What are Online Games?
Many parents see their children chatting or playing on their digital devices but very few are as active as their youngsters and know exactly what is going on. This chapter focuses on the most important aspects of online games.
You might want to test your knowledge first – go to the quiz (see below) and come back for more detailed information afterwards.
There are basically two different categories of games:
- Single user games: are played by independent users, can mostly also be played offline, require an internet connection to install new features
- Massive(ly) Multiplayer Online (MMO) games like Role-play games (RPG), First Person Shooter (FPS), Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) are based on up to several hundreds of players forming groups to play together, require therefore a strong and stable internet connection. Most of them are offered free to test and then either charge a regular fee or offer items via their in-game shop where you can make your characters stronger, accumulate wealth/prestige mostly against real money partly also in exchange for points that you gain during the game. Some battle games don’t take longer than traditional board games (45 – 60 min) but when the pursuit of challenges or quests is required it might take longer and the player can’t always leave the game at any given time without being “punished” by his/her group. In some games you get “blocked” for some time if you leave prematurely.
Taking the possible answers to question number one of the quiz into account you’ll have probably recognized Monopoly as the only traditional board game which is still very popular. Therefore it has also made its way into the digital world and can be purchased today as video game or computer game as well (Monopoly City Streets, Monopoly Tycoon, Monopoly Millionaires = Facebook game,…) The second board game on the list, Settlers of Catan, was created in Germany in 1995 and contains many strategic elements making it fit perfectly for the development of a computer strategy game – Catan: The Computer Game. In 2005 it was also turned into an online game: Catan Online. These are only two examples of how well-known and popular board games have made their way into the online world without losing their original concepts.
Age of Empires is a series of personal computer games conceived as real-time strategy games from 1997 on, focusing on historical events. Each game covers a different historical period starting at stone age and going up to early modern period (e.g. colonization of the Americas) in Age of Empires III. Being very popular it also made its way into the online world with Age of Empires Online featuring the antique Greek and Egyptian civilizations.
StarCraft is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game in which three species wage a fight for dominance in a far-away part of the galaxy. It became extremely popular especially in South Corea. In a way StarCraft can probably be seen as a successor to Age of Empires as it falls into the category of strategy games but its setting differs totally from the latter and it also concentrates even more on the military aspect.
The game mentioned in the first scenario of the online-game, LoL (= League of Legends) falls into the category of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) which belongs to the strategy games as well. It’s currently one of the most popular online-games as the battles (matches) happen within a rather limited time frame (20 – 60 min), similar to old, traditional board games. Players control their “champion” and make him advance on levels. They form small groups (usually 5 people) to play against an adversary team. There are four different settings (= maps) called Fields of Justice to play on and mainly two modes: one requiring you to destroy the enemy’s nexus – a kind of home-base - while defending your own, in the other one you need to hold the majority of capture points. LoL is free-to-play and is funded by micro purchases using Riot points which players can buy at the in-game store.
EverQuest is a so called MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game), one of the first major games of this kind in 1999. Based on earlier MUDs (multi user dugeon games) players select a character (= avatar, also called char or toon) which they develop during the game by moving it through a medieval fantasy world, fighting monsters and enemies and gaining experience points. Players team up to form groups (= guilds) to tackle challenges together, interact with others through role-play but also by dueling in specific zones. Asking for a regular subscription fee in the beginning, the decline of the original game has let producers of the subsequent versions to introduce a new system where players can choose between a free-to-play Bronze level, a one-time-fee Silver level and a subscription Gold level.
WoW – World of Warcraft is a more modern version of a MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) first released in 2004. Very similar to EverQuest it also allows its players to choose a character avatar that they may develop during the game by defeating monsters and participating in quests. There are mainly two types of playing: PvE (Person versus Environment) or PvP (Person versus Person). In both cases players are supposed to form guilds in order to cope with the tasks together. The game requires a regular subscription fee which can be paid online but can also be purchased in form of cards at a retail store. Parental control features are offered by the producer allowing parents to limit the time spent on the game, fix a playing schedule or simply get statistics on the child’s playing activity.
A Tale in the Desert also belongs into this category (MMORPG) and takes place in Ancient Egypt. Contrary to WoW it does not include any battles but challenges in form of 56 defined “tests” belonging to different groups and redivided according to various themes. Seven successive versions called “Tellings” have been created so far. Final Fantasy XI is yet another MMORPG developed in Japan in 2002. As the name suggests it is set in a totally fantasy world with all the major features like choosing and developing a character by participating in quests and completing missions to advance the game story. It can be played on a computer or a play station and all the versions require a regular subscription.
MMORPGs are probably the currently most popular online-games and exist in many countries on different servers which also group players according to their language. Final Fantasy XI mixes players from different linguistic backgrounds and offers online-translation for basic communicational needs.
Counter-Strike is a series of multiplayer first person shooter video games where players form teams to act as terrorist and anti-terrorist groups fighting each other in the attempt to commit respectively to prevent terrorist acts. Diablo is an action role-playing hack and slash video game which can be played either on a play station or on a computer using the mouse to move around and keyboard inputs to perform other actions like casting a spell or buying items.
These are only some examples of the many games available today. Extension packs as well as new versions for existing games are constantly being developed but also new games are being released. In order for parents to know what their children are playing and how, it is indispensable to talk to them, to show interest in these new ways of playing, to be prepared to learn with them and from them and to seek additional information in case of doubt. Rather “neutral” websites like Wikipedia offer basic and detailed information on most of the games that can help parents find their way through a specific game.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.