Genres Taught in Video Game Design College

Learn which video game genres you will work with in school.

man playing a video game

By Gianni Truzzi

Creating a video game, like writing a story or composing a song, begins with knowing what kind you want to make. It is helpful to know the game genres that have come to be recognized in the industry and schools. For game development careers, especially successful ones, your games will likely fit into one of these types. The rules aren't rigid, and an innovative game can draw from several genres, but here are some you'll see in your college program:

Genres in Video Game Design College

First Person Shooter

The object of the basic shooter is simple: Rack up points by blasting away obstacles before you are destroyed. Early shooter games like "Asteroids," "Galaga" and "Space Invaders" were limited to simple, two-dimensional graphics in which the gameplay was either horizontal or vertical.

Sophisticated 3D graphics made possible the first-person shooter familiar to contemporary gamers. "Doom," released in 1993, is considered the breakthrough game of this type for its real-time fast pace and its multiplayer facility over a network. Today, the genre has evolved to provide fully immersive experiences of the "Halo" and "Call of Duty" series of video games.


Evolved from arcade games, action games have simple, episodic goals in a high-intensity, time-limited setting. "Pac Man" is among the earliest, and games like "Donkey Kong" and "Sonic the Hedgehog" established the sub-genre of platform games, in which the character must run, jump, swing and bounce among platforms.


In adventure games, the player interacts with an environment to solve progressively harder puzzles toward an ultimate goal. This genre began in the 1970s with text-based games like "Colossal Cave Adventure," and "Zork" in the 1980s. "Myst" was an early innovator to use graphics.

Adventure games seldom require time limits or have much action. The advent of more powerful computers helped fuel the rise of the action-adventure sub-genre, which introduced high-pressure gameplay. Contemporary examples include Prince of Persia and The Legend of Zelda.

Role-Playing Game (RPG) 

Like action-adventure games, the RPG grants a player's character with attributes and weaponry that can be developed or acquired as they proceed on an elaborate quest. Patterned after the pen-and-paper "Dungeons & Dragons" game, RPGs typically involve a fantasy setting, magical powers and monstrous foes. The chief feature of the RPG is that the character grows its power and ability to battle progressively more challenging foes.

The RPG developed new dimensions with the rise of computer networking, evolving into the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). In these games (think "World of Warcraft"), players adopt online characters whose attributes grow and can ally with or battle other players to achieve goals in the story.


In these games, there may be no object at all except to accurately mimic a real-life experience. For example, the player in "Flight Simulator" tries keeping a simulated airplane aloft. A driving game such as "Gran Turismo" offers players the chance to drive in a simulated racing competition. Players of "The Sims" series get to watch the characters they create grow and age as they make choices.

Social Games

Games in this emerging genre are often played at parties, requiring several players to compete or cooperate to meet an immediate goal. Games such as "Dance, Dance, Revolution," "Rock Band" or karaoke games are designed to promote a fun, high-energy experience.

Innovation in Video Game Design College

Most players have an established genre they prefer playing, but innovation is highly encouraged in the gaming industry. While attending your video game design college, keep an eye on the new trends and remember that the most important part of creating a game is making it a fun experience.