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Encyclopedia > Videogame

A computer game is a game composed of a computer-controlled virtual universe that players interact with in order to achieve a defined goal or set of goals. A video game is a computer game where the player is given feedback through a video display.

In popular culture, "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".



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".

A game is composed of a computer-controlled virtual universe that players interact with. Player input is taken through controls, output is usually received through screens and sound devices. There are many controls available. Generally, video game consoles utilize an input device called a controller, which usually contains a number of buttons as well as one or several analog sticks. Alternatively, games played upon home computers usually utilize a keyboard, mouse, or joystick.

The effects of manipulating whatever is used as a function input for the game are then recognized on a visual output device, usually 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".

Main article: Game play

Gaming platforms

Grand Theft Auto 3 is an example of a game that is popular as a video game as well as a computer game.

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 (Xbox to 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

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 sticks or pads. Video and sound are received by the user though a television.

Arcade games

Arcade games are games played on a device composed externally of a coin slot, a television set, and a set of controls. Controls range from the classic joystick and buttons, to light guns, to pads on the ground that sense pressure.


Main article: Computer and video game genres

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 [1] (http://www.dmeurope.com/default.asp?ArticleID=2908) and each indicated that dedicated video game hardware made up the bulk of the industry.

According to the NPD Group (http://www.npd.com/), 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 (http://www.dfcint.com/game_article/aug04article.html) 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).

Several websites and publications devoted solely to games have been created, including Nintendo Power, Gamepro, Official Playstation Magazine, Gamespot, and IGN.


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.

Game modifications

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).

From time to time the term interactive is used to describe a video game. This term is often used by people in the movie and television industries who are not comfortable with the idea that they are involved in making video games, due to the video game industry's persistent stereotype of making products targeted solely towards children. A line heard from an executive in such an industry might sound something like, "We're a movie production company, and now we're getting into interactive."

See also


  • Lieu, Tina (August 1997). "Where have all the PC games gone?" (http://www.cjmag.co.jp/magazine/issues/1997/aug97/0897pcgames.html). Computing Japan.
  • Costikyan, Greg (1994) "I Have No Words & I Must Design" (http://www.costik.com/nowords.html)
  • Crawford, Chris (1982) "The Art of Computer Game Design" (http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/fac/peabody/game-book/Coverpage.html)

External links

  • GameSpot (http://www.gamespot.com): gaming reviews, news, downloads, and forums
  • GameRankings (http://www.gamerankings.com): a site with game rankings based on the average mark from indexed reviews
  • Universal Videogame List (http://www.uvlist.com): a comprehensive video game database

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