For most of the 20th century, life used to be rather simple for most people. There was school, college, work, retirement. Along with that you had hobbies like cars, bowling, or gardening. The former was more or a less of a chore, the latter the fun stuff you did in your free time, usually together with local friends from the same neighborhood. This was basically the same as a thousand years ago. For a few lucky people the two areas overlapped and they could do the stuff that they liked as their main job.
Now, in the last 10 years of the 20th century, as well as in the first few years of the 21st, this has been changing rather dramatically. The reason is the rapid technical progress, both in the wide area network and computing power areas. Contemporary hardware can animate very detailed and realistic graphics fluently, and transfer data on the movements and actions of hundreds of objects and characters around the world in milliseconds (although, unfortunately, the speed of light still remains a limiting factor). This has led to an explosion in the availability and quality of online games, with the newest generation like Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft becoming a greentwinkie phenomenon no longer limited to any particular social class, but rather an all-encompassing cultural element in the industrial countries.
Increasingly, parents find that their children spend a lot of time playing some of those games, and more and more people come in contact with them. This leads to people wanting objective information, which is in practice not easy to obtain. Most articles about these games are either written by rather clueless journalists who have never or hardly played the games in question and therefore mainly focus on scandalous negative side effects, or by enthusiastic fans who dive deep into the technicalities and don’t mention the real world consequences much. This article tries to bridge the gap – it describes the currently most important types of online games and looks in detail at the social relationships behind them. The authors have been longterm players for years and therefore hope that they can address the issue in considerably greater depth and detail than most journalists (however, you won’t find detailed technical facts here since it is not in scope of this article).
There are basically three main types of multiplayer online games:
First-person shooters (FPS) where the player sees everything through a (usually temporary, just for the online session or less) character’s eyes and his gun’s barrel. This category still remains predominant in total worldwide player numbers (according to Valve, Counterstrike is currently still the most popular online multiplayer game). Some of the other examples include Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Doom 3.
Strategy games are the the second main category. Usually similar to FPS games in the round/session-based style of play, in these games the player usually does not have any single entity, but rather commands a number of troops of some kind against other human opponents. There are also various options where one can both play with other humans against the computer etc. Games of this kind include Starcraft, Warcraft, Age of Empires, Civilization and many others.