A knowledge of the various game genres is required in order to gain an understanding of which computer games are played. Computer and video games are sub-divided into genres in a similar way to books, music, film and television. There are both connections with traditional categories and specific game genres. These genres are frequently based on the interactive challenge of the game and on technological development. The following explanations present the genre system used by the USK. This system is adapted to current developments on the games market on an ongoing basis. Even though there is no automatic link between a certain genre and the category of age rating symbol issued, possible correlations are indicated.
Opulent worlds and hours of game play fun make Classical Adventures the novels of the computer game branch. Players move from puzzle to puzzle without any time pressure constraints. Logical problems are solved, items are combined from inventories (point & click), information is acquired and answers are provided in the form of dialogue. Players are often entangled in adventure, conspiracy or campaigns the extent of which they cannot recognise from the outset.
The principle of Classical Adventure games is essentially non-violent and seldom provides a reason for an age restriction. Nevertheless, the background story and complexity of such games mean that younger children rarely constitute a target group.
The focus in this type of game is, as the name suggests, on action and adventure. An adventurous task gradually emerges against a background which tends to be of a fantastical nature. Players control their game figure in an action oriented manner, although brain power is also required to move through such scenarios as jungles, catacombs and dungeons. As well as featuring fights or exchanges of gunfire, games also require such actions as the shifting of statues, the finding of secret passageways or the solving of ancient riddles. This is a separate genre which clearly differs from the Classical Adventure genre by dint of its combat elements.
The action element of these games results in age restrictions, although these vary greatly depending on the degree of realistic content, pressure to act and tension generated.
This genre has its origins in the traditional Games Arcade. The objective of the games is to score points and achieve the “high score”. Games are easy to access and have simple controls and a clear game task. Skill and speed of reaction are required. Although there is an enormous variety of Arcade games, they all have one idea in common: easy to learn, difficult to master.
The wide range of games within this traditional genre means that it includes games with very different age restrictions.
Because no particular time pressure is involved, the challenge of the game tends to involve exercising the brain rather than requiring manual dexterity. Although skill may also be an aspect, the focus is mostly on using powers of deduction to solve problems which are often presented using simple graphics and in two-dimensional form.
The rare cases where an age restriction applies are dictated by the graphical or content backgrounds against which the tasks must be solved.
Jump 'n' Run
Players control comical figures who seek to hop, jump and run their way onto various platforms whilst overcoming a range of obstacles. Newer Jump 'n' Run games are frequently enhanced with missions, adventure elements and weapons. More and more games take place within 3D environments. Nevertheless, the core focus remains on large, fantastical themed worlds offering players plenty in the way of variety whilst they fulfil non-violent tasks.
This genre contains both pure children’s games as well as products issued an age rating of Approved for children aged 6 and above due to the considerable pressure to act exerted in action packed sequences.
Board and Card games
Players are provided with a digital representation of a board or card game or of another, usually traditional, game mode with complex and familiar rules and a multi-player facility. Games are closely based on the original in terms of visualisation.
The harmless nature of these traditional games in child protection terms is clearly reflected by the issuance of the categorisation Approved without age restriction.
This genre contains many of the games specifically programmed for the youngest players. Simple colourful tasks foster and train the development of skills. Games link in with the children’s existing media experiences and media preferences and involve the colouring in of favourite characters or the use of such figures in scenarios. This enables play to be used as a vehicle to stimulate creativity and productivity.
This type of game is regularly Approved without age restriction.
This genre of game puts players in the position of an ambitious entrepreneur or requires the management of complex facilities. Games focus on topics such as competition, finances, human resources and technical developments. In contrast to the genres of Non-military Simulation and Building Strategy games, the ultimate emphasis here is on monetary and economic aspects.
Games within this genre are usually considered safe in child protection terms and are Approved without age restriction. The content background and complexity of the games mean, however, that very young children are not the target group.
