Are genres useful to categorize games?
And why do we even want to categorize games?
Genres have always been a complex issue. Not only for games, but also for music, books, and movies.
Have you ever read Moby Dick? It’s this magnificent adventure that makes you want to jump onto a ship and sail into the unknown, but it also contains pages and pages about scientific facts of whales.
So, how do you categorize a book like that?
Something similar happens with video games.
To delve further into this, we've created a special YouTube video where we explore the complexities of categorizing games across different genres.
You can watch it here:
Genres in Video Games: How they can help you
Consider Mario Maker.
The brilliance of Mario Maker lies in the fact that Nintendo understood that if you give Mario mechanics to any game designer, they will create a lot of different types of Mario leves across different gaming genres.
Or a game like Fez, where you have to move from one platform to another, but also have to resolve puzzles, and overcome the challenge of rotating different 2D views in a kind of 3D world.
When everything can be flexible and dynamic, why even bother trying to understand something so steady and fixed as genres?
Well, because genres can help you to give order to a chaotic world.
If you have an extremely distracted mind, being able to recognize one genre from another can make you focus on what type of game you would like to create.
Or it could also be the opposite: if you are too creative and want to constantly blend ideas, thinking too much about genres might limit your creation process.
The approach you take is given by the way you work.
The Importance of AI, Prompting, and Creating
However, it’s always good to know how to name certain things. In these times dominated by AI, knowing how to use the right words to prompt is a skill that will save you lots of time and work.
To have a good output from ChatGPT, you need to structure a good input.
The AI Gamemaker platform we are developing works the same way: to create a game, you will need to put the idea you have into words.
And if you are a beginner game developer, understanding the possibilities and limitations of different genres can give you a solid starting point.
So, let’s talk about some popular video game genres that you might choose to tackle in your game development journey, and the unique advantages and challenges of each of them.
Platformers 101: A Starting Point for Indie Game Developers
There is a consensus that platform games are the most recommended genre for an indie game dev who’s starting.
There are countless tutorials and resources available online specifically for platformer games. This means you can learn from the experiences of others and get help when you're stuck.
And since platformers are mostly about guiding a character to jump between suspended platforms, avoid obstacles, and combat enemies to progress, they allow you to understand basic game mechanics such as physics, character movement, level design, and collision detection.
Good level design is crucial on a platform game, and the main challenge would probably be creating the right difficulty: it's important to make the game challenging enough to be engaging, but not so difficult that it frustrates the player.
Adding a creative twist to the genre can also be complicated.
A good example of a creative platformer is Celeste, a video game that has been praised for its handling of mental health topics while offering challenging, precise gameplay.
And also Super Meat Boy, with its fast-paced levels filled with obstacles that tests both the skills and the patience of the players.
Or maybe Ori and the Blind Forest, a deeply emotional game with a beautiful art style that is usually also categorized within the Metroidvania genre.
Metroidvania Explained: The AI Advantage
I would say that Metroidvania genre is an extension of the platformer genre. It combines precision skills with exploration, backtracking, and progression through the acquisition of game-changing abilities in a large, interconnected world.
The term Metroidvania is a blend of Metroid and Castlevania, two pioneering franchises in the genre that showcased gameplay centered around exploration and gradual power acquisition.
Developing a Metroidvania game can be an intimidating task for a solo developer, so it’s not something that we’d recommend starting with; unless you really want to test your skills.
Creating an interconnected world with multiple paths and abilities requires significant planning and development time. It also often requires a large number of unique assets for their expansive worlds.
Of course, AI is changing that.
Generating characters, items and backgrounds just by typing what you want can already be done with our app: PixelVibe AI, and it’s an incredible boost for starting developers.
RPGs and the Power of Choice
In RPGs, players make decisions that affect the narrative or gameplay. And their characters grow over time, often through a system of experience points and leveling up.
Creating the assets and writing the extensive dialogue required in RPGs can be resource-intensive, so AI will help a lot with that as well.
A great example of how a single developer can create an engaging RPG game is Undertale. In Undertale, with its unique combat system, players can choose to spare enemies instead of defeating them and grow their character development.
Stardew Valley also incorporates some RPG elements, such as character customization, questing, and skill progression, but in this case we are talking more about a farming and life simulation game.
Simulation Games: Lessons from Neko Atsume and Papers, Please
This name says it all: a simulation game simulates real-world activities, and they often involve managing resources, making strategic decisions, and controlling characters or vehicles in a realistic setting.
This gaming genre can appeal to a wide range of players, and they can also be educational, teaching players about the systems they're simulating.
Despite the fact that these games involve managing a large number of resources and require extensive UI design, there are ways to create small, simple, and fun simulation games.
Take Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector as an example, a mobile pet simulation game that revolves around the simple concept of luring cats to your backyard and watching them play with toys you provide.
Or the highly acclaimed Papers, Please, which simulates the work of an immigration officer at the border of a fictional dystopian country. With this simple premise, the game creates a compelling narrative and moral dilemmas with a huge attention to detail.
Seeing how Papers, Please turns a seemingly complex idea into a brilliantly executed small-scale game might inspire you to think about how to simplify and adapt other game genres.
And this brings us to another genre that can appear quite daunting at first glance: sandbox games.
Sandbox Games and the Art of Modding
Sandbox games can be tricky.
They offer a lot of creative freedom, allowing you to build a unique world with its own rules. And because of that freedom, it can be challenging to limit the scope of a project that require a deep understanding of game programming and design.
Despite these challenges, sandbox games have given birth to something quite amazing, and that's modding communities.
These communities are filled with dedicated players who take the base game and reshape it, leading to transformative gameplay experiences.
Take Minecraft, for instance. The modding community in Minecraft delivers from small tweaks that add new blocks and creatures, to complete overhauls turning the game into a space exploration simulator or even a full-fledged fantasy RPG.
These mods let the developers, as well as players, explore and learn from a variety of creative approaches within the game's sandbox environment.
And with the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence, game development is bound to become even more accessible.
Your Game Development Journey: Start Small, Dream Big
There are a lot of gaming genres that may be simpler for a starting game dev: visual novels, clickers, match 3, puzzle games. Those are great to start with, but why not also dream big and try to see how much you can expand the definition of a genre?
The games of the future will be designed by you. So start creating, keep creating, and keep learning. You will see that the possibilities are limitless.
If you want to go deeper into game creation, join our Discord community where we host game jams and foster an environment of creativity and collaboration.
Also, besure to sign up for the waitlist for our AI Gamemaker platform. It will soon be accessible to help you in creating fantastic games more efficiently.