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FEATURE

50 GREATEST GAME DESIGN INNOVATIONS

Edge Staff's picture

By Edge Staff

November 1, 2007



Genres

We borrowed many videogame genres from other game forms, but a few genres would not have been possible before the invention of the computer, and represent real design innovation.

37. Construction and management simulations.

Both LEGO blocks and business management games predate the computer, but videogames put the two ideas together for the first time.  Best-known early example: SimCity, 1989. Probable first use: Utopia for the Mattel Intellivision, 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

38. Real-time strategy games.

Turn-based computer war games had their roots in classics like the Avalon Hill board games, and many of them looked like board games too, with square counters representing units on a hexagonal grid. The addition of real time play made strategy gaming far more accessible to the general public, although purists would complain that RTS games replace true strategy with rapid mouse clicking and resource management. Best-known early example: The Ancient Art of War, 1984. Probable first use: Stonkers for the ZX Spectrum, 1983. A related genre is real-time tactics, games that concentrate on individual battlefields (e.g. the Total War series) and eliminate the resource-manufacturing aspects of RTS games.

39. Fighting games.

Apart from real-world sports and the 1960’s toy Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, I can’t find any examples of fighting games that predated the videogame. Many games include fighting elements, but true fighting games concentrate on mêlée combat without exploration or puzzle-solving. Fighting games have moved so far beyond real-life martial arts (incorporating magic powers, fictitious weapons, and unrealistic physics) that they constitute a major innovation of their own. There are now many sub-genres, but the common element is hand-to-hand fighting without ranged weapons. Possible first use: Heavyweight Champ coin-op, 1976. Best-known early example: Street Fighter, 1987.

40. Rhythm, dance and music games.

Timing challenges are as old as Pong, but games specifically based on rhythm arrived comparatively recently. Games about making music are increasingly popular too. By avoiding mindless repetitive violence, they also attract a larger female audience. Best-known early example: PaRappa the Rapper, 1996. Possible first use: Tempo for Sega 32X, 1995. (Music Construction Set, 1984, doesn’t count as a game.)



41. Artificial pets and people.

People love watching little critters live their lives, especially if you don’t have to feel guilty about letting them die (or if they’re immortal and can’t die at all). Training and nurturing them and buying trinkets for them are all part of the fun. The Sims is the best-selling PC game of all time; Nintendogs is a massive hit on the Nintendo DS. Possible first use: Little Computer People, 1985. Best-known early example: Dogz, 1995.



42. God games.

This genre is a mashup of construction and management simulations, real-time strategy games, and artificial life games, with some extra qualities all its own. In a god game, you assume the role of the god of a group of people, and your job is (mostly) to help them prosper. The key features are indirect control—you can influence your worshippers through your actions, but you cannot give them explicit orders—and divine powers such as changing the landscape or causing natural disasters. God games let us make volcanoes on demand; what more need I say? Probable first use: Populous, 1989. (Some people consider Utopia, 1982, to be a god game, but I class it as a CMS because the player’s powers aren’t truly godly. The claims of the Firaxis PR department notwithstanding, Civilization is not a god game.)

43. Social and dating games (with or without sex).

I can only find one non-computerized dating game, Milton Bradley’s 1965 board game Mystery Date. Computerized dating sims are a major phenomenon in Japan. Many use dialog tree conversation, in which saying the right thing to a prospective partner leads to a closer relationship. Some have complex systems of attributes not unlike those in role-playing games, but the attributes describe a character’s romantic appeal rather than his ability to whack monsters. Possible first use: DōkyÅ«sei (Classmates), 1992.

44. Interactive movies.

This genre came and went, and good riddance to it. It’s a world-changing design innovation because it proved so clearly to be a creative dead end that everybody knows not to make interactive movies any more—although the term is still used at times to describe the cinematic quality of games in other genres. Interactive movies taught us, by negative example, that gameplay comes first, period. The CD-ROM drive first made them possible, and in their heyday, they sold tons…until the novelty of watching tiny, grainy videos wore off. Best-known early example: The 7th Guest, 1993. Probable first use: Dragon’s Lair coin-op, 1983.

45. “Games for girls” (not women).

The game industry ignored girls entirely for most of its early history. In the mid-1990s there was a short-lived vogue for making games for girls, but it was mostly marketing hype and a lot of girls got ripped off by shoddy products in pink boxes. The idea has since been revived somewhat; witness the Bratz series based on the (in)famous dolls. A degree of controversy surrounds games for girls, as some people are concerned that fulfilling girls’ shopping fantasies is not as socially responsible as fulfilling boys’ violence fantasies. Other games aimed at the girl market are less stereotypical, e.g. the Nancy Drew adventure games. Best-known early example: Barbie Fashion Designer, 1996. Probable first use: Barbie, 1991. (Although Pac-Man and Centipede, both from 1980, were popular with female players, neither was explicitly marketed to girls. Plundered Hearts, 1982, was aimed at adult women.)

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