Part of the Personal computing glossary:

Gaming is the running of specialized application s known as electronic games, especially on machines designed for such programs and, in a more recent trend, using personal computers on the Internet in which case the activity is known as online gaming. A person who plays electronic games is called a gamer . The term "gaming" originated as a synonym for "gambling" although most electronic games today do not involve gambling in the traditional sense.

Pong, an electronic version of ping pong, was the first widely played electronic game. It was simple: you moved a bar up and down to deflect the ball, which your opponent (either the machine or another player) would attempt to deflect on the other side. It became popular in the 1970s. Since then, gaming has grown increasingly complex with enhanced graphics, full-motion video, 3-D effects and hi-fi stereo sound. Specialized input devices such as joystick s enhance the ability of the user to interact with the programs. Games designed for playing offline on individual computers are sold in electronics, computer, book, music and video stores, usually on CD (compact disc) or DVD (digital versatile disc) media. Computer games can also be downloaded from the Internet. In its most sophisticated form, a gaming interface can constitute a form of virtual reality . An example of this is Second Life , a massively multiplayer universe (MMU) that uses a decentralized server architecture to meet the demands of up to several thousand online users simultaneously.

Because of historically slow response time in playing games over the Internet, a trend has arisen in which gamers convene at a so-called LAN party , bringing their own computers and attaching them to a LAN (local area network) set up especially for the occasion. Nevertheless, the increasing prevalence of high-speed Internet connections, especially in metropolitan areas, has made online gaming practical for more people in recent years. Ironically, this trend may be offset by a proliferation of complex gaming on the Internet, consuming bandwidth as fast as (or faster than) it becomes available.

Gaming faces criticism by groups who point out that some of the programs have violent, xenophobic, sexually explicit or otherwise objectionable content. Concern has also arisen because some young people seem to become addicted to gaming, spending inordinate amounts of time at the activity. That said, gaming can be useful in a wide variety of professional and educational scenarios, especially in simulations for activities requiring visual and motor coordination such as driving race cars and piloting military fighter aircraft.

This was last updated in April 2007
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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