The Gaming Landscape

A critical component of my job is to be able to see my designs from another person’s point of view; someone who doesn’t play games and who doesn’t necessarily understand the rules and expected behaviours of games. It’s important I don’t fall into the trap of believing everyone see’s the world as I do. It’s also part of my job to explain games to non gamers and therefore promote the benefits of serious games. Often the first level of challenge I come across is a belief that a game is a game. Of course those of us in the industry know there are many genres of games, each with its own style and fan base and many ways to deliver a game to the end user. However this level of granularity in the industry, that we as designers are comfortable with is often a mysterious secret language to those who are not gamers. Therefore I thought I’d make a few simple notes about some of the types of games that are out there and how to differentiate between them. Yes there is massive cross over and these definitions are not perfect by any means but it’s a start and one that I’ll refine over the next few months.

I’ve put a range from high end to low end games and this range was mainly used to help order my thoughts. The games listed are ranked in terms of development effort, budget and complexity and again this was tricky to do as there are always exceptions to the rules. Again something I hope to expand upon in an upcoming post.


AAA Games: high quality and has a big marketing budget. Has sold, or is predicted/targeted to sell, over one million copies.  Either the game gathers a lot of attention initially because of extremely high production values (like Crysis, for example), or it gains a lot of attention after release just because it’s such a good game, with or without production values. Because many games acquire the title simply from having state of the art graphics–thereby gathering much pre-release press coverage and hype–the term AAA should not be a metric concerned primarily with game play quality.

Indie Games: Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams without video game publisher financial support. Indie games often focus on innovation and rely primarily on digital distribution.

Mobile Games: is a  game played on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet computer, typically native to the device (installed locally) and work in a similar vein to mobile consoles. This classification does not include games played on dedicated handheld video game console system such as the Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable.

Facebook Games: Games that are delivered as apps on Facebook (i.e. games that are built for are required to use Facebook Credits. See Farmville. These games could also be classed as social games that use your Facebook friends to provide assistance or resource to help you out in the game.

Serious Games: A serious game is a game designed for a specific purpose other than pure entertainment often to raise awareness of to change behaviour. The “serious” adjective is added to refer to the products intended use beyond entertainment and also for the industry it is used by, industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, religion, and politics.

Alternate Reality Games (or ARG’s) provides an interactive narrative based in the real world via the use of mobile platforms and everyday technology such as email and mobile platforms but usually require an internet connection. Narratives occur in real time and are intended to feel more real and immersive to a player as they play themselves in the scenario rather than assume another’s identity. See I Love Bees (a promotion for Halo 2) and Find 815 (promoting the television show Lost).

Augmented Reality Games (also known as ARG’s)are a live, view of the real-world but with augmented or additional/modified elements. These modifications are made through sound, image and video and serve to enhance the users perception of the environment viewed through a camera, usually from a smart phone. Information required by the user is overlaid directly onto the real world.

Gamification: Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes in order to encourage people to adopt them. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading web sites. Gamification applies individual game design mechanics to non game systems. To me these are not games but that’s another post!

Twitter Games: Games using the Twitter platform to form mini social groupings where players are required to send tweets to one another or use other networking features such as GPS check-in’s to gain points and badges. See FourSquare. Also could be classed as a social game as it is delivered on a social platform.

Low End 


One Response to The Gaming Landscape

  1. Pingback: The Gaming Landscape « PIXELearning’s Blog – Serious Games and more | Gamer/Learner

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