Video Game Design/Archetypes



There are many genres (type classification) of games, each one within its own defined domain, that commonly will have sub-domains (in a tree like form). All the games in a particular genre tend to share certain conventions, since they are the defining element. A game can also be classified in more than one genre, by layering (sectioning the game-play) or as a result of experimentation in an attempt to innovate or simply by a need to place very similar games in distinct categories.

For instance strategy games that are real time, will often share most common elements of turn base games, in fact RTS (Real time strategy) can be defined as a logical evolution of TBS games, due to the possibilities opened by the increase of computational power and graphics capabilities. In this example strategy games will then be the common root of TBS and RTS gender, and will include for instance the card game of Solitaire. Continuing with the example the Solitare game would be part of the simulator gender and its sub-domain of card games.

A careful consideration should be given to the expectations of players, for instant it is not uncommon that RTS games will often include a turn base version of the game-play. Too much innovation can put players off. The same can be said by the need of normalization, but that will be discussed later on...

The game genre can also be defining in the type of people who would play it.

An archetype is a game that implements the purest set of conventions that is commonly accepted as defining a genre. A good example of an archetype would be any game that first implemented a genre or later implementations that strictly re-uses those conventions without any form of game-play innovation in terms of capabilities.

Classic Game Types

Nintendo's Arcade version of "Donkey Kong" – this is one of the oldest video games.

Arcade Classics

Digdug – Pac-man – Asteroids – Space Invaders – Breakout – Pong – Pitfall


To do:
Add simple coverage to rise and downfall of the arcade games.




  • Pacman


Celeste, a 2D platformer.

A platform game has the character(s) as anything from the protagonist to Arcadic Conventional and the player-character relationship being 1st or third person.

Platforms:The levels are designed as side scrollers (meaning that you see everything from the side almost like a cross-section. The character jumps between platforms to progress through the level and often times there are large 'bottomless-holes' in which the character dies.

Collectibles: Levels consist of collectibles such as coins, items, etc. which increase abilities and score. A subgenre of 3D platformer, the Collectathon, makes gaining collectibles the primary goal.

Some platform games:





A Puzzle game usually uses both character and player-character relationship as an influence in the game. It uses concepts of score and level progression through logic and skill.

Some Puzzle games:

Myst – Tetris – Lumines

Medium Qualifiers


The appearance of 3D environments in games that first started with vectorial simulations creates the need to distinguish 2D games from 3D, in arcades there was also attempts to create real 3D games, with minor successes and game studios attempted also a new type of system, the interactive video game that one day will probably make a come back. While not an archetype this type of qualifiers are often part of a game description.


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Extended Game Types


The end of the arcade matches well with the increase of affordability of powerful game systems for home use. A time that sees the rise of the 3D environment over the older 2D. As the game specific arcade starts to become unprofitable new genres starts to appear, especially due to the home computer and long play models that wouldn't fit the arcade model.



To do:
Cover Play by mail, and the need of reliable machines and the popularization of the PC so these type of game could be moved out of the main frames

Turn-base Strategy


The turn base strategy genre usually focus on tactics rather than superiority of arms such as in many RTS, the genre is therefore preferred by many gamers who desire long duration, complexity and greater tactical challenges instead of the hectic and repetitive game-play that is the basis of most recent RTS that is more focused in optimization of actions and returns.

The context were turn-base strategy can be applied is very vast, from military campaigns to businesses and fantasy all is opened to create the background.

Real Time Strategy (RTS)

0 A.D., an open source RTS.

RTS stands for Real Time Strategy. Therefore as a type that would define all games that are not turn based but the more specifically use of the generic label is given the real time strategy games where the player is generally an influence and the character, too. An influence (sometimes arcadic conventional or protagonist).

Generic RTSs

The generic model germinated by BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge published by Infocom and developed by Westwood, this was the game that served as a prototype for what later became Dune 2, the first real-time strategy title on the PC.

Essentially, The Crescent Hawk's Revenge was the turning point in PC strategy gaming, where a genre formerly dominated by turn-based titles would begin a massive shift towards real-time. Later Westwood titles, Dune 2 and Command & Conquer, would expand this newly-established real-time strategy gameplay.

This type of game has suffered many implementations being the basic game play very similar, innovations have been in map size and detail the addition of distinct planes to the game play and addition of tech trees and increased resource complexity.

The elements of an RTS are generally: Resource Management: You must collect and manage resources to research and build your 'sect'. You usually build or raise an army to defend your buildings and to attack the other players.

Multiplayer functions: These games are usually played across networks with other players and the objective is usually to wipe out the other player (other options are often present however.)

Citizen controls: You are able to control all the 'people', 'buildings' and 'troops' from anywhere in the realm.

Battle: You send your people into battle to defeat the other players using war tactics and soldier arrangements.

Other examples are:

Tactical Combat Simulation


War Simulation


Business/Economy/Social simulation

OpenTTD simulates the transportation business.
  • OpenTTD, real time.
  • Civilization, turn based.

Other with no specific niches


Role Playing


This defines any games wherein there the character(s) is/are the protagonist and the player either has a 3rd or 1st person interaction with it/them. Usually these games incorporate a personal view point of fantastic or futuristic settings, although others certainly exist.

