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An online game is a video game played over some form of computer network. This network is usually the internet or equivalent technology, but games have always used whatever technology was current: modems before the Internet, and hard wired terminals before modems. The expansion of online gaming has reflected the overall expansion of computer networks from small local networks to the internet and the growth of internet access itself. Online games can range from simple text based environments to games incorporating complex graphics and virtual worlds populated by many players simultaneously. Many online games have associated online communities, making online games a form of social activity beyond single player games.
"Online gaming is a technology rather than a genre, a mechanism for connecting players together rather than a particular pattern of gameplay." Online games are played over some form of computer network, typically on the Internet. One advantage of online games is the ability to connect to multiplayer games, although single-player online games are quite common as well. A second advantage of online games is that a great percentage of games don’t require payment. Also third that is worth noting is the availability of wide variety of games for all type of game players.
Industry and demographics
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As of 2009, the largest market is China. The country has 368 million Internet users playing online games and the industry was worth US$13.5 billion in 2013. 73% of gamers are male, 27% are female.
Xbox Live was launched in 2002. Initially the console only used a feature called system link, where players could connect two consoles using an Ethernet cable, or multiple consoles through a router. With the original Xbox Microsoft launched Xbox Live, allowing shared play over the internet. A similar feature exists on the PlayStation 3 in the form of the PlayStation Network, and the Wii also supports a limited amount of online gaming. However, Nintendo has came with a new network dubbed "Nintendo Network", and it now fully supports online gaming with the Wii U console.
First-person shooter games
During the 1990s, online games started to move from a wide variety of LAN protocols (such as IPX) and onto the Internet using the TCP/IP protocol. Doom popularized the concept of deathmatch, where multiple players battle each other head-to-head, as a new form of online game. Since Doom, many first-person shooter games contain online components to allow deathmatch or arena style play. And by popularity, first person shooter games are becoming more and more widespread around the world. And FPS (First Person Shooter) games are now becoming more of an art form because of the required skills and strategy with teammates. More first person shooter competitions are formed to give players a chance to showcase their talents individually or on a team. The kind of games that are played at the more popular competitions are Counter-Strike, Halo, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Quake Live and Unreal Tournament. Competitions have a range of winnings from money to hardware.
Real-time strategy games
Early real-time strategy games often allowed multiplayer play over a modem or local network. As the Internet started to grow during the 1990s, software was developed that would allow players to tunnel the LAN protocols used by the games over the Internet. By the late 1990s, most RTS games had native Internet support, allowing players from all over the globe to play with each other. Services were created to allow players to be automatically matched against another player wishing to play or lobbies were formed where people could meet in so called game rooms. An example was the MSN Gaming Zone where online game communities were formed by active players for games, such as Age of Empires (video game), Sins of a Solar Empire, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.
Cross-platform online play
As consoles are becoming more like computers, online gameplay is expanding. Once online games started crowding the market, networks, such as the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox took advantage of online functionality with its PC game counterpart. Games such as Phantasy Star Online have private servers that function on multiple consoles. Dreamcast, PC, Macintosh and GameCube players are able to share one server. Earlier games, like 4x4 Evolution, Quake III Arena and Need for Speed: Underground also have a similar function with consoles able to interact with PC users using the same server. Usually, a company like Electronic Arts or Sega runs the servers until it becomes inactive, in which private servers with their own DNS number can function. This form of networking has a small advantage over the new generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles which customize their servers to the consumer.
The development of web-based graphics technologies such as Flash and Java allowed browser games to become more complex. These games, also known by their related technology as "Flash games" or "Java games", became increasingly popular. Many games originally released in the 1980s, such as Pac-Man and Frogger, were recreated as games played using the Flash plugin on a webpage. Most browser games had limited multiplayer play, often being single player games with a high score list shared amongst all players. This has changed considerably in recent years as examples like Castle of Heroes or Canaan Online show.
Browser-based pet games are popular amongst the younger generation of online gamers. These games range from gigantic games with millions of users, such as Neopets, to smaller and more community-based pet games.
More recent browser-based games use web technologies like Ajax to make more complicated multiplayer interactions possible and WebGL to generate hardware-accelerated 3D graphics without the need for plugins.
MUDs are a class of multi-user real-time virtual worlds, usually but not exclusively text-based, with a history extending back to the creation of MUD1 by Richard Bartle in 1978. MUDs were the direct predecessors of MMORPGs.
Massively multiplayer online games (MMOG)
Massively multiplayer online games were made possible with the growth of broadband Internet access in many developed countries, using the Internet to allow hundreds of thousands of players to play the same game together. Many different styles of massively multiplayer games are available, such as:
- MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game)
- MMORTS (Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy)
- MMOFPS (Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter)
- MMOSG (Massively multiplayer online social game)
Online game governance
Popular online games are commonly bound by an End-user license agreement (EULA). The consequences of breaking the agreement vary according to the contract; ranging from warnings to termination, such as in the 3D immersive world Second Life where a breach of contract will append the player warnings, suspension and termination depending on the offense. Enforcing the EULA is difficult, due to high economic costs of human intervention and low returns to the firm. Only in large scale games is it profitable for the firm to enforce its EULA.
Edward Castronova writes that "there are issues of ownership and governance that wrinkle the affairs of state significantly". He has divided the online governance into "good governance" and "strange governance". Castronova also mentions that synthetic worlds are good ways to test for government and management.
Where online gaming supports a player chat feature, it is not uncommon to encounter hate speech, sexual harassment and cyberbullying. The subject is controversial, with many players defending their freedom to engage in any form of behavior. Players, developers, gaming companies, and professional observers are discussing and developing tools which discourage antisocial behavior. There are also sometimes Moderators present, who attempt to prevent Anti-Social behaviour. In some online games, there are bots which automatically detect some forms of anti-social behavior, such as spam or rude language, and punish the player if detected.
- Rollings, Andrew; Adams, Ernest (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall.
- Hao Yan (2010-06-23). "China's online game revenue tops the world". www.chinadaily.com.cn. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
- Paul Bischoff (2014-07-22). "China’s mobile internet users now outnumber its PC internet users". Tech In Asia. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
- Steven Millward (2014-01-21). "Let’s take a look at China’s $13.5 billion online gaming industry (INFOGRAPHIC)". Tech In Asia. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
- Castronova, Edward (2006). Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games. University Of Chicago Press. pp. 10, 291. ISBN 0-226-09627-0. "[pp. 10] The ancestors of MMORPGS were text-based multiuser domains (MUDs) [...] [pp. 291] Indeed, MUDs generate perhaps the one historical connection between game-based VR and the traditional program [...]"
- "Community: Incident Report". Second Life. Archived from the original on 2010-05-08. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
- Castronova 2005, p.205.
- Inkblot (February 29, 2012). "Back to Basics, Getting Beyond the Drama". shoryuken.com/. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- Amy O'Leary (August 1, 2012). "In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real". The New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- James Portnow. "Extra Credits: Harassment" (video). penny-arcade.com: Extra Credits. Archived from the original on August 2, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012. "This week, we tackle the rampant bullying, misogyny and hate speech that occurs within the gaming community."