Games are pretty simple as a concept. For the most part, you play them for entertainment. They are designed to give the user a fun experience. The language we use to talk about games is a more tricky subject however. It can range from obtuse, technical descriptions to absurd hyperbole. My aim with this series is to provide some insight into the daunting world of gaming idioms. As someone who writes about games every day, I probably use a lot of these without even thinking about it, so hopefully I’m in a pretty good position to explain them. We’ll see. But where to begin?
Well I guess we should start at the top? That could actually be the trickiest one of all. We all know what a game is, but what exactly defines one? How can two things as disparate as a Call of Duty game and Proteus both be considered under the same moniker? The latter could be considered as more of a ‘toy’, or even a ‘ride’, and yet it is an electronic piece of software which you play with a controller, so we call it a ‘game’. Perhaps it would be easier to consider the various genres of games and what constitutes one to garner a decent definition.
So, you’ve just bought a new game. What sort of game is it? The most popular genre of the past few years has been the shooter. These combinations of violence, gore and gun porn are the stuff of nightmares for Daily Mail readers, and the genre itself has many different types. You might be playing a first person shooter (FPS), in which you look through the eyes of the hero, so you can get the best view of whatever horrors you are inflicting upon your enemies. They are not all realistic war simulators, but for the most part you will be shooting dudes in the face, which is usually the most efficient method to defeat your enemies. The aforementioned Call of Duty comes under this bracket, and is the most popular type of shooter right now.
The third person shooter is up there too though, and is in much the same vein as the FPS, but you control the action whilst hovering just above the shoulder of the protagonist. Most modern games of this type will feature some sort of cover mechanic, whereby you press a button to attach yourself to a piece of terrain which will protect you from enemy fire. This piece of cover will usually take the form of a chest-high wall, a clever machination that many video game developers employ to give your character a handy place to hide, while still being able to see and shoot your foes. Although not the first of its kind, Gears of War is considered to be the pioneer of this type of game.
Largely a remnant of a bygone time, the shoot-em-up, or shmup, is a 2D shooter where you often take control of a flying vehicle, be it a helicopter, plane or spaceship. You fly around the screen and shoot at enemies or other objects, and although there are games of this type around today, they are generally going for a retro feel. Spacewar!, one of the earliest known video games is a shmup, along with Asteroids, a game that maybe even your parents have heard of.
Parents, when used in the context of video games, have a much different definition than the one you are perhaps used to. In normal life, they are the bastions of hope, there to protect you and help you through your troubles. However, when video games are involved, they are not to be trusted. They will try and tempt you away from the game by saying that you should go outside, a place which is much like a game, but you must use muscles to move and survive. Not only that, but you won’t be able to travel everywhere at a steady jog, you’ll get tired. The steady jog, by the way, is the main method of transport for video game characters. Maybe your parents just don’t understand video games, in which case, link them here, maybe they will become enlightened. That is of course, unless they are mature gamers.
The video game industry is getting to the point now where people you might consider ‘old’ are enjoying playing too. Mature gamers are those who have probably been playing games since their inception, and might even remember playing the original Asteroids, not some cheap rip off version. Also known as clones, these are games which take an original game and re-imagine it to create a new product. This is not to be confused with plagiarism, or ‘Zynga-ing’. This is the process whereby a large company takes the ideas of a smaller, often indie developer, and doesn’t pay them for their trouble.
Come back next time for the definition of indie developer, and then see where we’ll go from there. We’ll get to that elusive definition of game some day.
Thanks for reading.