Video game prime

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Action, Adventure, and Strategy are the three video game primes.

Video game prime is a way to categorize video games into genres based on how they affect the player rather than how they're played or what they're about. Many gaming databases categorize games based on their themes or narratives, but these have practically nothing to do with how the game is played. Even categorizations based on game mechanics, while useful, don't really get to the heart of a game since they ignore all the non-mechanical aspects of the game. The video game prime system gauges games based on three basic characteristics: action, adventure, and strategy, sorted by their order of importance. While this is a fairly subjective system, I still find that it yields far better results at predicting which games a player will like based on their affinity to a particular combination of primes.


  • Action - The action prime is measured based on how quickly the player is expected to react to stimuli, and how frequently those reactions take place. Lots a rapid responses indicate a high action prime.
  • Adventure - Adventure is the hardest prime to gauge because it's based on an emotional response to the game. Games which tell a good story or instill a feeling of wonder have a high adventure prime.
  • Strategy - This prime is measured by how much reflective thought a game requires. Solving puzzles, devising optimal strategies, and answering trivia all relate to this prime.

Most games incorporate all three primes to varying degrees, however some may lack one or two primes. For example, a very plain video game version of chess has a strong strategy prime, but lacks both the action and adventure primes. However, a video game version of speed chess adds the action prime by putting a time limit on each player's turn, forcing them to make rapid moves. The game Battle Chess incorporates the adventure prime by giving the game pieces interesting characterizations.


With three primes, there are six possible order combinations. Each is described below with example genres and games.

Action, Adventure, Strategy

These games tend to be very interactive and fast-paced requiring little forethought, but still have elements of exploration and/or a story. This is the most popular form of video game and the most easily accessible to a broad range of players. Most traditional arcade games use this order including shooters, platformers, beat 'em ups, as well as later creations like first-person shooters.

Action, Strategy, Adventure

These place a lot of emphasis on reflexive game play, but a good game plan is highly beneficial. Sports, fighting games, and team-based action games usually have this prime order because they benefit from the players following a strategy, but mostly require each player to have great reaction time.

Adventure, Action, Strategy

Games with this prime order use a lot of action elements, but as tools for exploration and storytelling. Story-driven Metroidvanias and combat-heavy adventure games fit into this category. With strategy last, there may be the occasional puzzle or need for contemplation, but it's not as important as the story or action.

Adventure, Strategy, Action

These are story or exploration driven games that require a lot of thought and trial and error. This includes graphic adventures, visual novels, and story-driven role-playing games. There may be the occasional action sequence, but they're outliers in the game.

Strategy, Action, Adventure

Games with this prime order require the ability to quickly determine an optimal solution to a complex problem. This includes juggling a lot of variables at once or reflexive puzzles. The game may have a story or require exploration, but it takes a backseat to the min/maxing and action. Genres that fit this order include real-time strategy and real-time tactics, most video game versions of game shows, action puzzle games, and action RPGs that focus heavily on stats.

Strategy, Adventure, Action

These games tend to be turn-based or slow-moving. They focus primarily on figuring out optimal strategies or solving puzzles. Since adventure plays a more important role than action, they are usually story driven or very thematic. They require very little in the way of reflexes. Role-playing games heavy with turn-based combat fit into this category, as do most video game versions of traditional card games and board games.


I chose three primes as I found it to include the most important big-picture aspects of video games and the low number has the benefit of keeping the number of combinations to a manageable level. However, I can envision a system with more and there isn't really a limit; a person could conceive of additional primes or split existing ones. However, for each prime you add, you double the number of combinations. Even by adding one more prime, you get 12 combinations, and two more yields 24! A larger number of primes also makes it harder to set the order of the primes.