A video game is a game played using an electronic device with a visual display.

Often "video game" is taken in a narrow sense to mean those games played on consoles for television and similar handhelds. The term "video game" is often not considered to include computer games and coin-operated arcade games, both because historically the games in these three categories were very different, and also because the activity of playing these three types of games is different. See history of the video game for more information.

Video games are made by developers, sometimes individuals, but almost always a team consisting of designers, graphic designers and other artists, programmerss, sound designers, musicians, and other technicians. Most video game console development teams number anywhere from 20 to 50 people, with some teams exceeding 100.

From time to time the term interactive is used to describe a video game. This term is often used by people in the movie and television industry who are not comfortable with the idea that they are involved in making video games. Usage: "We're a movie production company, and we're getting into interactive."

Table of contents
1 Video Game Market
2 Top Video Games
3 Video Game Criticism
4 Genres
5 Notable People
6 See also
7 External links

Video Game Market

Video games are very popular and the market has grown continuously since the end of the video game crash of 1983. The market research company NPD estimated that video game hardware, software, and accessories sold about US$10.3 billion in 2002. This was a 10% increase over the 2001 figure.

The video game market changes over the years as new video game consoles are introduced. This has happened in cycles of about 5 years or so, in which multiple manufacturers release their consoles within about a year of each other, then they and the video game publishers enjoy several years of game sales until technology has improved enough for a new cycle to begin. At that point, games for the old consoles generally enjoy some residual sales, but the video game public as a whole has moved on to the new generation of machines. The current dominant consoles are:

Top Video Games

The ten best selling console video games, according to NPD, ranked by total US units (January 2003 - August 2003) were:

  1. Madden NFL 2004, by Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 2
  2. Pokemon Ruby, by Nintendo, for Game Boy Advance
  3. Zelda: The Wind Waker, by Nintendo, for GameCube
  4. Pokemon Sapphire, by Nintendo, for Game Boy Advance
  5. Enter The Matrix, by Atari, for PlayStation 2
  6. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, by Take Two Interactive, for PlayStation 2
  7. The Getaway, by Sony, for PlayStation 2
  8. NBA Street Vol. 2, by Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 2
  9. The Sims, by Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 2
  10. NCAA Football 2004, by Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 2

The ten best selling console video games, according to NPD, ranked by total US units (annual 2002) were:

  1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, by Rockstar Games, for PlayStation 2
  2. Grand Theft Auto 3, by Rockstar Games, for PlayStation 2
  3. Madden Football 2003, by Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 2
  4. Super Mario Advance 2, by Nintendo, for Game Boy Advance
  5. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, by Sony, for PlayStation 2
  6. Medal of Honor Frontline, by Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 2
  7. Spider-Man: The Movie, by Activision, for PlayStation 2
  8. Kingdom Hearts, by Squaresoft, for PlayStation 2
  9. Halo, by Microsoft, for XBox
  10. Super Mario Sunshine, by Nintendo, for GameCube

See also 2003 in video gaming, 2002 in video gaming.

Video Game Criticism

From time to time, video games are criticized by some parents' groups, psychologists, politicians, and some restrictive religious organizations for glorifying violence, cruelty, and crime, and exposing this violence to children. It is particularly disturbing to some adults that some video games allow children to act out crimes, and reward them for doing so. Some studies have shown that children who watch violent television shows and play violent video games have a tendency to act more aggressively on the playground, and some people are concerned that this aggression may presage violent behavior when children grow to adulthood. These concerns have led to voluntary rating systems adopted by the industry, such as the ESRB rating system in the United States, that are aimed at educating parents about the types of games their children are playing (or are begging to play).

Critics of movies, television, and books as a group look down on video games as an inferior form of entertainment. This is probably because of the accurate observation that most video games have very little plot and even less character development—although there are some wonderful exceptions to the rule. In any case, a frequent counter is that this complaint is like complaining that playing a game of football doesn't have much plot or character development—that though video games include a narrative, they are really about acting in and against the world, and this type of entertainment is not primarily about passively seeing and hearing.

