A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor. The word video in video game traditionally referred to a raster display device, but as of the 2000s, it implies any type of display device that can produce two- or three-dimensional images. Some theorists categorize video games as an art form, but this designation is controversial.
The electronic systems used to play video games are known as platforms; examples of these are personal computers and video game consoles. These platforms range from large mainframe computers to small handheld computing devices. Specialized video games such as arcade games, in which the video game components are housed in a large, typically coin-operated chassis, while common in the 1980s in video arcades, have gradually declined due to the widespread availability of affordable home video game consoles (e.g., PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch) and video games on desktop and laptop computers and smartphones.
The input device used for games, the game controller, varies across platforms. Common controllers include gamepads, joysticks, mouse devices, keyboards, the touchscreens of mobile devices, or even a person's body with the help of Kinect sensor. Players typically view the game on a video screen or television or computer monitor, or sometimes on virtual reality head-mounted display goggles. There are often game sound effects, music and voice actor lines which come from loudspeakers or headphones. Some games in the 2000s include haptic, vibration-creating effects, force feedback peripherals and virtual reality headsets.
In the 2010s, the commercial importance video game industry is of increasing. The emerging Asian markets and mobile games on smartphones in particular are driving the growth of the industry. As of 2015, video games generated sales of USD 74 billion annually worldwide, and were the third-largest segment in the U.S. entertainment market, behind broadcast and cable TV.
The term "platform" refers to the specific combination of electronic components or computer hardware which, in conjunction with software, allows a video game to operate. The term "system" is also commonly used. The distinctions below are not always clear and there may be games that bridge one or more platforms. In addition to personal computers, there are other devices which have the ability to play games but are not dedicated video game machines, such as smartphones, PDAs and graphing calculators.
In common use a "PC game" refers to a form of media that involves a player interacting with a personal computer connected to a video monitor. Personal computers are not dedicated game platforms, so there may be differences running the same game in different hardware, also the openness allows some features to developers like reduced software cost, increased flexibility, increased innovation, emulation, creation of modifications ("mods"), open hosting for online gaming (in which a person plays a video game with people who are in a different household) and others.
A "console game" is played on a specialized electronic device that connects to a common television set or composite video monitor, unlike PCs, which can run all sorts of computer programs, a console is a dedicated video game platform manufactured by a specific company. Usually consoles only run games developed for it, or games from other platform made by the same company, but never games developed by its direct competitor, even if the same game is available on different platforms. It often comes with a specific game controller. Major console platforms include Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo.
A "handheld" gaming device is a small, self-contained electronic device that is portable and can be held in a user's hands. It features the console, a small screen, speakers and buttons, joystick or other game controllers in a single unit. Like consoles, handhelds are dedicated platforms, and share almost the same characteristics. Handheld hardware usually is less powerful than PC or console hardware. Some handheld games from the late 1970s and early 1980s could only play one game. In the 1990s and 2000s, a number of handheld games used cartridges, which enabled them to be used to play many different games.
"Arcade game" generally refers to a game played on an even more specialized type of electronic device that is typically designed to play only one game and is encased in a special, large coin-operated cabinet which has one built-in console, controllers (joystick, buttons, etc.), a CRT screen, and audio amplifier and speakers. Arcade games often have brightly painted logos and images relating to the theme of the game. While most arcade games are housed in a vertical cabinet, which the user typically stands in front of to play, some arcade games use a tabletop approach, in which the display screen is housed in a table-style cabinet with a see-through table top. With table-top games, the users typically sit to play. In the 1990s and 2000s, some arcade games offered players a choice of multiple games. In the 1980s, video arcades were businesses in which game players could use a number of arcade video games. In the 2010s, there are far fewer video arcades, but some movie theaters and family entertainment centers still have them.
The web browser has also established itself as platform in its own right in the 2000s, while providing a cross-platform environment for video games designed to be played on a wide spectrum of hardware from personal computers and tablet computers to smartphones. This in turn has generated new terms to qualify classes of web browser-based games. These games may be identified based on the website that they appear, such as with "Facebook" games. Others are named based on the programming platform used to develop them, such as Java and Flash games.
With the advent of standard operating systems for mobile devices such as iOS and Android and devices with greater hardware performance, mobile gaming has become a significant platform. While many mobile games share similar concepts with browser games, these games may utilize features of smart devices that are not necessary present on other platforms such as global positing information and camera devices to support augmented reality gameplay. Mobile games also led into the development of microtransactions as a valid revenue model for casual games.
Virtual reality (VR) games generally require players to use a special head-mounted unit that provides stereoscopic screens and motion tracking to immerse a player within virtual environment that responds to their head movements. Some VR systems include control units for the player's hands as to provide a direct way to interact with the virtual world. VR systems generally require a separate computer, console, or other processing device that couples with the head-mounted unit.
A new platform of video games emerged in late 2017 in which users could take ownership of game assets (digital assets) using Blockchain technologies. An example of this is Cryptokitties.
A video game, like most other forms of media, may be categorized into genres. Video game genres are used to categorize video games based on their gameplay interaction rather than visual or narrative differences. A video game genre is defined by a set of gameplay challenges and are classified independent of their setting or game-world content, unlike other works of fiction such as films or books. For example, a shooter game is still a shooter game, regardless of whether it takes place in a fantasy world or in outer space.
Because genres are dependent on content for definition, genres have changed and evolved as newer styles of video games have come into existence. Ever advancing technology and production values related to video game development have fostered more lifelike and complex games which have in turn introduced or enhanced genre possibilities (e.g., virtual pets), pushed the boundaries of existing video gaming or in some cases add new possibilities in play (such as that seen with games specifically designed for devices like Sony's EyeToy). Some genres represent combinations of others, such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or, more commonly, MMORPGs. It is also common to see higher level genre terms that are collective in nature across all other genres such as with action, music/rhythm or horror-themed video games.
