Posted on January 22, 2016 by Andrew Nguyen

Video game skills come in numerous forms and difficulties. Early arcade games and their in-home counterparts were largely skill-based, relying on hand-eye coordination and puzzle-solving video game skills for success. Now that games have diversified and can be found in tons of different genres, we’re seeing games that use new skills such as observation, interpretation, or decision-making over the more physical skills of early games.

The benefit of this is that we’re seeing games use different kinds of skills together rather than just focusing on quick reflexes or strategy. The diversity of video game skills is beginning to open up, incorporating elements of different genres and engaging more kinds of players rather than the same audiences over and over.

Classic Video Game Skills Continue in Modern GamingSkill-based games are the kind that test your reflexes, requiring quick movement and reaction times. Based in early video games like GalagaDoom, and Super Mario Bros., these games may be frustrating to new players because they involve a steep learning curve for people who aren’t used to video games.

That’s not a bad thing—today we have games that encompass far more video game skills than just reflexes. Skill-based games have changed, particularly in the AAA sector, but that doesn’t mean they’re no longer around. Games like SpelunkyShovel Knight, and other similar titles harken back to the early days of gaming, not just in visuals, but in video game skills, as they’re inspired by classic games with new technology.

It doesn’t take nostalgic visuals to appeal to fans of classically hard games, either—shooters continue to challenge players’ reflexes while games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne bring that difficulty into a new generation of immersive, visually stunning games. These games require a similar trial and error approach like that of classic games as you work out how mechanics function, often struggling through early levels until you get the hang of it.

Though it might seem like games are getting easier overall, that’s not necessarily true. Technology allows developers to change the way we experience difficulty—games today are more often difficult because they’re intended to be rather than because they’re hindered by limited controls. Video game skills aren’t dying, they’re just changing; that means there’s room for more kinds of games to exist.

Video Game Skills Shift in New Directions for Modern GamesHand-eye coordination and quick reflexes are the stereotypical video game skills, but as our games begin to change, so do the skills associated with them. Strategy has been an important skill in gaming from the beginning, but high-powered real-time strategy games like Starcraft andCivilization are tasking players with tougher strategic challenges. Resource management games test similar skills, requiring players to think about what they have, what they can use, and what they’ll need to do to replenish their stores.

Games like L.A. Noire test our ability to read people, often in conjunction with familiar skills like shooting enemies, and super unique games like Elegy for a Dead World inspire players to engage their creativity. These games are very different from classic skill-based games like Dark Souls or Spelunky, engaging a different group of players from what’s considered as the core audience.

Some games like Gone Home or Homesick require less video game skills than we typically associate with the medium. Exploration is the main purpose, exposing the story as you go—instead of passing challenges, you solve simple puzzles or find new clues. Though they’re less skill-based, they still add something unique to the medium.

Modern Games Mix Classic and New Video Game Skills for Revolutionary GameplayWith the emergence of these new styles of play, we’re seeing hybridization of these different styles. Big series like Mass Effect and Fallout combine decision making with action-based gameplay, giving players control over the story as well as more classic gameplay.

Games like the upcoming Alekhine’s Gun are the perfect example of this hybridization of video game skills. Like many stealth games, Alekhine’s Gun encourages you first to avoid enemies when possible and tests your hand-eye coordination with combat if you attract attention. The game works with a potent blend of strategy, hand-eye coordination, and quick responses to obstacles as well as some of the newer twists on video game skills, like choosing to spare or kill enemies.

Because we have the technology to support these new blends of video game skills, we’re seeing a lot more diversity in what kinds of games hit the market. There are no longer just platformers or bullet hell games or RPGs—there are combinations of all these different genres, exposing players to new mechanics and creating entirely new genres as a result.

It might seem like games are becoming less skill-based, but in actuality the skills that dominate the medium are changing and combining. Challenging games that use the typical video game skills of hand-eye coordination and reflexes still exist, they may just look different or appeal to different audiences than their predecessors. The different styles of video game skills available now are a good thing for the industry, because rather than playing the same games we played in the early days, we’re seeing exciting new directions for games across the board.


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