See also: video game controversy, video game proponent


All video games fall into one or more genres. A genre is a category which classifies what kind of content and game play a game is likely to contain. For example, a first-person shooter is likely to contain a great deal of action, will require quick reflexes and may contain graphic violence.

Below is an alphabetized listing of the main genres of video games and some examples of games for each genre. This list is by no means complete or comprehensive. Many of these categories are somewhat overlapping. GTA, for example, is an adventure, a shooter and 2D or 3D depending on version.


Adventure games cast the player as the hero (or heroine) of a story in which the player participates. These games normally require the player to solve various puzzles and find various artifacts. The earliest adventure games were textual, then a hybrid of visual display with textual input, and now rely on "point-n-click".

Adventure games began with Adventure in the 1970s, later developed into the Zork series, and rose to popularity in the 1980s and early to mid-1990s. Notable titles include Day of the Tentacle, the King's Quest series, the Legend of Zelda series, the Monkey Island games, and the Tomb Raider series.


Educational games, as the name implies, attempt to teach the user using the game as a vehicle. Most of these types of games target young user from the ages of about three years to mid-teens (past the mid-teens, subjects become so complex (for example, Calculus) that teaching via a game is impractical).

Notable games in the genre include the Carmen Sandiego series, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and the Oregon Trail series.

Programming games like Robocode and Core War may also be put in the educational category.


Beat 'em up or fighting games emphasize one-on-one combat between two players, one of whom may be computer controlled. These games usually focus on martial arts, which are usually so dramatic and physically impossible as to be comical. Some of these games may also employ hand-held weapons in addition to or instead of performing combat gymanastics (such as some characters in Mortal Kombat). This genre arose in the mid-1980s and is still somewhat popular today.

Notable series of games include King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, and Virtua Fighter.

First-person shooter

First-person shooters (FPS) emphasize shooting and combat from a specific perspective. Most FPS's place the player behind a gun or other weapon with the player's "hand" holding the weapon. This perpective is meant to give the player the feeling of "being there." Most FPS's are very fast-paced and require quick reflexes. Because of the perspective, these games tend to be very violent.

Recent studies have shown that these types of game actually improve user's reflexes (as in reaction time). The same study showed that little time was needed (as little as a few hours) to see improvements in reaction times.

To be an effective game, an FPS needs to be both fast and 3-dimensional, which put them out of the reach of most consumer hardware until the early 1990s. DOOM was the "breakout" game of the genre; it used a number of clever techniques to make the game fast enough to run on average machines.

See first-person shooter for more detail, and a sampling of games in this genre.


Platformers, also called side-scrollers, view the game area from a side or "cutaway" perspective. In these games, the background or playing area smoothly scrolls as the player moves about, hence the name. These games are traditionally 2D, but some have employed 3D computer graphics effectively. Traditional elements of these games include running, jumping and some fighting. Side-scrollers were some of the first types of video games and are still popular today, usually with younger players.

Notable games and series include Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers, Lode Runner, and Sonic the Hedgehog.


Puzzle gamess require the player to solve logic puzzles or even navigate complex locations such as mazes. This genre frequently crosses over with adventure and educational games.

Minesweeper, Q*Bert, and Tetris are probably the best-known games in this genre; see list of computer puzzle games for more.


Racing games are one of the most traditional of genres. They typically place the player in the driver seat of a high performance vehicle and require the player to compete against other drivers or sometimes just time. Emerging in the early 1980s, this genre is still very popular today and continue to push the envelope in terms of graphics and performance.


Rhythm games challenge the player to follow sequences or develop specific rhythms. Some games require the player to tap out rhythms using a game controller or keyboard while others require the player to actually dance in sync to music. This genre arose in the late 1990s with the ever increasing popularity of rap music.

Notable games include Dance Dance Revolution, Space Channel 5, PaRappa the Rapper, and UmJammer Lammy.


Role-playing gamess (RPGs) place the player in a fantasy or science fiction setting. Most of these games are similar to traditional role-playing games played with pencil and paper (such as D&D) except, in this case, the computer takes care of all the record keeping and deterministic elements such as die rolling. Most of these games have the player acting in the role of an "adventurer" who specializes in a certain set of skills (such as combat or casting magic spells). These skill sets are normally called classes and players can normally control one or more of these characters. Since the emergence of affordable home computers coincided with the popularity of pencil and paper role-playing games, this genre was one of the first in video games and continues to be exteremely popular today.

