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An online game is a video game that is either partially or primarily played through the Internet or another computer network. Online games are ubiquitous on modern gaming platforms, including PCs, consoles and mobile devices, and span many genres, including first-person shooters, strategy games and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG).
The history of online games dates back to the early days of packet-based computer networking in the 1970s, An early example of online games are MUD, including the first, MUD1, which was created in 1978 and originally confined to an internal network before becoming connected to ARPANet in 1980. Commercial games followed in the next decade, with Islands of Kesmai, the first commercial online role-playing game, debuting in 1984, as well as more graphical games, such as the MSX LINKS action games in 1986, the flight simulator Air Warrior in 1987, and the Famicom Modem's online Go game in 1987. The rapid availability of the Internet in the 1990s led to an expansion of online games, with notable titles including Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds (1996), Quakeworld (1996), Ultima Online (1997), Lineage (1998), Starcraft (1998), Counter-Strike (1999) and EverQuest (1999). Video game consoles also began to receive online networking features, such as the Famicom Modem (1987), Sega Meganet (1990), Satellaview (1995), SegaNet (1996), PlayStation 2 (2000) and Xbox (2001). Following improvements in connection speeds, more recent developments include the popularization of new genres, such as social games, and new platforms, such as mobile games.
Online game sessions are hosted by a game server, which can be a dedicated computer managed by the game company or a gamer organization, or the computer of one of the players. The design of online games can range from simple text-based environments to the incorporation of complex graphics and virtual worlds. The prominence of online components within a game can range from being minor features, such as an online leaderboard, to being part of core gameplay, such as directly playing against other players. Many online games, especially MMORPG, create their own online communities, while other games, especially social games, integrate the players' existing real-life communities.
Traditionally, researchers thought of motivations to use computer systems to be primarily driven by extrinsic purposes and have designed these systems accordingly; however, use of online games is by intrinsic motivations such as fun, relaxation, competition, achievement and learning, which considerations must drive their design.
Online game culture sometimes faces criticisms for an environment that might promote cyberbullying, violence, and xenophobia. Some gamers are also concerned about gaming addiction or social stigma. Online games have attracted players from a variety of ages, nationalities, and occupations. Online game content can also be studied in scientific field, especially gamers' interactions within virtual societies in relation to the behavior and social phenomena of everyday life.
- Asia Pacific: 47.9 millions
- Europe: 45.6 millions
- North America: 30.3 millions
- Latin America: 14.9 millions
- Middle East & Africa: 6.2 millions
The assumption that online games in general are populated mostly by male has remained somewhat accurate for years. Recent statistics begin to diminish the male domination myth in gaming culture. Although a worldwide number of male online gamers still dominates over female (52% by 48%); women even accounted for more than half portion of the population in certain games, including PC games. The number of female players age of 50 or older has increased by 32% from 2012 to 2013.
Statistics in the United States show a reduction overall in the number of male gamers, but expansion in the number of female gamers. In 2006, male gamers dominated female, 62% to 38%. In 2010, the number of male gamers dropped by 2%. By 2014, female gamers had just about reversed the numbers, standing 48% to 52% female to male. Other statistic in the United State shows a dominance of female population in certain online game genres. The distribution of online gamers (female to male) as of October 2014, by platform and gender:
- Role-playing games: 53.6% to 46.5%
- PC game (including social games): 50.2% to 49.9%
- Digital console: 37% to 63%
- First-person shooting game: 34% to 66%
Age and socioeconomics
Current study conducted in 2014 shows an average of age of gamers is 31 years old with 29% the population is under 18, 32% is within the range of 18 to 35 years of age, and 39% is 36 or older. The European Games Developer Federation (EGDF) also conducted a segmentation of gamers in coordination with age and socioeconomic status:
- 43% of gamers are older than average and more likely to be unemployed
- 21% of gamers are mostly below 30 years of age
- 20% of gamers are students
- 9% of gamers are in range of 30 or above and more educated/employed than average
- 7% of gamers are at the youngest age
Time spent on online gaming
More than half a billion online gamers around the globe play game on their daily basis with an average time spent online approximately reaches 3 hours per day. As of 2014, types of online games played most often include:
- Casual/Social games: 40%
- Puzzle, Board Game, Game Show, Trivia, Card Games: 18%
- Action, Sport, Strategy, Role-playing: 24%
- Persistent, Multi-player Universe: 11%
- Other: 8%
Gaming platform such as Raptr and Steam collect data of players during their gaming experience. Statistics from Raptr present a list of worldwide most-played online games according to total playing time in the platform. The leading game as of February 2015 is League of Legends (21.26%), followed by World of Warcraft (8.03%) and DOTA 2 (7.17%). The recent escalation of more than 7.4 million subscribers to World of Warcraft was due to the release of 'Warlords of Draenor' expansion
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.
Online games sales, by years:
- 2012: 22.6 billions of $US
- 2010: 15 billions of $US
- 2009: 12.9 billions of $US or 15 billions of $US according to another estimate
- 2008: 10.8 billions of $US
- 2007: 7.9 billions of $US
- 2003: 1 billion of $US and 23 millions of units sold
- 1998: 70 millions of $US
First-person shooter game (FPS)
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: Advanced Warfare, Quake Live and Unreal Tournament. Competitions have a range of winnings from money to hardware.
Expansion of hero shooters, a subgenre of shooter games, happened in 2016 when several developers released or announced their hero shooter multiplayer online game (Battleborn, Overwatch, and Paladins).
Real-time strategy game (RTS)
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 "rooms" to play a game. Popular RTS games with online communities have included Age of Empires, Sins of a Solar Empire, StarCraft and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.
Multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA)
A specific subgenre of strategy video games referred to as multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) gained popularity in the 2010s as a form of electronic sports, encompassing games such as the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, its Valve-developed sequel Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends.
Massively multiplayer online game (MMO)
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)
Xbox Live was launched in November 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 come with a new network dubbed "Nintendo Network", and it now fully supports online gaming with the Wii U console.
Cross-platform online game
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.
Java has become the most widely used programming language for browser games (though 2d). Applets made in Java are embedded in webpages and are run on the user's computer.
MUD 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. MUD were the direct predecessors of MMORPG.
Online game governance
Online gamer must agree to an End-user license agreement (EULA) when they first install the game application or an update. EULA is a legal contract between the producer or distributor and the end-user of an application or software, which is to prevent the program from being copied, redistributed or hacked. The consequences of breaking the agreement vary according to the contract. Players could receive warnings to termination, or direct termination without warning. 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.
Where online games supports an in-game 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.
Recent development of gaming governance requires all video games (including online games) to hold a rating label. The voluntary rating system was established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). A scale can range from "E" (stands for Everyone) inferring games that is suitable for both children and adults, to "M" (stands for Mature) recommending games that is restricted to age above 17. Some explicit online game can be rated "AO" (stands for Adult Only), identifying games that content suitable for adults over age of 18.
Forced online games playing
In 2011, The Guardian reported that scores of Chinese prisoners were forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money.
- List of video game genres
- History of online games
- Massively multiplayer online game
- Multiplayer online game
- Multiplayer video game
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This week, we tackle the rampant bullying, misogyny and hate speech that occurs within the gaming community.
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