Okay, let’s finish this then. So far, I have covered the two large narration-driven types of games: Visual Novels and their ambitious younger brother, the mighty role-playing game.
Of course, these are only two types of games in a universe of such. Howeve,r the other genres tend to be gameplay-driven. This means, they are games first and are defined by the way players interact with their world. That is perfectly fine, but there is little to discuss here for writers: The plot tends to either be integral to the play (which is very hard to do for anybody new to this), or to be told in short film sequences (so-called cutscenes) serving as a pause in between sessions of shooting stuff.
There are two more narrative-driven types to mention. I skipped over the interactive fiction category for being outdated, but Gamasutra has created a nice list of recommended titles I can recommend. Then there’s the point-and-click adventure which I am simply not familiar enough with.
What I will do now is a short overview over the most important remaining gametypes.
Let’s Do This!
First Person Shooter (FPS)
Arguably the most successful type on the market at the moment, the first person shooter has you see the world from a character’s eyes and your main goal is to shoot your enemies and progress in the game. Story is usually told through videos pausing the game, though characters talking about stuff during the game may also appear. Extremely sophisticated genre with high expectations to be tackled by experienced developers.
Notable examples: Doom, Halo, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, countless others
Third Person Shooter
Basically the same as the First Person Shooter, but you see the main character from the outside, a virtual camera following him around.
Notable example: Gears of War
A weirdly ill-defined type. In general, games that focus on puzzle-solving get lumped into this category. Often, the story is told through the puzzles or in the form of cutscenes typically following after the player successfuly solved a puzzle. Characters talking to each other or the main character during play commonly add to this.
Notable examples: Tomb Raider series, Uncharted series, The Last of Us. Currently the most popular type with emphasis on narrative, but hard and expensive to create.
Any game where the player can explore a big world on his or her own doing anything they want. Storytelling is mostly done during task and mission assignments. The story will usually make up a series of missions the player can choose to do or not to do. This type will frequently mix with others.
Notable examples: GTA IV, Far Cry series
Games where the main challenge is to navigate the environment, often through jumps to platforms (hence the name) strewn about. Enemies tend to be an anonymous force to be taken out by jumping on their heads. Think the Super Mario series. Tends to feature very little story that is provided by text before and after traversing each area.
Shoot em Up or Shmup or STGs
Bullets, bullets everywhere! You shoot colorful bullets to shoot down your enemies. Your enemies shoot hundreds of colorful bullets to avoid. You see your character either from above or form the side, constantly flying or driving upward or to the right on your screen, avoiding or shooting down enemies. Little to no story with some players even complaining about story in their shooters. Rather easy to create, but their players like to be challenged and are a tough crowd to please.
Players control not one character, but an army. They see a map of the surrounding area and order units to move around on it to uncover more of the map, encounter enemies and engage them while more units are built in your base to defeat the opposing army. Again, light on story with a few exceptions providing it in between missions. Sid Meyer’s Alpha Centauri is a notable strategy game with a deep storyline.
A game with a horror vibe in atmosphere. The character is often weaker than his or her enemies or running low on ammunition for their guns. Story is delivered by characters talking to each other and through world-building.
Notable examples: Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil.
Here’s one genre authors might want to consider. The name was supposed to be an insult, but fans embraced it, esepcially as this game has not yet gained an official name. Exploration Games gets thrown around a lot, though. These are games that find you wandering a world, often completely alone.
The player does not get told a story, but the story of the world they’re exploring gets discovered through the marks it left on the world. Notes, seemingly out of place objects, messages through the radio or phone, and so on. Despite their bad reputation, those games are a challenge, but an interesting one. Creators have to make sure their story shines through in their worldbuilding. Actually an interesting type to practice on the old “Show don’t tell” rule. Often in these games, you don’t get the opportunity to tell much. All you can ever do is show things. There are no characters present, except in what they left behind when they existed.
Notable exmaples: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Dear Esther
This was a rough overview over the most important videogame types that tend to provide notable stories at least every now and then. This list is anything but complete. Sme types like racing or sports games require little to no explanation on what they are and are also almost completely devoid of plot. Others are too specific or exotic to include, with many mobile games becoming their own thing followed by countless copies (e.g. clicker games).
Maybe I will expand this later down the roaad. But next week, I’ll tackle soemthing different again.