Games have become an integral part of human culture. They are often distinct from work or art, but this distinction is rather conditional as you can see professional players of different games or video games which gave a rise to different art directions like pixel art or 8-bit music.Key roles performed by games are psychological, educational or simulational. The major components are goals, tools, rules, interaction and challenge. The combination of tools and rules affects the way you interact with a game environment trying to achieve a goal. As for the challenge there are two kinds of games: with multiple players and single-player games. In the first case challenge appears within the group of players or between several teams. In the second – between the player and element of the environment, time, chance or one’s own skills.
Types of games
Competitive sports, tabletop games, and video games are three basic types of games. The first type is the most ancient one. Different cave paintings are the direct evidence for this. Nowadays many sports are impossible without dedicated playing fields and special equipment, so they involve additional resources, often provided by the city government. Also, not all competitive sports are games. For example, in gymnastics the interaction between competitors is absent.
Tabletop games, in their turn, are not so old, but they are more accessible in comparison with competitive sports. Board games, dice games, card games, paper and pencil games, tile based games, role playing games are all sub-categories of this type of games. Each of them forms its own genres.
Video games are the youngest among three types, but with the widest borders. Virtual space, used in video games, have many different forms. It can mimic sports and tabletop games or create something unique. Video games always require input devices like controller, joystick, keyboard and/or mouse and different motion sensitive tools.
Video games exist in many different genres. Depending on a platform (the software and hardware combination) there are:
Arcade games begin their history with coin-operated pinball machines (since 1930s) and electro-mechanical games (since 1966). In 1971, appeared first coin-operated version of the Spacewar video game, and in 1972, the legendary game Pong was introduced. Period between the late 1970s and the end of 1980s was the golden age in the history of arcade video games. There was the second wave of popularity in the 90-s, but it wasn’t so pervasive as the first one. Today we can observe the decline of classic arcade games in their original form, but they gain the new popularity as a genre on PC, consoles, different mobile devices and as browser games. Short levels with rapidly increasing difficulty and intuitive control schemes are distinctive features of arcade games.
The main feature of computer games is binding to the PC. Since the release of OXO in 1952, computer games covered a variety of different genres and types. The only unchangeable condition is the platform. The same is true for other aforementioned types of video games.
Today we can see a rapid growth of the mobile games popularity. The increase of smartphone and tablet markets plays a very significant role in this process. Since 1997, when the Snake was launched on Nokia mobile phones, mobile games covered almost all existing genres and became a great alternative to computer and console games. The turning point for the industry became the appearance of iPhone and Apple App Store. This led to adoption of new standards and absolutely changed the market.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 33% of users prefer playing games on smartphones while 25% – on other mobile devices. The market itself grew up from one billion subscribers in 2002 to six billion in 2011 (the number of unique subscribers is lower, ’cause one user often owns several devices). It is significant higher than 350 million users of mobile devices with the Snake in 1997. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, mobile games market will surpass the milestone of $12 billion by 2014.
The other approach identifies action games, adventure games and their mixes (shooters, mazes, real-time adventures, survival games, etc.); role-playing games (RPGs); simulation games (life, construction, management simulation); strategies (from tower defense to 4X games); puzzle games; sports games and some other genres.
According to the purpose, there are casual games, educational games, advergames, art games, christian games, exergames, electronic sports and serious games.
Let’s talk about the most spread genre – casual games. They have simple play techniques, clear rules and are targeted at a mass audience. Their main features are elementary gameplay; short levels and (very often) lack of the need to save the game. According to Wiki, the number of online casual gamers is 200 million per month.
The first casual game appeared in 1980 – it was legendary arcade game Pac-Man. Tetris launch in 1989 was another important milestone for the genre. This event led the road to portable gaming devices. With Solitaire casual games appeared on a computer. This free game, preloaded to Windows, reached high popularity among new players. In 1996 casual games hit the web. They offered multiplayer and covered different genres such as puzzles, cards, trivia or bingo. The most eminent one was Bejeweled. Cell phones were the next platform for the expansion. Their limited capabilities became the perfect condition for simple games. Appearance on the iPod was next successful step for casual games. They also became popular on game consoles and mobile devices. The other breakthrough of casual games happened in 2008, and it is associated with social network games. Everything started with Happy Farm and soon inspired many developers to make their own versions of the game. The most successful is FarmVille with 70 million users. Expansion to all existing platforms made casual games very popular among very different audiences.
Wide growth of the internet community caused the appearance of indie games (independent video games). There is no any certain definition of the genre, but generally indie games are created by an individual or a small team. The product is often focused on innovation, and it is distributed in digital form. The major difference between indie and conventional games is in the absence of different publisher restrictions.
Indie games start their history in 90-s on PC with the steep rise in the end of 2000s. For more than 20 years, they moved from PCs to consoles and mobile devices. The genre has one significant problem – the lack of marketing; therefore, mainstream titles always have more chances to gain a bigger audience.
Most popular indie games titles are World of Goo, Minecraft and Braid. The main annual event is Indie Game Jam.
Social games form another internet dependent game genre. Based on the internet as a whole, and on social networks as its particular, social games have gained considerable popularity within last five years. The audience of most popular titles amounts to tens of millions of users. Such popularity is caused by their simplicity, addictiveness and widespread acceptance of social networks. Social games belong to casual games according to the purpose and mobile or browser games according to the platform. Happy Farm, YoVille, Mob Wars, The Sims Social, Gardens of Time, CityVille are the most popular titles.
Social video games are highly associated with users life in social network. Interaction with friends is a must. Another important feature is asynchronous gameplay. It gives the ability for users not to play at the same time. It is also impossible to win in social games. Players can solve quests, reach game goals and gain points endlessly. If they want to upgrade, it is possible to use virtual currency, which can be purchased with the real money. It is 90% of social game developers revenue. Another source of income is advertising (banners, videos and product placement). With such popularity social games gradually become a new marketing tool.
As you can see, today video games are the most accessible between all other types. They have their history, culture and the increasing audience. A wide variety of forms and genres and a large number of platforms allow to involve people of all tastes and preferences. This turns video games into the marketing tool. Mobile, online, browser and social games play primary roles in this process.