Casual games derive their name from their ease of accessibility, simple to understand gameplay and quick to grasp rule sets. Additionally, casual games frequently support the ability to jump in and out of play on demand. Casual games as a format existed long before the term was coined and include video games such as Solitaire or Minesweeper which can commonly be found pre-installed with many versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system. Examples of genres within this category are match three, hidden object, time management, puzzle or many of the tower defense style games. Casual games are generally available through app stores and online retailers such as PopCap, Zylom and GameHouse or provided for free play through web portals such as Newgrounds. While casual games are most commonly played on personal computers, phones or tablets, they can also be found on many of the on-line console system download services (e.g., the PlayStation Network, WiiWare or Xbox Live).
Serious games are games that are designed primarily to convey information or a learning experience to the player. Some serious games may even fail to qualify as a video game in the traditional sense of the term. Educational software does not typically fall under this category (e.g., touch typing tutors, language learning programs, etc.) and the primary distinction would appear to be based on the game's primary goal as well as target age demographics. As with the other categories, this description is more of a guideline than a rule. Serious games are games generally made for reasons beyond simple entertainment and as with the core and casual games may include works from any given genre, although some such as exercise games, educational games, or propaganda games may have a higher representation in this group due to their subject matter. These games are typically designed to be played by professionals as part of a specific job or for skill set improvement. They can also be created to convey social-political awareness on a specific subject.
One of the longest-running serious games franchises would be Microsoft Flight Simulator, first published in 1982 under that name. The United States military uses virtual reality based simulations, such as VBS1 for training exercises, as do a growing number of first responder roles (e.g., police, firefighters, EMTs). One example of a non-game environment utilized as a platform for serious game development would be the virtual world of Second Life, which is currently used by several United States governmental departments (e.g., NOAA, NASA, JPL), Universities (e.g., Ohio University, MIT) for educational and remote learning programs and businesses (e.g., IBM, Cisco Systems) for meetings and training.
Tactical media in video games plays a crucial role in making a statement or conveying a message on important relevant issues. This form of media allows for a broader audience to be able to receive and gain access to certain information that otherwise may not have reached such people. An example of tactical media in video games would be newsgames. These are short games related to contemporary events designed to illustrate a point. For example, Take Action Games is a game studio collective that was co-founded by Susana Ruiz and has made successful serious games. Some of these games include Darfur is Dying, Finding Zoe, and In The Balance. All of these games bring awareness to important issues and events.
On 23 September 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama launched a campaign called "Educate to Innovate" aimed at improving the technological, mathematical, scientific and engineering abilities of American students. This campaign states that it plans to harness the power of interactive games to help achieve the goal of students excelling in these departments. This campaign has stemmed into many new opportunities for the video game realm and has contributed to many new competitions. Some of these competitions include the Stem National Video Game Competition and the Imagine Cup. Both of these bring a focus to relevant and important current issues through gaming. www.NobelPrize.org entices the user to learn about information pertaining to the Nobel prize achievements while engaging in a fun video game. There are many different types and styles of educational games, including counting to spelling to games for kids, to games for adults. Some other games do not have any particular targeted audience in mind and intended to simply educate or inform whoever views or plays the game.
Positive effects of video games
Video games studies have been shown to negatively effect a players health and mental state, while positive effects can be overlooked. Through a theory called Self Determination theory, these factors can be measured to determine the effect video games can have on people.
Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro theory of human motivation based around competence, autonomy, and relatedness to facilitate positive outcomes. SDT provides a framework for understanding the effects of playing video games; well-being, problem solving, group relations, physical activities.
The ability to create an ideal image of ones self and being given multiple options to change that image gives a sense of satisfaction. This topic has much controversy; it is unknown whether this freedom can be beneficial to ones character or detrimental. With increased game usage, a players can become too invested in a fictionally generated character, where the desire to look that way overpowers the enjoyment of the game. Players see this character creation as entertainment and a release, creating a self image they could not obtain in reality, bringing comfort outside of the game from lack of investment to the fictional character. Problems that arise based on character design may be link to personality disorders.
Cognitive skills can be enhanced through repetition of puzzles, memory games, spatial abilities and attention control. Most video games present opportunities to use these skills with the ability to try multiple times even after failure. Many of these skills can be translated to reality and problem solving. This allows the player to learn from mistakes and fully understand how and why a solution to a problem may work. Some researchers believe that continual exposure to challenges may lead players to develop greater persistence over time after a study was shown that frequent players spent more time on puzzles in task that did not involve video games. Although players were shown to spend more time on puzzles, much of that could have been due to the positive effects of problem solving in games, which involve forming strategy and weighing option before testing a solution.
In a study that followed students through school, students that played video games showed higher levels of problem solving than students who did not. This contradicts the previous study in that higher success rate was seen in video game players. Time being a factor for problem solving led to different conclusions in the different studies. See video game controversies for more.
Online gaming being on the rise allows for video game players to communicate and work together in order to accomplish a certain task. Being able to work as a group in a game translates well to reality and jobs, where people must work together to accomplish a task. Research on players in violent and non-violent games show similar results, where the players relations improved to improve synergy.
With the introduction of Wii Fit and VR (virtual reality), exergame popularity has been increasing, allowing video game players to experience more active rather than sedentary game play. Mobile apps have tried to expand this concept with the introduction of Pokemon Go, which involves walking to progress in the game. Due to exergaming being relatively new, there is still much to be researched. No major differences were seen in tests with children that played on the Wii vs. a non-active game after 12 weeks.Testing a larger range of ages may show better results.