Thinking back to a time when video games were considered merely toys seems like a lifetime ago. One of the biggest growth markets in the entertainment industry today, it is thought that gaming has now exceeded the total value of the music and movie industries combined.
Technology is responsible in part for this explosion in popularity. The rise of the smartphone encouraged a new generation of gamers to treat their phones as mobile gaming devices and a new genre of gaming, the casual game, was born.
Casual games, epitomized by low barriers of entry in terms of skill level, short play times, and simple rules, have acted as a gateway for many into the world of more serious gaming and dedicated consoles or PCs. Nowadays the average age of a gamer is well into their 30s and the gender split among them is much more evenly matched – games are being developed and played by every type of person imaginable.
Over the decades several distinct gaming genres have emerged but what are the most enduring and iconic among them?
Digital Collectible Card Games (CCGs)
Digital CCGs have their roots in traditional card games of skill such as baccarat and blackjack. One of the biggest success stories within that genre is poker, and with many millions of active players, you can now enjoy a poker game online on a variety of services from anywhere in the world.
CCGs simulate the play of physical collectible card games and, like poker, rely on an element of randomness in obtaining cards. The first digital CCG was Magic: The Gathering Online, which was released in 2002 and was based on the hugely popular physical game of the same name.
Hearthstone, which exists in the World of Warcraft universe is another popular title in the series as is Gwent, and Legends of Runeterra. Fans of the genre enjoy the strategic, tactical element and the myriad possible synergies and combinations of decks to discover and build.
Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
RTS games focus on base building, resource management, and military tactics. Players control a faction or civilization and must gather resources, build structures and units, and battle against opposing players.
The earliest examples of RTS games, Dune and Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, date back to the early 1990s. These games laid the foundation for the genre by including a variety of unit types with different abilities and strengths.
Since then, the genre has evolved and expanded to include a wide range of sub-genres and styles, such as fantasy-themed games like Warcraft III and Age of Empires, sci-fi games like Starcraft and Command & Conquer, and historical military games like Rise of Nations and Civilization. History fans enjoy the reenactment element of the genre while others relish the combination of action and real-time management of multiple components at any one time.
Sandbox titles, also known as open-world games, are a genre of video game that, as the name suggests, give players a large degree of freedom in terms of exploration and gameplay. These games typically feature open-ended environments, allowing players to roam and interact with the game world in a nonlinear fashion.
The earliest examples date back to the 1970s with text-based titles like Zork, which allowed players to explore virtual worlds and complete various tasks and puzzles. With the advent of 3D graphics and the increasing power of video game consoles, the genre has grown to include a wide range of sub-genres and styles. Minecraft, the Grand Theft Auto Series, and the envelope-pushing No Man’s Sky are popular examples of the genre.
Separated into two distinct styles, first-person (FPS) and third-person (TPS), shooters focus on fast-paced action and gunplay. Players control a character and engage in combat against one or more enemies using a variety of weapons.
The earliest examples of TPS games, Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, date back to the late 1990s, and FPS games originated a decade earlier with titles such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Shooters now include many subgenres: survival horror games like Dead Space, open-world games like Grand Theft Auto, and tactical shooters like Gears of War.
Played now in both single-player mode (usually accompanied by a cinematic storyline) or in multiplayer mode (often online), shooters such as Fortnite, Overwatch, Call of Duty, and Rainbow Six Siege dominate the gaming arena.
Largely preferred by those looking for an immersive less frenzied style of play, simulation games aim to replicate real-world or fictional environments. These games simulate various aspects of life, such as managing a city, running a farm, or flying an airplane.
Notable titles are The Sims series, EuroTruck Driver, and SimCity – some focus on ultimate realism while others make fun the priority, and they can be enjoyed by players of all ages. A hugely popular subgenre includes sports simulation games like FIFA, Madden, and NBA, and skating, golfing, and MMA simulations titles too.
Role-Playing Games (RPGs)
Often featuring elements of fantasy or science fiction, RPGs feature open-world environments, character customization, and a focus on story and character development. Notable examples include the Final Fantasy series, Skyrim and Elden Ring.
With such a wealth of choice available to gamers, there’s something for everyone – you might want to try a title from a genre you’ve previously overlooked and, who knows, you may find your next favorite obsession.