“hello, Fancy A Game Online?”

Not so long ago, it would have been necessary to seek approval from parents if you wanted to invite around a load of mates to play multiplayer computer games. All those computers, cluttering up kitchens, bedrooms and any other available space in the house would likely have been frowned upon with a resounding ‘NO!’

However, today’s computer game players simply retire to the comfort of their own bedroom or office, put on their headset, log-in and then ring a variety of friends and cyberspace associates via a messenger package and invite them to join the game.

Computer game playing has certainly been revolutionised by the internet, or more accurately the availability of broadband. A survey conducted in July 2007 by comScore found that approximately 217 million people worldwide took part in playing games online, and that total excluded those playing on gambling sites. That number is widely thought to have grown since and according to some industry experts could already be as high as 300 million players; many choosing to play against others online in strategy, sports Sims or role playing games.

The rise in online gaming has coincided with a decline in the amount of younger people watching TV as they choose to spend more of their time on the internet perusing what they consider is more interactive and compelling content. As a result, massively multi-player online games (MMOGs), as they are known, are surging in popularity. Players can play in virtual space against opponents from anywhere in the world, or just down the street.

By May 2007, ‘World of Warcraft’ boasted a massive 4.5million unique players, with the virtual world of Second Life trailing only slightly behind by a few thousand visitors, proving the popularity of online game playing.

Most MMOGs have corresponding online communities where people get together and discuss elements of the games and swap tactics and cheats in various forums, when they are not playing the games. Communication is a vital part of the interactive gaming process, and the most popular games allow players to speak to their opponents or team-mates via VoIP methods i.e. telephony via the internet. Armed only with a quality phone headset, gamers all over the world are either playfully, or more often competitively, taunting each other when winning or losing!

After all, as far as serious gamers are concerned what fun is there to be gained from playing and beating opponents online if they can’t be in their ear to remind them how badly they are doing?! Indeed, that’s exactly what they’d be doing if playing in the same room. And, of course once a game is finished you need to be able to issue an immediate rematch challenge; the immediate battle may be won or lost, but the war is never over!

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