History of Online Gaming
There is no escaping the presence of computer technology in our everyday lives. Those ubiquitous devices which help to plan our journeys, remind us of anniversaries, count our calorific intake and yes even let us make phone calls are essential tools which we rely upon to get us through the day. The entertainment industry was amongst the first to identify the power of this new technology, and today interactive gaming is a booming market. From the earliest pre-internet experimental programs running on simple networks, to the multi-million dollar game worlds seen today; or the online casinos which generate an enormous revenue, online gaming has a fascinating and surprisingly lengthy history.
Image courtesy of Sergey Galyonkin, Flickr
Way back in the mists of time – around 1973, to be precise – the first multiplayer video games were being played across an enormous academic network known as PLATO. The forerunner to the internet, PLATO was at the cutting edge of computer science. A humble game known as Empire was devised to allow players to battle for control of a galaxy whilst flying a spaceship. The game, which was heavily inspired by Star Trek, was controlled by inputting text commands.
By 1977, a popular single player game called Maze Wars became the first ever first-person shooter to be played over the ARPANET network. Three dimensional graphics and level maps were invented here and Maze Wars is amongst the most influential games ever made. Without it Doom, Call of Duty and Half-Life may never have seen the light of day. Maze Wars is also considered by many to be the first game played on the modern internet, back in 1986.
Massive, Multiplayer and Online
The internet grew as online technology became more affordable and easier to access. Although initially limited to academic and research institutions, internet access was becoming increasingly common by the early 1990s. This coincided with a boom in the home gaming market at the height of the “console wars” between Sega and Nintendo.
As commercial appeal and marketability began to influence the way games were made, an ever-greater emphasis was placed on the visual impact and the graphics. The first graphical MMORPG, Neverwinter Nights, was released across the AOL network in 1991 and proved the potential for multiplayer adventures. Nowadays the modern descendants of Neverwinter Nights are multimillion dollar enterprises with entire gaming environments and thriving online communities. The largest of them all, World of Warcraft, has more than 12,000,000 unique users and boasts celebrities such as Ozzy Osbourne and Vin Diesel amongst its army of devotees.
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The Birth of the Adult Gamer
These days, when gaming online you are just as likely to be competing against a professional adult as you are their teenage son. We have grown up with video games as an ever-present part of our world: just as much as music and television. As the age demographic of gamers shifts ever-upwards and the gender imbalance begins to equalise over the years, so too has the range of online games broadened to cater for all tastes.
Today, “gaming” has become just as important as games. Gambling in all forms is cheaper, simpler, and of course much safer thanks to the internet. From a quick wager on live sports events to high stakes poker tournaments and the sociable atmosphere of online bingo, the last few years have seen a huge surge in interest, with multiple new bingo sites entering the scene. In the UK, where bingo is amongst the most popular games, the industry is now worth more than an estimated £600M, whilst it is predicted that the total value of the online casino industry could be as high as $125bn by 2015.
The internet has brought gaming of all forms to an ever-wider audience. And as the audience has grown the industry has kept apace with demands: creating more imaginative game worlds, exploiting the latest technology and delivering new features such as live betting and social networking aspects to the online gaming experience. Even the distribution of games has been revolutionised by the internet: online stores such as Steam offer not only a place to purchase games but an interactive platform from which gamers can share their games, make friends and play together online. We have come a long way from the early days of Empire and Maze War.
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