This article on game design has been brought to you courtesy of John Garrison.
In the last section, we looked at the view point of the player while playing the game. In this section we'll discuss what the player does, or the action of the game. Game play can be loosely divided into several genres: run, jump and, avoid; shooting; role playing (RPG); fighting; flight simulator; and strategy. The issue of literary genres will be deferred until the section on story.
Run, Jump, and Avoid
Classic platform games use this style of action. Mario dashes across the screen, jumps over obstacles, and avoids the Koopas. One of the reasons the Mario games appeal to both boys and girls is the use of this non-violent, non-threatening style of play.
If it moves, shoot it. Doom, 1942, Contra III, and countless others fall into this category. This style of game tends to appeal to adolescent boys of all ages.
The Dungeons and Dragons craze of the late '70's was the impetus for these games. In an RPG, the player assumes the role of a character typically involved in some heroic epic. The Ultima series is probably the best known game of this type. Although hit point games seem to have declined in popularity, a few titles are still being released.
Strategy games require the player to use some combination of planning, analysis, resource management, or logic for success. Chess, Tetris, Civilization, SimCity, and wargames fall into this category.
Blood splatters as your spinning back kick connects with your opponent's jaw. Denounced by parents and critics as too violent, these games are popular with kids precisely because they are violent and gory. Kick, punch, and pummel your opponent into submission (kind of like politics...). Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat have the notable distinction of being (perhaps) the only video game stories to be made into (not very good) movies.
What about adventure games?
Ok, here's a definition for an adventure game: it's an RPG without hit points.