A few years ago, I linked to an alternate genre classification system for games, as proposed by Russ Pitts and Steve Butts in The Escapist magazine. I paraphrased their system as follows:
- Action vs Strategy deals with how you play the game. Action games emphasise the player’s physical skill at controlling his/her on-screen avatar. Strategy games, on the other hand, are about planning, analysis, and working out how to get the most out of the avatar(s), rather than about direct control.
- Exploration vs Conflict, meanwhile, focuses on what you have to overcome. Does the challenge in the game come from defeating opponents who are playing the same game you are, with the same objectives? Or does it come from discovering and overcoming the environment? The former, what Soren Johnson might call a “symmetrical” game, is Conflict. The latter is Exploration.
You can see this in the following chart from the Escapist article: games that require reflexes (such as shooters, racing games, and platformers) are at the top of the circle, while those that don’t are at the bottom. Citybuilders, which pit the player against an impersonal environment or ruleset, are on the left; Civilization is on the right.
I thought of this while playing Warlock 2: The Exiled, a game that looks like fantasy Civilization V but is really — to quote Rachel’s guest review — about “mage versus world”. The AI players in my game have been passive, content to march their armies back and forth and beg me for alliances; in Civ, this would have been a recipe for boredom, but in Warlock 2 the slack is taken up by wave after wave of wandering monsters, all the way up to dragons!