The word video in videogame traditionally refers to a computer display device. However, with the popular use of the term "videogame," it now implies any type of display device. The electronic systems used to play videogames are known as platforms; examples of these are personal computers and video game consoles. These platforms are broad in range, from large computers such as mainframe computers, to handheld devices such as cell phones and a personal digital assistant (PDA). Specialized videogames such as arcade games, while previously common, have declined in use.
The user interface normally used to manipulate videogames is called a game controller, which varies across platforms. For instance, a dedicated console controller might consist of only a button and a joystick, or feature a dozen buttons and one or more joysticks. Early personal computer-based games historically relied on the availability of a computer keyboard for game play, or more commonly, required the user to purchase a separate joystick with at least one button to play. Many modern computer-based games allow the player to use a keyboard and mouse simultaneously.
Beyond the common element of visual feedback, videogames have utilized other systems to provide interaction and information to the player. Chief examples of these are sound reproduction devices, speakers and an array of haptic peripherals (i.e., vibration or force feedback).
In common usage a
- PC game refers to a game that is played on a personal computer connected to a high-resolution computer display.
- console game is played on a specialized electronic device that connects to a standard television set or video monitor.
- handheld gaming device is a self-contained electronic device that is portable and can be held in a user's hands.
- arcade game generally refers to an even more specialized type of electronic device that is typically designed to play only one game and is encased in a special cabinet.
These distinctions are not always clear and there may be games that bridge one or more platform. There are also platforms that have non-videogame variations such as in the case of electro-mechanically based arcade games. There are also devices with screens which have the ability to play games but are not dedicated videogame machines. Examples are cell phones, PDAs, graphing calculators, GPS receivers, MP3 players, digital cameras and watches.
A videogame, like most other forms of media, may be categorized into genres based on many factors such as method of game play, types of goals, and more. Because genres are dependent on content for definition, genres have changed and evolved as newer styles of videogames are created. As the production values of videogames have increased over the years both in visual appearance and depth of story telling, the videogame industry has been producing more life-like and complex games that push the boundaries of the traditional game genres. Some genres represent combinations of others such as with Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG). It is also common to see higher level genre terms that are collective in nature across all other genres such as with action or horror-themed videogames.
Videogames are made by game developers, who used to do this as individuals or small teams in the 1980s. Now, development commonly requires a large team consisting of game designers, graphic designers and other artists, programmers, sound designers, musicians, and other technicians; all of which are managed by game producers. The visionary for any game may come from any of the roles outlined.
Videogames are developing fast in all areas, but the problem is cost, and how developers intend to keep the costs low enough to attract publisher investment. Most videogame console development teams number anywhere from 20-50 people, with some teams exceeding 100. The average team size as well as the average development time of a game have grown along with the size of the industry and the technology involved in creating games. This has led to regular occurrences of missed deadlines and unfinished products; Duke Nukem Forever is the quintessential example of these problems.
Games running on a PC are often designed with end-user modifications in mind, and this consequently allows modern computer games to be modified by gamers without much difficulty. These mods can add an extra dimension of replayability and interest. The Internet provides an inexpensive medium to promote and distribute mods, and mods have become an increasingly important factor in the commercial success of some games. Developers such as id Software, Valve Software, Crytek, Epic Games and Blizzard Entertainment ship their games with the very development tools used to make the game in the first place, along with documentation to assist mod developers, which allows for the kind of success seen by popular mods such as the (previously) Half-Life Mod Counter-Strike.
Cheating in computer games may involve cheat codes implemented by the game developers. Cheats usually make the game easier by providing an unlimited amount of some resource; for example lives, health, and/or ammunition.
Software errors not detected by software testers during development can find their way into released versions of computer and videogames. This may happen because the glitch only occurs under unusual circumstances in the game, was deemed too minor to correct, or because the game development was hurried to meet a publication deadline. Glitches can range from minor graphical errors to serious bugs that can delete saved data or cause the game to malfunction. Glitches in games for home computers, and now in consoles like the Xbox 360, PS3, and the Wii, may be later corrected if the developers release a patch.
Videogaming has traditionally been a social experience. From its early beginnings, videogames have commonly been playable by more than a single player. Multiplayer videogames are those that can be played either competitively or cooperatively by using either multiple input devices, or by hotseating. Tennis for Two, arguably the first videogame, was a two-player game as was its successor, Pong. The first commercially available console game system to support multiple games (the Magnavox Odyssey), had two controller inputs.
Since that time, most console systems have been shipped with two or four controller inputs. Some have had the ability to expand to four, eight or as many as twelve inputs with additional adapters. In the early days, multi-player, coin-operated games commonly featured hotseat play for at least two players. In later years it was more common to feature two-player simultaneous competitive play. Public business establishments which feature predominantly coin-operated video games are generally referred to as video arcades, and were widely popular during the Golden Age of arcade games.
Video Gaming Centers provide customers with the many different types of video gaming consoles. The idea of bringing people together in a cozy space that resembles the common household basement. These gaming places differ from the traditional idea of arcade.
Many early computer games for non-IBM PC descendant-based platforms featured multiplayer support. Personal computer systems from Atari and Commodore International both regularly featured at least two game ports. Network games for these early personal computers were generally limited to only text-based adventures or MUDs that were played remotely on a dedicated server. This was due both to the slow speed of modems (300-1200 bit/second), and the prohibitive cost involved with putting a computer online in such a way where multiple visitors could make use of it.
PC-based computer games started out with a lower availability of multiplayer options, largely due to many games being dependent on keyboard- or mouse-based interactions, a single gaming port (if any) available, and network options that were limited. However, with the advent of widespread local area networking technologies and Internet-based online capabilities, the number of players in modern games can be 32 or higher, sometimes featuring integrated text and/or voice chat. MMOs can offer extremely high numbers of simultaneous players.
Multiplayer games, which take advantage of the fact that computer games can use the internet, provide players with the opportunity to compete with other players from across the globe, something that is also unique to electronic gaming. MMORPG's take the concept much further with the establishment of vast, online communities existing in persistent, virtual worlds. Millions of players around the globe are attracted to videogaming simply because it offers such unprecedented ability to interact with large numbers of people engaged simultaneously in a structured environment where they are all involved in the same activity (playing the game).
An organization known as the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rates software for certain age groups, however publishers are not required to submit games for ratings, and parents are not always aware of the existence of these ratings. In some cases, children are able to obtain software that is not deemed appropriate by the ESRB for their age. Games that have sparked notable national controversy in the United States include Mortal Kombat (series), Night Trap, Doom, the Grand Theft Auto (series) and, most notably, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the infamous Hot Coffee mod fiasco which boosted the game's ESRB rating from M (Mature) to AO (Adults Only).
- ↑ Rita Chang, “Game Advertising Goes Mainstream,” Advertising Age (July 13, 2009); Entertainment Software Association, “Industry Facts.”
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