Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Computer and video games
Formally, a computer game is a game composed of a computer-controlled virtual universe that players may interact with in order to achieve a goal (or set of goals). A video game is a computer game where a video display is the primary feedback device.
However, in common usage "computer game" refers to games played on a personal computer, while "video game" (or "videogame") refers to games played on a video game console. Both "computer games" and "video games" are frequently used as umbrella terms for interactive game software. To avoid ambiguity, this game software is referred to as "computer and video games".
- For specific information regarding "computer games", see personal computer game.
- For specific information regarding "video games", see console game.
Game may refer to either the virtual universe and all of its governing rules ("Nethack is a game"), or a particular instance of that game ("my game ended in yet another annoying death", "game over"). Typically, a new instance of a game's universe is created by selection of a "new game" option, while previous instances and player states are retrieved with "load game" or "continue".
A game is composed of a computer-controlled virtual universe that players interact with. Player input is taken through various types of controls, and output is usually given through a screen and sound devices. Video game consoles usually utilize an input device called a controller, which contains a number of buttons and one or two analog sticks. Games played upon home computers may utilize an keyboard, mouse, or joystick (usually in some combination). The input is proccessed by the game and output is presended, usually on a television or computer monitor.
Gameplay includes all player experiences during the interaction with game systems, especially formal games. Proper use is coupled with reference to "what the player does" and how well they enjoy that experience.
Main article: Game play
Games, like most other forms of media, may be categorized into genres based on gameplay, atmosphere, and various other factors.
Main article: Computer and video game genres
Today there are many different devices that games may be played on. Personal computers, consoles, and arcade machines are all common. There is a thin line between games played on the computer and those on the console in terms of genre.
Many games intended for computers are now just as prevalent on consoles, both of which have many of the same selections of titles. This is due to the fact that video game consoles have drastically increased in computing power and capabilities over the last few years to the point that they can handle games that were formerly only playable with computers. With the release of Microsoft's Xbox console, which was based on PC architecture, and which was developed with online gameplay in mind, most major computer game releases coincide with the release of console versions. However, popular titles initially developed for a single platform are often "ported" to another platform. Recent examples include id's Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Windows to Xbox) and Bungie's blockbuster first person shooter, Halo (Developed for the Mac, then bought to be released for Xbox and then (re)-ported to Mac and Windows). The Entertainment Software Association reported that console games outsold computer games in the US by about 380% in 2003 (do note that this number does not represent popularity, and that fees such as those for paid MMORPGs are excluded).
Personal computer games
Personal computer games are most commonly referred to as "computer games". They are played on the personal computer with standard computer interface devices such as the keyboard and mouse. Video feedback is received by the user through the computer screen, sound through speakers or headphones.
Console games are more commonly referred to as "video games". They are played on a computer specially made for game play called a video game console. The player interacts with the game through a controller, a hand-held device with buttons and analog joysticks or pads. Video and sound are received by the user though a television.
Arcade games are coin-operated games played on a standalone device originally leased to commercial entertainment venues. These are programmed, equipped, and decorated for a specific game, consisting of a video display, a set of controls, and the coin slot. Controls range from the classic joystick and buttons, to light guns, to pads on the ground that sense pressure. Arcade games that are no longer profitable to lease can be purchased by private individuals, many of whom then explore the game dynamics by altering the programs.
Internet games are those which require a connection to the Internet to play. Internet gaming was originally an offshoot from personal computer games but may be considered a platform in itself due to its growing scope and the inclusion of internet capabilities in modern consoles. See Internet gaming.
Main article: History of computer and video games
Trends and attitudes towards gaming
In the early 1980s, games as we know them today were not as widely popular. Computer games were often hard to get by and the distribution channel was not available. But a popular mail order system was allowing many people to get into games. It could also be said computer games help popularise the notion of owning a computer and this help establish the personal computer as we see them today. The Apple II (made by Apple Computer and designed by Steve Wozniak) was chiefly designed to play games, and it was the first truly popular personal computer.
One way to judge the popularity of computer and video games is by looking at sales figures. The three biggest markets for these games in 2003 were the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom  and each indicated that dedicated video game hardware made up the bulk of the industry. Furthermore, the total income of the North American video game industry now surpasses the total income of the North American film industry.
According to the DNP Group , sales of computer games in the US have been declining since the late 1990s and are only a fraction of market. This is despite the findings that the US entertainment software industry as a whole is growing. Computer game sales were strong as recently as the mid-1990s and appeared to be growing at that time.
