Gamers are spoilt for choice these days. There'll be a game everyone can enjoy, no matter what their tastes. Please note that this article is merely a beginner's guide to some of the types of computer game out there; many modern games can be extremely sophisticated and fit into more than one category.
This is an enormously popular type of game where the player views the action from the point of view of the character they control, hence "first person". Gameplay involves fighting through a series of levels, shooting enemies and meeting pre-defined goals. These games can be quite violent and many are intended for more grown-up players.
A popular element of these games is Multiplayer modes, where players work alone or as part of a team to meet objectives. This gives gamers huge amounts of replay value trying to beat their friends.
- Can develop fast reactions
- Some multiplayer modes encourage teamwork
- Very social - gamers often play against their friends online and face-to-face
- Can be quite violent, especially "scripted events" in single player games
- Difficulty level can be very high, especially online
- Single player modes can be quite short, often around ten hours
Popular examples: Call of Duty, Halo, Killzone, Battlefield
Played entirely online, these games are the biggest and longest available. There are potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay here, involving thousands of players from all around the world.
There are normally hundreds of people online at any time - hence "Massively Multiplayer". Characters become more powerful as they progress, and a large part of the game will involve finding rare equipment that gives the player specialist bonuses.
Note: These games are frequently modified and expanded by the developers, so new content is added on a regular basis. Because of this, gamers often have to pay a monthly subscription in addition to the initial cost of the software. Others may be "free to play" but charge for certain premium content or services.
- Long lasting with the promise of future content
- Huge online community and can be very social
- Encourages teamwork, attention to detail and strategy
- Additional costs
- Can be very time consuming
- Finding a group for certain quests can involve lengthy waits and queues
Popular Examples: World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, RIFT, Star Wars: The Old Republic
Sandbox games give players the option to do what they want. Often set in large open worlds or cities, players are free to focus on a main quest or explore, discover bonus missions and cause mayhem.
Some of these games feature destructible environments, allowing players to destroy buildings or parts of the landscape. Most let you "steal" any vehicle you find, which may produce shocked reactions from innocent bystanders in the game.
The inclusion of pedestrians and bystanders is one of the most controversial parts of Sandbox games, and a key reason they're often intended for adult players only. Players can kill or harass these characters, intentionally or accidentally, although it should be pointed out that this is rarely a required part of the game and you may suffer in-game penalties for your actions.
- Freedom to do whatever you want
- Wide variety of tasks and missions
- Rewards exploration and allows multiple approaches to gameplay
- Can lack the structure of other games
- Content may be controversial or adult
- Can become repetitive after a while
Popular Examples: Grand Theft Auto, Saint's Row, Crackdown
These fast-paced games have players leaping, dodging and fighting their way through levels. Often containing elements of platform and FPS games, these are popular single player experiences that deliver a compelling blend of exploration and combat.
- Action-packed and exciting
- Often structured around an involving story
- Levels often feature "puzzles" that test your brain as well as reactions
- May be little replay value once completed
- Games can be quite short - Between 8 - 15 hours
- 3D platforming sections can be frustrating
Popular Examples: Tomb Raider, Gears of War, Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank
As opposed to MMORPGs, these are long, story driven, single player experiences. Games normally feature a party of characters the player gets to know and develop, using their skills in tactical battles by identifying and exploiting the enemy's weak spots.
- Long main quests, often offering between 20 - 40 hours of gameplay
- Epic storylines and interesting characters can be very engrossing
- Games can be as action-packed and as they are tactical
- Battles can be lengthy and repetitive and occur randomly
- Games can be time consuming, with few places to save progress
- Some games' storylines take time to get going or feel formulaic
Popular Examples: Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Skyrim
Almost everything you can think of can be simulated in a game. Aircraft, trains, city planning, even the lives of ordinary people. These can be simple, fun, games anyone can pick up and play all the way through to hardcore recreations aimed at reproducing the most realistic experience possible.
The same applies for driving games - Many are arcade-style racing games, delivering exciting thrills and spectacular crashes. Others focus on exceptionally realistic car handling, requiring as much attention to setting the car up correctly as following the right racing line.
- Plenty of depth
- Often have very realistic graphics
- Games available for everyone from the casual gamer to the hardcore expert
- Can be very "niche"
- May require purchase of extra equipment for the best experience (e.g. Flight Simulator joysticks)
- Difficulty level on more serious sims can be daunting to newcomers
Popular Examples: The Sims, Sim City, Silent Hunter, Microsoft Flight Simulator
Fun for all the family, casual, fitness and music games are designed to be easy for anyone to pick-up-and-play. All three of these feature controls that are easy to understand, sometimes even using specially designed devices shaped like musical instruments or cameras to track your movements.
