre of action video game, which often test the player's spatial awareness, reflexes, and speed in both isolated single player or networked multiplayer environments. Shooter games encompass many subgenres that have the commonality of focusing on the actions of the avatar engaging in combat with a weapon against both code-driven NPC enemies or other avatars controlled by other players.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to video games:

Action role-playing game

Action role-playing is a subgenre of video games that combines core elements from both the action game and of role-playing video games.

Twitch gameplay

Twitch gameplay is a type of video gameplay scenario that tests a player's response time. Action games such as shooters, sports, multiplayer online battle arena, and fighting games often contain elements of twitch gameplay. For example, first-person shooters such as Counter-Strike as well as Call of Duty shooters require quick reaction times for the players to shoot enemies, and fighting games such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat require quick reaction times to attack or counter an opponent. Other video game genres may also involve twitch gameplay. For example, the puzzle video game Tetris gradually speeds up as the player makes progress.

<i>Grand Theft Auto</i> clone

A Grand Theft Auto clone is a subgenre of open world action-adventure video games, characterized by their likeness to the Grand Theft Auto series in either gameplay, or overall design. In these types of open world games, players may find and use a variety of vehicles and weapons while roaming freely in an open world setting. The objective of Grand Theft Auto clones is to complete a sequence of core missions involving driving and shooting, but often side-missions and minigames are added to improve replay value. The storylines of games in this subgenre typically have strong themes of crime, violence and other controversial elements such as drugs and sexually explicit content.

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.

Third-person shooter

Third-person shooter (TPS) is a subgenre of 3D shooter games in which the gameplay consists primarily of shooting. It is very closely related to first-person shooters, but with the player character visible on-screen during play.

First-person shooter Action video game genre

First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre centered on gun and other weapon-based combat in a first-person perspective; that is, the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist. The genre shares common traits with other shooter games, which in turn makes it fall under the heading action game. Since the genre's inception, advanced 3D and pseudo-3D graphics have challenged hardware development, and multiplayer gaming has been integral.

An adventure game is a video game in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving. The genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of literary genres. Many adventure games are designed for a single player, since this emphasis on story and character makes multiplayer design difficult. Colossal Cave Adventure is identified as the first such adventure game, first released in 1976, while other notable adventure game series include Zork, King's Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Myst.

This list includes terms used in video games and the video game industry, as well as slang used by players.

A horror game is a video game genre centered on horror fiction and typically designed to scare the player. Unlike most other video game genres, which are classified by their gameplay, horror games are nearly always based on narrative or visual presentation, and use a variety of gameplay types.


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