Looking at computer game sales alone can be a misleading, because there are many free computer games and ones that make money through other means, such as subscription-based MMOGs and shareware games. DFC estimated that global MMOG revenues in 2003 would be over $1 billion USD. Sales of games distributed by download are often not tracked by traditional methods. According to the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), Half-Life 2 debuted at #3 in UK sales, which some commentators said was below forecasts and attributed the discrepancy to unknown sales made through Valve Software's Steam distribution system.
Computer games are still big business in South Korea. Developers there boast MMORPGs such as Lineage and Ragnarok Online with millions of subscribers and a third of the world's MMOG revenue. StarCraft gosi (expert players) are celebrities in a game that some have dared to call the country's national sport. The success of computer and online gaming there is usually credited to South Korea's push for broadband Internet connections in the home and earlier bans on Japanese products (these restrictions were removed by the late 1990s).
Videogaming is also becoming a bigger part of popular culture. Many T-shirts are available that directly reference video games, such as one with a picture of an NES controller with the text 'Know Your Roots.' Also, video games have also become a major part in cross marketing platforms, such as in Yu-Gi-Oh, where a child can watch the television show, buy the trading cards, and play the various video games available.
Video games also are breaking into popular cinema. One of the earlier popular films was The Wizard, which some criticized as a 90 minute ad for Super Mario Brothers 3. In the mid-90s, films for Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, Wing Commander and Mortal Kombat were released. However, all but the first Mortal Kombat films are held as pure garbage in the eyes of many cinema goers, but all have smaller followings.
Despite the ultimately poor performance of these movies, many studios still want to turn big games into movies, hoping that the popularity of the game will help the movie. However, after the initial bunch, many projects materialized that were never finished, but the success of films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider has led to more films materializing. Doom, a game which film makers were trying to cross over since the mid 90s is finally going into production. John Woo is also producing a movie on the popular Nintendo game, Metroid.
However, there is still debate in the movie industry on whether video games can be turned into good, profitable movies. Films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which has received mixed responses from audiences, with some saying it is a great movie, and others saying it is a very bad movie with excellent CGI, but ultimately flopped in the box office, and Uwe Boll's House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, which both ended up being horrible flops both in fan reactions and box office success and the former ending up on the IMDB's bottom 100 movies, do not, in turn, give much confidence in whether these movies will be handled seriously.
Also, video games have found themselves on MTV2, in a popular show called Video Mod , where characters from popular video games perform songs from hit artists, such as characters from The Sims 2 performing the song "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains Of Wayne.
On the internet, gaming has also become a popular subject of many webcomics. Currently there are two varieties. The first one is the Sprite Comic, such as 8 Bit Theatre, in which the artist uses sprites from a video game to tell stories. Sometimes these are original stories, but are often parodies of the game in which the sprite came from. The other is a more traditional comic strip, containing original art, like Penny Arcade. Here, the storylines or jokes revolve around current events in video gaming. The success of Penny Arcade has attracted many people in the industry, including Ubi Soft. Other parodies have come in the form of amateur videos, such as those of Mega 64.
Main article: Game development
Video games are made by developers, who can be individuals, but are almost always a team consisting of designers, graphic designers and other artists, programmers, sound designers, musicians, and other technicians. Most video game console development teams number anywhere from 20 to 50 people, with some teams exceeding 100. The average team size as well as the average development time of a game have grown along with the size of the industry and the technology involved in creating games. This has led to regular occurrences of missed deadlines and unfinished products, such as Duke Nukem Forever. See also: video game industry practices.
Main article: Mod (computer gaming)
Games running on a PC are designed with change in mind, and this consequently allows modern computer games to be modified by gamers without much difficulty. These mods (short for "modifications") can add an extra dimension of replayability and interest. The Internet provided an inexpensive medium to promote and distribute mods, and they became an increasingly important factor in the commercial success of some games. Developers such as id, Valve, and Epic provide extensive tools and documentation to assist mod makers, leveraging the potential success brought in by a popular mod like Counter-Strike.
Recently, computer games have also been used as a digital-art medium. See artistic computer game modification.
Gamers use several umbrella terms for console, PC, arcade, handheld, and similar games since they do not agree on the best name. For many, either "computer game" or "video game" describes these games as a whole. Other commonly used terms include "entertainment software", "electronic game", "software game", and "videogame" (as one word).
- Lieu, Tina (August 1997). "Where have all the PC games gone?". Computing Japan.
- Costikyan, Greg (1994) "I Have No Words & I Must Design"
- Crawford, Chris (1982) "The Art of Computer Game Design"
- GameSpot: gaming reviews, news, downloads, and forums
- GameRankings: a site with game rankings based on the average mark from indexed reviews
- Universal Videogame List: a comprehensive video game database
- MobyGames: a comprehensive computer and video game database
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