The text defines an action game as one in which the player must use hand-eye coordination to quickly react to events on the game screen. The authors observe that action games are often simpler than other types because there seems to be an inverse relationship between the speed at which a game must be played and the complexity of the game. Simpler games can be player faster than more complicated games.
Action game genres
Many of the examples given in this chapter are of arcade games, most of which will be unfamiliar to the reader. The lack of referent will make the chapter go faster. (Do chapters about simpler things go faster than chapters about complicated things?)
The authors divide action games into two categories: shooters and non-shooters. They do not make a case for doing so at the beginning of the chapter.
In the shooter genre, the authors include games that simulate using ranged combat (e.g. guns, bows, missiles), and games that simulate melee combat (e.g. fists, swords, clubs). You should be able to come up with examples of games that include both long and short range weapons (the authors use the phrase "local effect weapons"). The older games referenced in the text tended to specialize in one or the other, while more modern games tend to include both kinds of combat, so it makes sense to place them in one genre.
The authors break the shooter genre into two sub-genres on page 291, but it is again unclear why they are making the distinction. The sub-genres are referred to as First Person Shooters (FPSs) and 2D shooters. Again, you are not likely to have seen all the examples given in this discussion, but it is likely that you have seen enough to grasp their concept. (If not, search the Internet for some reference videos.)
Both types of shooter games are described as having an avatar, ranged weapons used by the avatar, and some number of enemies/targets.
The authors spend a couple of pages describing some classic games (and some that are simply old and defunct). This section is not enlightening, so we will skip ahead. Useful observations from this section:
The chapter turns to non-shooter action games on page 296. Again, the authors list several games you may never have seen. They describe two games: Frogger and Q*bert. In Frogger, the goal is to navigate a frog across a road and a river, both filled with obstacles. In Q*bert, the goal is to control a board while avoiding enemies. The feature they have in common is that you are not a hunter, you are trying to be a survivor.
Action game elements
The authors move on to discuss some common elements found in action games. Only the first one, Rules, is further broken into sub-elements. If we accept that the authors mean the word Rules to include all mechanics of game play, we can see that this will be the largest element with the most parts. Some sub-elements described in the text are not as universal as the authors think, but many of the following are found in most games.
Victory conditions were defined and discussed in chapter 2. The authors remind us that some games have no victory condition as such, because they continue until the player loses. This kind of game is less attractive to players who need to feel the completion of beating the game and winning. It is also possible for a player to be happy as long as the player believes that the game can be won. As long as the player does not know that the game cannot be won, there is a perceived goal that may be pursued.
The player's perspective in the game is discussed on page 314. Typically, action games are presented in first person, third person, or side scroller perspective. The authors present a good argument against the first person perspective as being limited and unnatural. Most people have peripheral vision, which the first person perspective does not include. I agree with their observation, but this is not a complaint I have ever heard any game player make. It may be that this will be a reason for 3D game environments to be made after all.
Action game worksheet
On pages 319 and 320, the authors present a list of questions that a designer might ask about an action game they are working on. The questions summarize and apply the points in the chapter. You should use this list as a reference for questions you need to answer when working on an action game.
Strategy game elements
Chapter 10 discusses features of strategy games. We are told that strategy games were not common on console systems when the book was written. Is this still true?
The discussion of strategy games should cause you to stop for a moment and think about the fact that not all games belong to a single genre. The authors present Civilization as their first example of a strategy game. If you know that game, you may have wondered about it being offered as a strategy example instead of as a construction and management example. This series of game includes both kinds of game play In this chapter, the authors talk mainly about the strategy aspect of games that often include more than strategy.
The text tells us that computer based strategy games evolved from board games. Computer based strategy games tend to be either turn based or real-time games. The difference between them is apparent when compared to an action game. In an action game, there is constant interaction between the player and the game system (the opponent). The game play in an action game is typically very fast. In a turn based strategy game, the player has time to choose what move to make because the game waits for his input, usually without a time limit. In a real time strategy game, there are no turns, and players typically make their moves against a computer opponent that is set to play at a rate the human player can maintain.
The text begins a list of strategy game elements on page 323:
The authors spend some pages on each of the theme options mentioned. The discussion may not be very enlightening.
Strategy game worksheet
On page 343 and 344 the authors present a list of questions that a designer might ask about a strategy game they are working on. The questions summarize and apply the points in the chapter. You should use this list as a reference for questions you need to answer when working on a strategy game.