Video and computer games emerged around the same time as role playing games during the 1970s, and there has always been a certain overlap between video and computer games and larger fantasy and sci-fi communities (King and Borland 2003). Many early games were solitary endeavors, but the past decade has witnessed a massive explosion in the popularity of networked games, with titles such as Doom and Quakes standing out as early exemplars.
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In the mid 1990s, online video and computer games (OVCGs), which could be played through servers that connect hundreds of thousands of computers together, began to appear across the US, Europe and Asia.
Online video and computer games (OVCGs) do not require that players be physically co-present; rather, players gather in virtual game worlds where they play avatars- computer-mediated fantasy characters. For online video and computer games (OVCGs) to function it needs a computer as well as the software, instead of other tools used by several other games.
In addition, many online games, such as EverQuest (Sony) and World of Warcraft (Blizzard), have a monthly subscription fee. Similar to Role-playing games (RPGs) and collectible Strategy Games (CSGs), but different from many non-networked video and computer games, Online video and computer games (OVCGs) are specifically designed to offer hundreds of hours of highly interactive gameplay and for the development of characters’ identities (Schubert 333).
Online video and computer games have settings and systems, just like Role-playing games (RPGs), but the computer controls both, which simplifies the games in some important ways.
Online video and computer games involve multiplayer game worlds and allow for instant peer-to-peer communication, either through typed conversation or through voice-over chat. As players cooperate with one another on multiple occasions and for multiple purposes, they develop the same sense of shared community, and become known to one another through their specific style of play and their characters’ names.
Perhaps the biggest draw of on-line gaming, however, is the visual effects, which can be highly detailed with a sense of three dimensional spaces. The ability to play at any time one desires, for as long or as short a time as desired, is also an advantage since a player can find others online at any hour of the day or night.
Many online games today allow for a high degree of character customization and allow various paths towards success, so it is possible to create an interesting, original character that is not only present in one’s head, or on a piece of paper, but which is walking, jumping, fighting, or flying on the screen in front of the player. As Online video and computer games become more akin to “movies that I can control” their attractiveness increases.
Unfortunately, OVCGs requires a substantial monetary investment and a degree of technical proficiency. Additionally, Online video and computer games are still less portable RPGs and CSGs. Despite these problems, Online video and computer games are the fastest growing segment of the fantasy game industry and have gained more widespread acceptability than either table top RPGs or CSGs (Schubert 338)
To continue our fictional example of Academia: The Overeducated, the online version immerses players in a virtual university and the opening shot on the computer screen is that of the Registrar’s office. There, the player selects his/her character’s name, age, sex, height, weight, race, and other physical characteristics, and also signs up for first-year classes.
This would generate a graphical representation of the player’s character that one could then watch, control, and manipulate through virtual world. The character would be given a campus map and directions to a dorm room, as well as a key to the room. From that point on, the player would navigate through the halls of the Administration Building, on his or her way to the dorm, realizing that every person walking through the hall is also a player; a real person, somewhere in the world, sitting in front of a computer.
The player could have the character to stop and ask people about classes, inquire if a teacher was strict with attendance or not, and learn about useful bits of information that would help the character succeed in whatever tasks were encountered during game play.
Many role playing and collectible strategy gamers are also computer gamers, and those that are not are typically at least familiar with inline computer gaming and likely know some of the more popular game titles.
In the gaming industry, several of the larger RPG and CSG publishers have produced computer games based on their projects, or else have licensed their products to computer game manufacturers. While each type of game has its distinct advantages and disadvantages, an increasingly internet connected world and today’s fast paced life make Online video and computer games very attractive to gamers generally.
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Some current online, multiplayer video and computer games include: Hallo 2 (produced by Sony Online Entertainment), and Dark Age of Camelot (Produced by Mythic Entertainment).
King, Brad, and Borland John. Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003. Print.
Schubert, Damion. Online Games: An Insider’s Guide. Boston: New Riders, 2003. Print.