Role-playing games (RPG)
In this sort of game, the player acts as a saviour, often operating within a medieval scenario and dealing with a world beset by all kinds of adversity. Players are afforded the opportunity to play the hero within a storyline which may be more or less long-winded. The hero of the story may fall into various categories such as a knight, a magician or an elf. A group of game characters (the “party”) is assembled for the player to lead as he or she endeavours to fulfil the “quest”. Dialogues are conducted with computer controlled characters (NPC – non-playable characters) in order to obtain information about quests.
The wide range of tasks, stories and graphical presentations involved with this genre means that it includes games from all age rating categorisations.
The main underlying concept of Shooter games features the experience of a permanent threat. Players are required to protect their own game character and eliminate the attacking figures which oppose them. Missions need to be fulfilled. Players guide their game figure through open country, catacombs, warehouses or similar environments in order to vanquish their opponents and bring their own character safely to the objective. The games routes leading to the exits for the various sections of the game are mainly linear and need to be successfully reached and occasionally defended.
The general and detailed nature of the game elements usually means that this genre of game is not approved for children.
This genre of game requires players to move within complex virtual environments where the emphasis may be on technical functions or living environments. Vehicles,people’s lives, economic cycles or military helicopters may all be involved. Players enter machines, contexts or environments directly. They experience these from the inside and seek to make them function.
Age rating categorisations vary according to the object of the simulation.
Lifestyle games provide easy and relaxing entertainment. They function without requiring the game depth of other genres and do not need a background story, although they make use of typical elements of game idea implementation. The main focus is on everyday themes and problems such as fitness, make-up, quitting smoking or fashion.
Games within this genre are harmless in terms of child protection and are therefore virtually always Approved without age restriction.
This genre of games features the highly realistic representation of various sports. Original licences, commentators and chracters are provided. This means that even occasional players and beginners quickly feel at home and do not face any obstacles because they are familiar with the rules and game heroes. Sports games are usually multi-player capable and are presented in a similar way to television or at least extremely realistically. Players also expect annually updated versions taking the latest changes to rules, sports strips and squads into account.
Games within this genre are mostly considered safe in child protection terms and are Approved as suitable without age restriction. Martial arts and combat sports game representations constitute an exception in this regard.
In this genre of game, the focus is on victory or defeat. Players act as virtual strategists, adopt a planned approach and deploy their various resources or units in a targeted manner. They mostly control game events from an isometric perspective (looking down diagonally onto the playing surface).
Age rating categorisations vary depending on the dominant objective and task and on graphical realisation
This genre of game refers to quality characteristics, and such games deliver higher game value. Genre Mix refers to constant or at least possible change between various genres. This means that several basic game ideas are inter-connected. Players are required to act at a number of different levels. These differ in terms of game perspective, tasks, complexity, objective and difficulty.
The diversity of this mixed genre means that it includes games from all age rating categorisations.
A game collection comprises more than one game released in the same box. The selection of games may be made according to genre, age category or game topic or else may vary completely.
In the case of game collections, the object of classification is the collection as a whole rather than the individual games. For this reason, the age rating symbol issued is based on the highest rating of any one game included.
Major productions in particular are now often released with devotedly designed additional material. “Bonus Material” includes elements such as “Making of” features, sound tracks, digital comics, developer diaries or digital art books.
Age rating categorisations are determined by the game-related video sequences. These are mostly in accordance with the categorisation of the full version of the game.
Game magazines often include so-called cover discs. These provide readers with rapid access to the latest demos and trailers or to full versions of their favourite games.
The age categorisation is determined by the game element included in the publication which has the highest individual rating
Add-ons are additional software which can supplement the original game by providing new missions, tasks, characters, objects and story contents. They inform players of back-stories or enable them to visit sub-plots to the main storyline. They can introduce new powers, objects and characters to the game world.
Age categorisations are determined by whether the age rating symbol issued to the full version can be confirmed for the add-on.
Trailers are films advertising games and are used at trade fairs, in retail outlets and on the Internet.
The age categorisation of a game trailer is determined by the extent to which the justification for the age rating issued to the game as a whole is reflected in the film extract shown. It is perfectly possible for the trailer to be issued a lower age rating than the game as a whole.