Games come in many varieties

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

All gamers have types of games they like. Some may like all of them, some may like a vary narrow range. As a non-gamer, a beginning gamer or even a parent looking to shop for a gaming child, game types or genres can be quite confusing.
The next few columns will serve as an introduction to the most common genres, with this week’s covering action games, adventure games as well as music games. After each description is a list of some quality games in that genre.
ACTION GAMES
These sorts of games often rely on reflexes and pattern recognition more than strategy, tactics or problem solving.
Today’s action games most often fall under one or more sub-categories, though may are still simply dubbed “Action.”
Examples: Pac-Man, Defender, Contra, Devil May Cry series, Ninja Gaiden series.
PLATFORMER
This genre comes from games like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Platformers come in both two dimensional and three dimensional variants. 2D platformers feature long, linear levels with many ledges to jump on and pits to fall in. 3D platformers involve large levels with lots of open space and many platforms to jump between.
Both genres focus on the players ability to judge distances and nimbly leap between ledges, while avoiding pits and enemies.
Well-made platformers appeal to gamers of all ages, they feature themes suitable for children, but have engaging gameplay for players of all ages.
Examples: Rayman series, Mario series, Sonic the Hedgehog series, Psychonauts, Earthworm Jim
FIGHTING
These games focus on combat, usually between two characters.
Most fighting games feature special moves where specific combinations of buttons result in more powerful attacks. Players are also rewarded for landing consecutive blows on opponents.
Fighting games are popular for multiplayer, as two or more players can play simultaneously.
Some fighting games like Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series do not feature intricate combos and can be more accessible to players not accustomed to fighting games.
Due to the nature of their content fighting games are generally suitable for teenage gamers and older.
Examples: Street Fighter series, Soul Calibur series, Tekken series, Mortal Kombat series.
FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
FPS games are incredibly popular and equally diverse in their content. At heart an FPS is a game where the player sees the game world through a character’s eyes. This usually results in looking down the barrel of a gun.
The player controls movement and where their character looks.
Early FPS games simply had players eliminate enemies, collect keys and find the exit to each level, but they have since become much more complex and are often very cinematic.
FPS games are very popular as multiplayer games, usually over the Internet. Top quality FPS games deliver a cinematic experience, responsive controls and good online play.
There are some games, like Gears of War, which adhere to many of the conventions of FPS games but are viewed from over the character’s shoulder. These are referred to as Third Person Shooters.
First and third person shooters tend to be violent and have mature content, but some are suitable for younger teens.
Examples: Call of Duty series, Half- Life series, Doom series, Halo series, Dark Forces/Jedi Knight Series.
ADVENTURE GAMES
One of the earliest genres, adventure games, have begun to recover from an almost complete disappearance in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Early adventure games were essentially interactive novels, consisting entirely of text. In the early 1990s graphics were added and the point-and- click interface became standard. Adventure games usually involve complex and engrossing stories wherein the players unravels the plot’s mysteries by moving an on-screen character around to interact with the environment.
Adventure games differ from action games in their pace; they are slow. Time is spent scouring the locales for clues that are later assembled to advance the story.
Adventure games are usually very cerebral, involving a lot of problem solving and lateral thinking. The genre eventually became a niche and almost died out. Games like Zak and Wiki and Phoenix Wright have breathed new life into the genre and made it more approachable.
The resurgence has led some older adventure franchises, such as Sam & Max, to be resurrected.
Some older adventure games have more mature plots and are suitable for gamers around 14, while others are designed with younger gamers in mind.
Examples: Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit the Road, Phoenix Wright series, Zak & Wiki.
MUSIC GAMES
Any game that centres around responding to musical cues is called a music game. This makes the genre quite diverse.
The most popular music games are
Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These games use custom controllers to emulate the feel of playing a musical instrument while players press buttons along with the music to aurally emulate playing an instrument.
Music games are extremely popular in Japan, especially in arcades, and some of the wacky Japanese music games on home console are starting influence the North American market.
There are numerous music games that do not feature custom controllers. Elite Beat agents and Rhythm Heaven (coming out in October) features silly, unrealistic scenarios all tied together by player response to music. While music games won’t make you a better musician, they can help improve your sense of rhythm and hand/eye co-ordination. Plus they’re really fun. Most music games are well-suited to gamers of all ages, though the very young may lack the hand/eye co-ordination to enjoy them.
I hope that clears up some of the genres out there. In two weeks I’ll be focusing on roleplaying and strategy games.
Calen Henry is a graduate of Japanese studies and multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

© 2008 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.

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