Online gaming has become a huge part of youth and adult culture. But why is it so engaging? Learn more about online gaming, and common forms such as MMORPGs, LAN parties, and serious games.
Humans are playful creatures. Gaming, like most play, provides small achievements, rewards, competition and social collaboration in a way that people enjoy. Computer games can use a PC or consoles, such as Playstation, Xbox or Nintendo, and can be connected to the Internet to get bonus features or to play with other players using the same game. There are also many web-based games that utilise Flash Player. Facebook has many of these games, which people use to kill time while waiting for responses from friends, while also strengthening social connections through shared gaming with their friends.
Games can have virtual economies with real-world value. Players that do well can win prizes in some games, and some games allow users to generate their own content that can be bought, sold, or traded. More commonly, valued items can be a result of long game play that can represent a significant investment of both time and membership fees.
The tendencies towards play and striving to achieve rewards can be used to engage people in behaviour that isn't traditionally fun, like completing marketing surveys. "Gamification" uses game techniques, like achievement badges, to reward the desired behaviour, which is often engagement with a particular product or site. This strategy can also be used to encourage better mental health outcomes.
Users compete and collaborate within a shared virtual universe, often forming 'guilds' to work together to achieve shared goals within the game. A well known example is World of Warcraft, although there are many others.
Players all join a localised network to play games together, often in cafes or at a single house. They are social and competitive events that require a high-speed connection that can handle a lot of traffic.
A serious game is a term used to refer to software or hardware applications developed with game technology and game design principles for a primary purpose of learning rather than pure entertainment. In simple terms, it refers to technology-mediated learning.
Serious games are designed with the intention of improving some specific aspect of learning and players come to serious games with that expectation. Serious games are used in emergency services training, in military training, in corporate education, in health care and in many other sectors of society. They can also be found at every level of education.
While most serious games are developed in order to promote or teach something to the players that the producers are already aware of, one medical researcher recently produced a game called Foldit, where players use their intuition and spatial analysis skills to collaborate and compete in solving for the molecular structure of protein compounds. A retrovirus enzyme whose structure has eluded researchers for a decade was solved within 3 weeks by gamers, which has real world implications in retroviral drug development in HIV treatment.
Serious games have a stated goal and rules to guide players to that goal. The goal can be fanciful or purposeful, and a game that is well designed results in meaningful achievement of these goals. When the game focuses on achievement and education, yet preserves the playfulness and fun of playing, serious learning is possible.