- All these genres feature difficulty settings that allow everyone to join in
- Often designed for several players, so the whole family can have fun
- Simple, quick fun, with some titles offering a real lasting challenge on higher difficulties
- Some titles lack enough substance to keep you coming back after a while
- May require purchase of additional equipment
- Can require some physical space to move about in
Popular Examples: Wii Sports, Rock Band, Dance Central, Raving Rabbids
For all you armchair generals out there, there's a whole army of strategic games to test your battle plans on. Even the most simple of these games offer a decent level of depth, and the most complex can provide years of gameplay. Games can be real time, where you react to events as they develop, or turn based like a board game.
- Complex scenarios develop tactical skills and planning
- Historical games can be very educational
- Deeper titles offer almost unlimited replay value
- Multiplayer modes can be difficult for newcomers
- Real time games can get hectic, while others may find turn based too ponderous
- More complex games can have an off-putting high initial difficulty curve
Popular Examples: Civilzation, Starcraft, Europa Universalis, Total War, Sins of a Solar Empire
For those who fancy testing their combat skills but don't want any of the bruises, these competitive fighting games are hard to beat. Simple moves are easy to do, while more complicated special attacks are activated by difficult combinations of button presses.
While fun in single player mode, these games really come alive when played against another person.
- Simple to pick up, while rewarding skilled players
- Excellent for multiplayer
- Often a wide variety of characters to play as
- Advanced play requires memorising difficult button combinations
- Single player mode may have limited appeal
- Some may find female bodies and costumes too sexualised in some games
Popular Examples: Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, Tekken, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, Soul Calibre
Everybody remembers Space Invaders, and Shoot-'em-ups are one of the most recognisable types of computer game.
The genre has fallen out of favour over recent years, and is mainly played by "hardcore" gamers. These tend to focus on Retro releases or remakes and more modern Bullet-Hell games, where the player has to navigate through increasingly difficult levels where the screens literally fill will complex patterns of bullets and lasers.
- Classic arcade action with high replay value
- Develops fast reactions and memory
- Can be graphically spectacular
- Difficulty level can be extreme
- Games are very short by modern standards
- Limited selection of new titles, not always easily available
Popular Examples: Ikaruga, Deathsmiles, Geometry Wars, DoDonPachi, Radiant Silvergun
Another very recognisable genre, platform games have you hopping about levels, collecting items and avoiding enemies. These are normally very family friendly, cartoony and simple to pick-up-and-play. However, games can get quite tricky in later levels which may cause frustration.
A popular subgenre is the Platform Adventure, where characters jump around to explore a larger world and battle enemies. These are very rewarding, but can require lots of puzzle solving and tricky combat sections.
- Simple concept makes them easy to approach
- Often family friendly
- High replay value to find all the secrets
- Can become frustratingly difficult
- Platform Adventures are more suited to older or experienced gamers
- There are so many platform games it's hard to find the good ones
Popular examples: Super Mario, Castlevania, Sonic the Hedgehog, Metroid, Rayman
If you like giving your brain a workout there's a plethora of mind-bending puzzle titles out there. These can be abstract shape matching games, Hidden Object treasure hunts, logic-based adventures and even training sessions for your brain.
- Mentally challenging
- So much variety, there's a game for everyone
- Addictive fun, but great for a quick break
- Can become repetitive
- Badly designed puzzles are frustrating
- Some games lack replay value once all puzzles are solved
Popular Examples: Tetris, Bejewelled, Peggle, Professor Layton, Brain Training
Increasing in popularity over recent years are more experimental types of game, often developed by independent programmers or small studios. While these programs may lack the spectacular graphics of higher budget software, they often make up for this with innovative and fascinating gameplay.
Art games are an acquired taste, pushing the limits of what a game is into new territory. Many of these are not something you'll play for long, as they're often more about the experience than traditional "fun". However, at their best they can be thought-provoking, rewarding and imaginative.
- Often cheaper than "mainstream" games
- Innovative fun, seen as the "cutting edge" of gaming
- Many titles available to purchase and download online
- Some games "basic" or "retro" graphics may not appeal to everyone
- Can be an acquired taste
- Small development budgets mean the games may not last as long as mainstream titles
Popular Examples: Super Meat Boy, World of Goo, Pixeljunk, Braid, Minecraft, Sleep is Death