A long time ago I found this article about the (for a lack of a better term) complexity of videogame genres. It offered a unique take on how to view videogames, which I have never seen mentioned anywhere else. And as I’ve since lost it and cannot find it I’ll try to sum it up here, with the disclaimer that I did not originate this idea, that it is probably incomplete, and that the placement of these can of course be debated.
The article I mentioned categorizes what exists in game-genres into ~10 groups, with the complexity going upwards.
- Non-fiction Games (Fifa, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, The Sims, GTA, Sports Management Games, Casual Flight Simulators)
- Point & Click Adventure Games
- Puzzle-Games (Tetris)
- Jump’n’Runs (Super Mario Bros)
- Action-Adventure-Games (Tomb Raider)
- Action-Shooters (DOOM, Half-Life 2)
- Tactical Shooters (Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six: Siege)
- Real-Time Strategy (Age of Empires)
- Turn-Based Strategy (Civilization)
- Heavy Simulators (Detailed Flight Sims, Detailed Racing Games)
Here are the take-aways from this:
Most people cluster their preferences around a few entries. Someone who spends all of their time with low-complexity-games will not like a turn-based strategy-game.
Preferences change over time, as people become more “adept” at certain genres
Non-Fiction-Games have a huge range, and are a very common entry-point for non-gamers wanting to play.
There is a divide between consoles and computers around level 5-6. Computers lend themselves to more varied inputs and thus allow certain genres to be easier spread (among other things)
In practice this means when designing a game it makes sense to figure out where on this spectrum it belongs to, and to not over/underwhelm your target audience.
Brütal Legend, for example, is marketed as and appears to be an action-game. 1 hour it turns into a real-time-strategy game though, which confused a lot of people.
Also posted on Gamasutra