A taxonomy of GAMES / game types?
March 10, 2010 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Types of Games: I have come across various attempts to catalogue the possible varieties of stories that exist. The basic assumption being that all plots (narratives?) can be be boiled down to one among only a few types e.g. Hero leaves the kingdom; Hero steals fire, etc. I am looking for a similar classification system for GAMES, that is: how many fundamental types/kinds of game are there?

Note: when I say 'game' I mean everything from checkers, through hide n' seek, pool and soccer up to and including Tower Defence, Super Mario or Halo. I know this might be too broad, but I don't want to limit my enquiry at this stage.

I know a bit about game-theory, but what I want is more taxonomical than this. A taxonomy perhaps of possible game structures / directions / goals / rule organisations that can be applied across game types.

Has there been such an attempt at categorising games? Is it even possible, or should I be thinking about the question in an entirely different way?

Thanks in advance
posted by 0bvious to Religion & Philosophy (6 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Folkloristic morphology is one term for the story-cataloging taxonomy you described. You might use "morphology" as a jumping off point for your research--for example, a cursory search turned up the Georgia Tech Game Morphology Projectand a "Morphological study of the video games." Ludology & game studies would be another good place to explore.
posted by kelseyq at 9:08 AM on March 10, 2010

BoardGameGeek keeps track of different game mechanics for boardgames.
posted by sad_otter at 9:19 AM on March 10, 2010

Best answer: This will only apply to board games, but BoardGameGeek has a database containing most board and card games ever produced; their list of game mechanics might give you one taxonomy to use as a basis.
posted by Jakob at 9:19 AM on March 10, 2010

Best answer: This is not exactly on target but...This comment by Iridic might point you in the right direction. It's not types of games he's talking about but types of play which might also work as a way to classify games.
posted by edbles at 9:50 AM on March 10, 2010

Best answer: There have been an awful lot of attempts, with different degrees of granularity - for example Roger Caillois in Man, Play and Games (from the 50s) gives an early division into games of chance, games of competition, games of mimicry, and games of vertigo. He also has various other axes of categorisation.

Another early example comes from Iona and Peter Opie, who talked to many thousands of schoolchildren and gathered their playground games, then published Children's Games in Street and Playground. The book has many divisions of game type: games of chasing, games of duelling, etc.

And there have been a lot since. Like classifications of stories, there's no widely-agreed-on or "correct" division, just a lot of different ways of looking at games.

David Parlett (who has written various books of game history) discusses, here, the word "ludeme", meaning a sort-of fundamental game type or component; it's not a widely used term at all, but Parlett links to an essay by Raph Koster that talks about developing a grammar of gameplay, an essay which prompted a few responses and various discussion around the issue.

There have also been loads of attempts to taxonomise types of players, or types of a particular form of game (board game, playground game, whatever), which could be useful too as a lot of the basic playful-things-you-can-do are transferrable between game types - are you interested in these as well, of just taxonomies of All Games Ever?
posted by severalbees at 10:23 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am pretty sure that "Move-based strategy" and "Hero rescues princess" can account for about 90% of the board and video games out there.

But games are so broad a subject, I worry that any defining genre would end up being so vague as to be meaningless. I mean, "Move-based strategy" could encompass chess, StarCraft, and Dungeons & Dragons. Hell, maybe even Uno, at a stretch.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:57 PM on March 10, 2010

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