Role Playing Game (RPG)


RPG or Role Playing Game should not to be simply confused with the more broad definition of role playing. The RPG genre evolved directly from complex table games.

The elements of an RPG generally include:

Battle: Most RPGs have some form of battling in them. Historically they can occur in a resolution stage, based on a turn-based battle system, which shows players a new screen where the enemies are on one side of the 'field' and the characters are on the other. Each side must then wait till to gain enough energy to attack the other. The battle system often contains elements such as HP (health points), MP (Magic points), attack, speed, stamina, defense, and so forth.

A major portion of the battle system is EXP (experience) points. When the character(s) defeat an enemy it gain EXP and when it gains enough it will gain a level, which increases some or all of its game statistics. This can be new or increased magic, spells, and special attacks.

recently however with more powerful processing power available, this static battle system have fallen in disuse, most RPGs today tend to be 3D and real-time combat is often the solution adopted.

Inventory: A database of items, armor, weapons, and so forth the characters hold.

Story line: Usually the player starts out with one or a few characters and the challenge is presented. Then as the game progresses members of the player's party leave and new ones enter. Games like this are generally divided into regions wherein the player must fight through and discover the problem then fight a boss. At the end of the game the player usually fights the final boss which generally has 3 stages. RPGs have a lot of talking and usually have deeper storyline than other game types.

'Character Progression: As an extension of the battle system mentioned above, most RPGs heavily emphasize the player developing their character(s) over the course of the game. Systems that increase the character's prowess in battle are most common, although others, such as crafting systems to create equipment for the character, are also relatively common.

Some RPGs:

Final Fantasy

Kingdom Hearts (Series)

Baldur's Gate – Dark Stone – Fallout – Ultima – Star Ocean – Dragon's Quest – Elder Scrolls – Icewind Dale

Hack n' Slash RPG Games:

Diablo I and II – Dynasty Warriors – Gauntlet Legends – Champions

These games are considered a variance of the RPG genre; however, they fall under the Hack n' Slash category. These games differ by the character's depth as well as the core game-play mechanics of how the game runs.



Action/Adventure Games usually have 3rd person (sometimes 1st person) player character relationship and the character is usually the protagonist. They may mix several other types but ultimately they are role playing games.


  • Zelda
  • Lost Planet
  • Tomb Raider

First Person Shooters (FPS)

Xontic, an open source FPS.

First Person Shooters are games based on the so called 1st person perspective (although this very often puts your point of view in about chest height of the character) that places you behind the eyes of the protagonist. The elements of an FPS are:

Weapons and artillery: The character is able to collect and use weapons and artillery with which they use to attack and destroy other characters/enemies.

Story line: Usually an FPS does not have a very deep story line and is more about staying alive than anything.

Some FPS's:


Super Tux Kart, an open source racing game.

A racing game usually uses a 3rd (sometimes 1st) person player-character relationship where the character is an arcadic convention. Elements of Racing games are:

Vehicles: Usually there is some type of vehicle which the character drives, sometimes these vehicles are customizable and the game lets you choose a vehicle. Different vehicles usually have different stats such as faster speed but worse turning etc.

The Race:The race is separated in laps and judged by time and placing. Usually the game will have a 'time trial' mode wherein the player can try to beat a time. In the race the character will race against other characters (2+) the standard being 8.

Some Racing Games:

  • Mario Kart
  • Ridge Racer
  • Gran Turismo
  • Forza
  • Wave Race 64
  • Need For Speed
  • Project Gotham Racing
  • Burnout


FlightGear, an open source flight simulator.

A simulator is as it says a simulation of reality, even an imaginary reality will do. The differences on how that reality is reflected is not very significant in classifying a game as a simulator, it only suffices that a simulation is clear on the bounds it intends in replicating and the level of detail it provides. Most simulators will include several sub-genre but they are clearly in a class of their own.

Most simulator in 3D tend to have a hight degree of quality in regards to the simulated reality, that may indeed not satisfy the player beyond the specific purpose of the simulation. They are also mostly real time (or with real-time capability). This are often dedicated to things planes, helicopters, railroads, cars and tanks or even submarines in specific or generalized scenarios.

Isometric simulators are mostly relegating to economic simulation, management and construction, the need to reflect reality is not as important and modelization will suffice. They tend to be turn based or include very carefully designed pause events.

A simulation game can also have a variety of character and character relationships. Usually however, the player-character relationship is influence and the character are archaic and conventional.

Some Simulation Games:

Grow-like games


The Grow-like games can be considered a kind of puzzle game, but the way the narrative emerges with little information about rules, boundaries, and outcomes causes some to consider them in a genre all their own. [1]

Rhythm games

Ferts on Fire, an open source rhythm game.

Also a sub-genre of puzzle gaming, that specifically deals with the reproduction of actions and movements to replicate specific sequences of visual or audio queues.

Cross Genre Games


Hellgate: London – Rampart

MMO or Massively Multiplayer Online consists of all forms of all game genres where a nearly infinite number of players interact with each other via the Internet. MMO's usually consist of players killing monsters, doing quests, etc. to get to the highest level. MMO's are often PvP (Player vs. Player), where players from around the world will battle with each other with their custom-formed character.