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Definition

gaming

Gaming is the running of specialized applications known as electronic games or video games on game consoles like X-box and Playstation or on personal computers (in which case the activity is known as online gaming). 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 video 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 high fidelity stereo sound. Specialized input devices such as joysticks and steering wheels enhance the ability of the user to interact with the programs. Games designed for playing offline on individual computers are sold on DVD or Blu-ray media and can be downloaded from the Internet.

Second Life, one of the first massively multiplayer universe (MMU) games, uses a decentralized server architecture to meet the demands of up to several thousand online users simultaneously. In its most sophisticated form, a gaming interface can constitute a form of virtual reality. More recent developments include motion gaming, which responds to the movements of users, and virtual reality headsets, which enable an immersive experience.

Because of historically slow response time in playing games over the Internet, a trend  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. The increasing prevalence of high-speed Internet connections has made online gaming practical for more people in recent years, however, making LAN parties less common.

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.

See Jane McGonigal's TED talk, Gaming can make a better world:

This was last updated in March 2016

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