See computer role-playing game for a list.


Recent times have seen the emergence of a new genre called serious games. Serious games are targeted at adults and teach them real-world concepts via games. These games are contracted by large companies (such as Wal-Mart) to supplement their educational budget. For example, a game that teaches a manager how to run a Wal-Mart Supercenter may cost $1 million to develop, as opposed to having all the managers attend seminars that cost $20 million. As with traditional computer games, serious games are designed to be engaging, fun and competetive so that users will be encouraged to continue playing (and therefore learning from) them.

Serious games are too new have had a significant effect on the game industry and, since most are developed specifically for one client, they are not released for retail sale to the general public. However, many large corporations are starting to leverage the educational and financial benefits of serious games over traditional professional training.


Shooters emphasize shooting enemies, whether they be human, alien or insect. These game usually employ a top-down or fixed side perspective. These games have a fixed playing area and the player has limited mobility. Most of these games can be played (though not completed) in a matter of minutes. Some of these games do not even have a formal ending; instead they just get progressively harder. Another of the earliest genres, these types of games have fallen in popularity though they still have a strong hobbyist following.

Space Invaders is the prototypical game of the genre; other notables include Centipede and Missile Command.

Shoot 'em up

Scrolling shooters, also known as "Shoot 'em ups" or "Shmups," emphasize fast-paced shooting or shooting and running. The targets may be intelligent or non-intelligent (as in Asteroids). This genre is somewhat muddled. For example, at what point does a shooter become a shoot 'em up? Another very early genre which has a mixed following today.

The genre may be said to begin with Spacewar in 1962, but Asteroids is probably the most familiar.


Some do not consider simulations to be games at all, but rather "digital toys" or "software toys." Indeed, this is how Will Wright, the designer of the most popular video game of all time, The Sims, describes his games. These games aim to similate a specific activity (such as flying an airplane) as realistically as practically possible, taking into account physics and other real-world limitations. Some require a great deal of reading before the game can even be attempted, while others include a simple tutorial. Some of these types of games, such as flight simulators, have a limited following, while others, such as The Sims have an enormous following, including those who don't consider themselves "gamers."

Flight simulators are their own well-developed subgenre of simulation, as are wargames. Games such as The Sims, SimCity, SimAnt, and SimEarth are combination of simulation and strategy.


Sports games emulate the playing of traditional physical sports such as Baseball, Soccer, American football, Boxing, Golf, Basketball, Ice hockey, Tennis, Bowling, Rugby, etc. Some emphasize actually playing the sport, while others emphasize the strategy behind the sport (such as Championship Manager). Others satarize the sport for comic effect (such as Arch Rivals). This genre emerged early in the history of video games and remains popular today and is extremely competitive, just like real-world sports.


Strategy games focus on careful planning and skillful resource management in order to achieve victory. Classified as "thinking games," these products are targeted at teens and a more mature audience. Most of these games are turn-based as opposed to realtime, but there are some that are realtime or mix the two types of play (such as X-Com). This genre has had a consistent following since the mid-1980s.

The two main subgenres are turn-based and real-time games. Turn-based games were originally the common form of strategy game, the computers of the time being too slow for real-time interaction, and go back to Star Trek games played on teletypes. Early home computers were soon adopted for wargames, and the genre expanded from there.

Survival Horror

Survival Horror games focus on fear and attempt to scare the player via traditional horror elements such as undead, death, blood and gore. Many of these games include first-person shooter elements.

Third Person Shooters

Third Person Shooters (TPS) employ a specific perspective for the player. This is normally just behind the game character, but it is sometimes an isometric perspective. Many of these games are classified in other genres as well (such as Tomb Raider).


Most popular board games, card games, and the like have been computerized to some degree or another. For example, more than 600 freeware board games are available written in Zillions. Computer game programs can be worthy opponents and can help you improve your skill at traditional games.

Notable People

See also

External links