electronic game, device or computer program that provides entertainment by challenging a person's eye-hand coordination or mental abilities. Made possible by the development of the microprocessor, electronic games are marketed in various formats, such as hand-held one-player models, cartridges or compact discs that are inserted in modules attached to television sets, computer programs run on personal or network computers, and freestanding arcade versions. Most of their appeal comes from the computer program that synchronizes flashing lights and a variety of sounds with the movielike animated action portrayed on a graphic display (see computer graphics). As the technology has advanced from 8-bit microprocessors to ever faster chips with greater graphic and sound capabilities, the programming has kept pace. For example, the newest games have so many levels and twists that they may take more than 100 hours to complete, and the graphic capabilities allow the game player to alter the visual perspective from narrow to panoramic. The games may be contested among several players, or an individual may engage in a test of skill against the computer. Some Internet-based games, known as massively multiplayer on-line games (MMOGs), involve thousands of individuals interacting with each other in ongoing, open-ended play; by 2007 MMOGs were a $1 billion industry in the United States, with some businesses and individuals earning income through player-to-player transactions involving virtual products. In China, sales of virtual goods were estimated at $5 billion in 2009. Game subjects include sports (e.g., baseball and football); action warfare, adventure, and role-playing; casino gambling (e.g., as roulette, poker, and simulated slot machines); and such classics as solitaire, contract bridge, chess, and backgammon. See also virtual reality.
See S. L. Kent, The Ultimate History of Video Games (2001); M. J. P. Wolf, ed., The Medium of the Video Game (2002); R. DeMaria and J. L. Wilson, High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2d ed. 2003); E. Castronova, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games (2005); H. Chaplin and A. Ruby, Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution (2005); J. Juul, Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (2005); J. Raessens and J. Goldstein, ed., Handbook of Computer Game Studies (2005); T. L. Taylor, Play between Worlds (2006).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.