A screenshot of Tetris for the Nintendo Game Boy
A video game, often written videogame, is a game played using an electronic device with a visual display.
"Video game" is often taken in a narrow sense to mean those games played on consoles for television and similar handhelds. The term "video game" generally excludes computer games and coin-operated arcade games, not only because the games in these categories are historically different, but because the activity of playing these types of game is different (see history of the video games). The terms electronic game and interactive entertainment include video games, computer games, and coin-operated arcade games.
Grand Theft Auto 3
Nowadays there is a thin line between computer games and video games in terms of genre. Arcade games are still based upon gameplay that can be quickly learned and most involve progression through levels. 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 began coming out on consoles. The Entertainment Software Association reported that console games outsold computer games in the US by about 380% in 2003.
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 video game industry practices for more information.
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."
Video game market
Video games are very popular today, and the market has grown almost continuously since the end of the video game crash of 1983. The market research company NPD estimated that video game hardware, software, and accessories sold about US$10.3 billion in 2002. This was a 10% increase over the 2001 figure.
The video game market changes over the years as new video game consoles are introduced. This has happened in cycles of about 5 years or so, in which multiple manufacturers release their consoles usually within about a year of each other. Then, the console producers and the video game publishers enjoy several years of game sales until the technology and the market is ready for a new generation of consoles.
New console launch... the next-generation's conception
Years 1 and 2 of the console lifespan
Console producing companies such as Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony are usually prepared to build the next generation (aka next-gen) of its product (see below) at the time its current one is released. Companies wait for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is quality assurance. The technology that each company aims to use is normally cutting-edge and highly untested, therefore the first 2-3 years are consumed by engineering the design and working out bugs in the hardware.
The new console's prime... the next-generation approaches readiness
Years 3 and 4 of the console lifespan
After the hardware is ready to be used, companies send out development kits to software producers, so that the console has a strong "launch line-up" (or the set of games that launch simultaneously with the system). Those producers who are not obligated, or aiming to release games at launch still need these "dev-kits" so that they can become acquainted with the new hardware and release games as quickly as possible thereafter. The video game market is driven by quality as well as quantity so the faster a company gets games out the better. The companies have now perfected their design and begun work on getting games on the shelves at launch, why wait for another year or or two for launch? These final months leading up to the release of a new system are quite frenzied, all the companies are trying to build up as much media hype and exposure as possible, the hardware side releasing small details in small quantities to the world about their console, the software companies working furiously to beat the launch deadline.
The new console becomes the old console... next generation launches
Year 5 and the beginning of a new cycle
This extra year also gives the old hardware time to get its last few blockbusters out and get as much profit as possible before it is slowly taken out of the mainstream. After the launch of the new console the market hits a boom, consoles are released at or near Christmas time as a rule of thumb, The last two generations of consoles enjoyed sell-outs at every store (the good kind of sell-out) and encountered major shipping problems, for the first month of console sale most, if not all, sales are done in preorder and mail-order fashion, attempting to buy a major new console off the shelf will almost never happen in that time period.
A common misconception people have about old hardware is that it just dies at the end of its life cycle. In 1994, in the 16-bit era to those of you gamers out there, this was more or less true, when new hardware came out production of the console and games for it ceased. However, today systems continue to be produced and continue to get new games for years after the beginning of a new cycle. For example, the top-selling system of the 1995-2000 cycle of systems, the PlayStation One, continued production (and even got a face-lift) after the release of its console brother, the PlayStation 2. (Its production was called to a halt in 2004, to take effect in 2005, after selling over 100 million units worldwide.) Sony has announced that it will also continue the production of the PlayStation 2 far into the next-generation's cycle as well, this is largely due to the inclusion of "backward-compatibility," a large consumer draw that means a consumer can play games not only for the new system that he just bought but games made for that system's predecessor as well. This quality was exclusive to the mobile (read: Game Boy) systems until Sony adapted it to the PlayStation 2, and is key to selling old hardware in the new market. The current major consoles are:
Top video games
The ten best selling console video games, according to NPD, ranked by total US units (April 2004) were:
- Fight Night 2004, Electronic Arts, PS2
- NBA Ballers, Midway, PS2
- Fight Night 2004, Electronic Arts, Xbox
- MVP Baseball 2004, Electronic Arts, PS2
- Pokémon Colosseum, Nintendo, GameCube
- Resident Evil: Outbreak, Capcom, PS2
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Ubisoft, Xbox
- NBA Ballers, Midway, Xbox
- Halo, Microsoft/Bungie, Xbox
- Hitman: Contracts, Eidos Interactive, PS2
The ten best selling console video games, according to NPD, ranked by total US units (annual 2003) were:
- Madden NFL 2004, Electronic Arts, PS2
- Pokémon Ruby, Nintendo of America, Game Boy Advance
- Pokémon Sapphire, Nintendo of America, Game Boy Advance
- Need for Speed: Underground, Electronic Arts, PS2
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Nintendo of America, GameCube
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Rockstar Games, PS2
- Mario Kart: Double Dash, Nintendo of America, GameCube
- Tony Hawk's Underground, Activision, PS2
- Enter the Matrix, Atari, PS2
- Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, Electronic Arts, PS2
See also: 2003 in video gaming, 2004 in video gaming
Critics of video games
From time to time, video games have been criticized by parents' groups, psychologists, politicians, and some religious organizations for allegedly glorifying violence, cruelty, and crime and exposing children to this violence. It is particularly disturbing to some adults that some video games allow children to act out crimes (for example, the Grand Theft Auto series), and reward them for doing so. Some studies have shown that children who watch violent television shows and play violent video games have a tendency to act more aggressively on the playground, and some people are concerned that this aggression may presage violent behavior when children grow to adulthood. These concerns have led to voluntary rating systems adopted by the industry, such as the ESRB rating system in the United States and the PEGI rating system in Europe, that are aimed at educating parents about the types of games their children are playing (or are begging to play).
Most studies, however, reach the conclusion that violence in video games is not causally linked with aggressive tendencies. This was the conclusion of a 1999 study by the U.S. government, prompting Surgeon General David Satcher to say, “we clearly associate media violence to aggressive behavior. But the impact was very small compared to other things. Some may not be happy with that, but that’s where the science is.” This was also the conclusion of a meta-analysis by psychologist Johnathan Freedman, who reviewed over 200 published studies and found that the majority did not find a causal link.
Critics of movies, television, and books as a group look down on video games as an inferior form of entertainment. This is probably because of the observation that most video games have very little plot and even less character development, which may or may not be true. A frequent counterargument is that this is like complaining that a game of football does not contain much plot or character development, and that although video games include a narrative, they are really about acting in and against a virtual world, which is not primarily based upon passively seeing and hearing. Another point of view compares video games to the movies, which during the silent era were also considered mere entertainment.
See also: video game controversy
Nearly all video games fall into one or more genres. A genre is a category that classifies what kind of content and game play a game is likely to contain. For example, a first-person shooter is likely to contain a great deal of action, will require quick reflexes, and may contain graphic violence, while an adventure game will require a great deal of problem-solving and exploration.
See Computer and video game genres for more information.
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