A Classification of Video Games and Players

A Classification of Video Games and Players

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8175-0.ch001

Abstract

Video games and players come in a variety of different forms, but are usually lumped together in a single group of “gamers” or “games.” This is a shortsighted view, especially in regards to research. Video games and players must be discussed in as much depth as possible to provide a foundation for being able to have a discussion about anything involving video games or the people that play them. The way video games are currently talked about needs to be observed and understood so that it can be improved. That way, individuals that play different kinds of games can be understood as more than just “gamers,” and the games they play can be understood for all of the nuance that they have.
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A Classification Of Video Games And Players

Video games are a complex form of new media. Being able to understand and use them in any context is difficult, especially because of the complexity with which they are made, used and understood. Even though the title of this book relates directly to library and information science (LIS), the first half of this book does not directly address these topics, and that is on purpose. Before a library can implement a video game program, the librarian(s) need to first understand many aspects of video games. Does the library want to just bring entertainment? Is it for education or literacy? What is the audience? Teens? Adults? Families? Are there health issues of the patrons? Is it a community group with health issues (e.g. ADHD or Autism spectrum disorders?). Without this knowledge, the librarian(s) could set up a gaming program that is wildly unsuccessful, just because of a lack of understanding of the complexity of not just video games themselves, but how video games are used, and even the culture and surrounds them. This is just an example of how complicated working with video games can be.

It gets even more complicated when research needs to be done on video games. Which video games are being researched? What audience? How is the sampling done? How can any of these questions be answered when there is currently no accepted standard on how games are categorized and classified, or the different ways in which people play games? Information professionals (of which librarians are a part) are uniquely suited to tackle some of these issues and improve the research literature not just for the field of LIS, but for all of video game literature.

It is for all of these reasons that there needs to be a solid understanding of video games as a whole before specifics are discussed. Just saying “I want to study video games!” is akin to saying “I want to study biology!” It is a great start, but the nuance, depth, and breadth of the subject area needs to be taken into account. There is never going to be an easy one size fits all solution. The first half of the book strives to establish this context, depth, and breadth of video games as a whole so that there can be more detail and attention paid in the second half, in an educated fashion, to the nuances that LIS can bring to video games. Understanding the current state of video games, not just from one point of view, is imperative to being able to create a future for research and video games, especially in the field of LIS. Without a current understanding of the lay of the land, understanding the information seeking behavior or information needs of video game players would be almost impossible. The hope is that this book will provide a foundation for which others can move forward.

Classification of Games

Why the need to classify things? Why classify games and players? Everyone already understands what a game is, so why does it have to be more specific? Players are people who play games! Let us just move on and not worry about this, right?

But what about when the need for specifics starts coming out? Video games make people violent. Which video games? Farmville (Zynga, 2009) makes people violent? Not that one? It is a different type of game that makes people violent? By assigning a “type” to that game, we are categorizing it. Classification and categorization is needed to ease communication for games as a whole.

This chapter is not aiming to classify or categorize just for the sake of doing so, it is trying to provide a way to establish the differences in different groups of people, and different groups of games within the huge “gamer” culture. The millions of people that play games are all different in many, many ways, and being able to study, research, or talk about games requires knowing and understanding exactly what is being studied, researched, or talked about. While the definitions in this chapter are not the be-all end-all of the classification and categorization of games and gamers, it is hoped to provide enough of a foundation or starting point that there can eventually be consensus, or additional research done to actually provide a good framework for studying games and gamers.

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