I'm building a list of genres for video games, or possibly for digital games. Either way I'm trying to start at the top level by focusing on the big conventions that organize around pillar verbs or core mechanics.
I'm making a tool for thinking about game genre for design. It focuses on the pillar verbs that are intentionally built into games via core mechanics rather than the emergent verbs that best characterize the player experience. I have the highest regard for understandings of games focused on the player experience. After all, I've already spent a bunch of time studying players myself, and more importantly every designer worth their salt knows that players are highly unpredictable creatures, and at the end of the day there's no telling exactly what they'll do with your game.* In fact, that's exactly why this list is focused on choices that the designer makes. Here are the top level genres thus far:
- Puzzle (Decode, Reorganize, etc.)
- Shooter (Aim, Shoot, etc.)
- Platformer (Run, Jump, etc.)
- Strategy (Move, Attack, etc.)
- Vehicle (Accelerate, Steer, etc.)
- Physics (Drop, Launch, etc.)
- Sports (Run, Catch, etc.)
- Interactive Narrative (Ask, Answer, etc.)
- Fighter (Punch, Block, etc.)
- Management (Tend, Task, etc.)
- Music (Tap, Sing, etc.)
- Dance (Stomp, Step, etc.)
- Fitness (Step, Run, etc.)
- Social (Check-in, Share, etc.)
- Adventure (Travel, Encounter, etc.)
- Building (Design, Arrange, etc.)
What else you got?
*See also: Why games are art.
I think that's it...oh wait.
- RPG (Fight, Loot, Travel, Encounter, etc.)
It raises all kinds of issues, but you can't just ignore it and of course I can always trust my friends and colleagues to stir the pot when issues present themselves. Over on Twitter Jordan commented:
RPG isn't really the same kind of word as your others, I'd place it as (Empathize, Narrate)*. Or put it in Strategy.
Indeed, RPG isn't the same as the others and there are very good arguments for putting it in Strategy. Not only do RPGs share common structures with RTSs and other Strategy video games, but the the paper and pencil antecedents of RPGs were of course derived from strategy game systems. As you can see, this is why I inititally noted that even mentioning RPGs raises all kinds of issues. Still, I'm keeping it for now because it's even more problematic not to include it given how many sub-genres it has.
* In response to Jordan's challenge on verb choice, I've replaced Fight and Loot with Travel and Encounter. Empathize and Narrate strike me as second order verbs (not to be confused with secondary verbs). These are things players do in play, but in the case of video games they emerge from play rather than deriving from the rules. In the case of tabletop RPGs, I'd be much more ready to regard Empathize and Narrate as pillar verbs (for both players and GMs) as they are more codified as aspects of play.
Also, this is a really good place to point out that although I've only included two verbs for each genre, as top order genres each of these includes a wide range of verbs that aren't listed (i.e Music: Dance, Drum etc.). Additionally I recognize that some games have more than two verbs that are central. One could argue that by definition RPGs have a lot, and that this is part of what makes them problematic...this is probably worthy of a separate blog post.