MOBA, FPS, RTS and More: A Guide to Esports Genres

A row of gamers on computers playing co-op

For the uninitiated, talking about esports can seem like a foreign language. So many terms are either slang or acronyms that it feels like you need an encyclopedia to understand gamers’ conversation half the time.

RTS (Real Time Strategy)

RTS games are probably the most recognizable. These games feature a third-person, bird’s eye view of a map filled with resources, armies, and bases. Players in an RTS game compete against one another in real time for control of the map. To put this in context, imagine the board game risk but instead of turns, every player is always moving.

For years, real-time strategy games were the bread and butter of the esports industry. StarCraft was one of the first games played in a competitive tournament, and it remains incredibly popular today. RTS games have declined in popularity overall though, mostly because they helped spawn another, bigger genre.

MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)

Battle arena games feel similar to RTS games because at first, most MOBAs were a product of strategy games. MOBAs also feature a bird’s eye view of the map, but rather than seeing units of people, you control and play as individual characters. Dota 2, the most popular esports game, is a MOBA that got its start as a Warcraft mod before splitting off into its own game.

MOBA games usually offer a range of “heroes” to control, characters with unique skills and roles that complement one another. Players compete to destroy the other team’s base, usually in groups of five, while RTS games are not team based. In addition to heroes, there are also non-player characters (NPCs) that spawn on a timer for each team and run directly toward the opposing base to add support.

Along with League of Legends, these are two of the biggest games in esports MOBAs. Naturally, this genre has more twitch streamers and tournament prize money up for grabs than any other.

FPS (First-Person Shooter)

While RTS games and MOBAs are generally reserved for pretty serious gamers, first-person shooters have a massive casual fan base. The genre title is relatively self-explanatory as well: you play with a first-person avatar and shoot.

The Counter-Strike and Call of Duty series are the most popular, but Overwatch gained traction for its mix of FPS and MOBA. Standard shooters allow very little customization outside of weapon skins and gun classes, but Overwatch allows you to choose heroes similar to Dota.

FPS games are widely popular for their simplicity, but there is a big professional scene as well. First-person shooters have 15,000 active professional gamers, more than any other genre.

Battle Royale

Battle Royales make up a small section of games, but they’ve gained a lot of popularity in recent years. The genre gets its name from a 2000 film Battle Royale, which set a group of teenagers on a deserted island together to fight and scavenge until only one remained alive.

Battle royale games operate in the same way. A large number of players typically 100 are placed on the same map and must fight until a winner is the last one standing. Certain battle royale games emphasize the survival aspect while others focus on combat. The basic concept is generally the same.

While the genre has been around for a long time, Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds helped really popularize it and bring it into esports.

PvP (Player vs Player)

Player vs. Player was technically the first genre in gaming, as Pong was the first video game to gain popularity. The format of PvP hasn’t really changed much since Pong. Players are still similarly pitted against one another in modern games.

Technically any game that pits real players against one another can be considered PvP, but the term is only meant to apply to a handful of sub-genres. Sports games, like Madden, Fifa, or NBA 2k, are generally thought of as PvP, as well as fighting games, like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat.

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