Classification of Games

Game collectors, librarians, game manufactures, and others are interested in formal classification terminology.

A few years ago, a visitor to the Website wrote:

I did not find anywhere on your sight a listing of the basic types of games. I am interested in finding out the basic types - such as a hunt game or a strategy game. Can you tell me what the basic types are? Do all games fall into one or more categories? I heard there were three categories, one being a hunt. Are there more, and what are they?

And here is the answer to this question:

Classifying games into types relies upon what was used as classification criteria. For classification purposes, the terms used must be "mutually exclusive" and this is not always the case in some classification schemes. Nevertheless, certain theories seem to suit certain needs! For example, some theorists only use physical characteristics of game equipment as classification criteria, and thus their types may be "non-equipment games" - spelling bee, "tile games" - dominoes, "board games" - checkers, "racquet games" - tennis, etc. Some create sub-categories, for example if the type is "board games", one can read about "cross and circle games", "spiral games", "square board games".

Other theorists are concerned with intended players, and thus such classifications include such types as "children's games", "girl's games", "adult games", "games for two", "team games", etc.

Many other theory examples could be offered such as ones you offer, e.g. - "hunt" and "strategy". These words are used to indicate the "primary" mode of player behavior in a specific cultural context.

As you know, in reality all games must be "a contest of powers between two or more forces in opposition" (competitive behavior) - and thus you well might conceive of any behavior that is "oppositional" as a game. There are no such things as "cooperative games". Consequently one might consider crossing the street against the light as a "game", or "playing the stock market" as a game - in both examples hoping to be a winner of those games!

The major criteria for classification are that a civilization has specified that certain behaviors (in conjunction with or without certain artifacts) are to be designated as "games". Thus, in the context of game classification, based upon examination of primary competitive human behavior, it has been suggested that there are three explicit behaviors - "racing", "opposing", "positioning".

Racing Games

In racing games the behavioral intent is to reach an established goal or end place before an opponent. Perhaps it is important to indicate that behavior in racing games is in the main based upon "chance factors".

Oppositional Games

In oppositional games the primary behavior is explicit direct conflict - as a boxing match or a game of chess. Often behavior in oppositional games is primarily based upon "cognitive factors" (which some label as strategies).

Positional or Alignment Games

In games of position (or alignment) the intended behavior is to place an extension of self (or indeed the self) in a specific targeted area or in a specific sequence as in crokinole, billiards, bagatelle, shot-put, space invaders, many puzzles and solitaire card games, etc. Games in this classification, in addition to chance and/or cognitive factors, are often influenced by innate physical skill and prowess.

It is possible by design, that a single game will intentionally elicit all three behaviors, and then the type or classification might be labeled "mixed"!

There are a number of other ways of classifying games, using a taxonomy based upon the structural components of games. To find out more about this aspect, CLICK on the left menu item Structure of Games.

Last update December 30, 2009