Video game genre

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A video game genre is a loose classification group for video games to describe their similarity to other games. Video game genres are based on a large variety of potential metrics including how the game is played, which game mechanics are employed, what the story is like, what the game looks like, when the game was made, what hardware is required to run it, and various other concepts. This differs from the genres of other forms of media like books and film which are usually based almost entirely on the story or content alone.

Over the years, a number of schemes have been used to try and create genres for video games, but they're never objective or comprehensive. Part of the complexity of classifying video games into genres is the huge variety video games have seen over the years, much of which stems from the fact that video games are interactive. Depending on the scheme used, most games can accurately be described as fitting into multiple genres. Also, since new ideas for games are being devised by designers all the time, video game classification systems eventually become obsolete.

Potential Metrics

When describing a video game genre, a large number of metrics are considered which help give other players an idea for what the game will be like.


Which game mechanic or set of mechanics are used.

Narrative type

This is much closer to the genre seen with novels and is based on the story itself. Is the story an adventure, romance, thriller, etc.


Much like with other forms of fiction, the setting plays an important factor in if a player might want to play the game. Setting is a combination of where and when the story takes place.


This describes what the game is generally about regardless of the story or lack there of. For example, a game where you pilot an airplane could be a technical flight simulator or a violent dog fighting, but, in both cases, they're about flying. Religious games often have religious content, that could be described just as easily fall under the category of "adventure," but the publishers often want potential buyers to know the game is religious.


The perspective used to present the game world to the player has a surprisingly large effect on how the game plays. Compare a first-person shooter to a third-person shooter or a top-down adventure game to a side-view adventure game. Many games have multiple perspectives.


There are many ways to describe which era a game is from. You can base it on the bits of the CPU (8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, etc.) the video game generation, the year or decade, and so forth. Also, while there is no law which requires newer games to be different from older games, major shifts in video game culture have changed the way games are made and played over the years. Golden age games were primarily focused on obtaining high scores within a limited number of lives by painstakingly honing your skills over time, but modern games are more about capturing the player's attention and giving them a memorable experience.


First, it was important to be able to know the difference between turn-based and real-time games. When network gaming started it introduced persistent games, and the boom in mobile gaming, introduced casual games.

Number of players

Because many video games are meant to be competitive or shared experiences, it often helps to categorize game by how many players can play, and how they interact, like solo, two-player co-op, two-player versus, four-player, massive multiplayer, etc.

Game similarity

Whenever a game is especially popular, there will be many games which follow the same formula. Using the popular game as the name of the genre is much easier than describing all the metrics. Common examples include Roguelike, Doom clone, Ultima clone, Pong clone, etc.

Traditional game

Many video games are just electronic versions of a traditional game. When this happens, it's much easier to describe the genre as the traditional game rather than tease apart the mechanics of the original. For example, card game, football game, dice game, pinball game, etc.

Art style

Early video games were never classified in this manner, but, as the technology began to allow for unique art styles, it became more popular to do so. Examples may include photo-realistic, 8-bit, cell-shading (cartoon), comic book, etc.


Now that it's become much easier to self-publish games, players find important distinctions between AAA and indie games. It is also important to note unlicensed games which may be either bootleg games or fan games.

Age group

Now that games appeal to pretty much everyone, the target age group is an important metric. Parents especially want to know if the game is appropriate for their kids or teens, but many players want to know how much adult content like nudity and violence is in the game.

Required hardware

Because video game hardware is so varied, and so many peripheral devices have been made, it often helps to categorize games by the hardware required to play them, like if it needs a light gun, mouse, or VR headset. The hardware or software platform also gives an indication for how the game will look and what will be capable.

Pricing model

How or if a game is bought plays an important role in its design. Games which are "free," but require the player to watch ads, or let them spend real money for in-game upgrades, typically play quite differently from games the player paid for. Pricing models include: free, nagware, adware, and commercial.

See Also


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