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Video game facts for kids

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Pong (28684491143)
People playing a large scale version of the iconic Pong video game.

Video games are electronic games played on a video screen (normally a television, a built-in screen when played on a handheld machine, or a computer).

There are many types, or genres, of these games: role-playing games; shooters, first-person shooters, side-scrollers, and platformers are just a few.

Video games usually come on CDs, DVDs or digital download. Many games used to come on cartridges. A specialised device used to play a video game at home is called a console. There have been many types of consoles and home computers used to play video games. Some of the first were the Atari 2600, the Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System in the 1980s. Newer video game consoles are the Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and Wii U. The best selling video game console of all time is the PlayStation 2, made by Sony.

People can also use PCs to play games, which are sometimes called PC games. The older consoles do not have new games developed for them often, although console games are emulated for PCs (see emulator). This means that new computers can play many old console games along with games made just for new computers. Older games are often more popular emulated than when they were first on sale, because of the ease of download.

People can play portable video games anywhere. Mobile devices (running operating systems such as iOS or Android) also can download games, making them portable game machines. Mobile phones have many games, some of them using a mobile emulator for games from consoles.

Competitions of video game players are called electronic sports.

Attention span
Console gameplay

History of video games

The first video game ever is often said to be a computer game called Spacewar!. In fact, some ideas of video games can be found before people made Spacewar!.

In the 1950s, when the first computers began to be made, three people had some ideas to create the basis of actual video games. In 1951, Ralph Baer, an American engineer of Loral Electronics, tried to create "the best television", proposing to add a gaming module, but his employer did not like his idea. Even if his idea was never realized, he is the first man to have thought of the idea of video games, later creating the first video game console, the Odyssey. Later, in 1952, A.S Douglas, of the Cambridge University in the UK, made a video game on a computer in order to illustrate one of his speeches. The game, called OXO, was a tic-tac-toe game, with two players (the person itself and the opponent, the computer) .In 1953, Willy Higinbotham made a game called Tennis For Two, similar to the later Pong, to entertain visitors to Brookhaven National Laboratory.

One of the most famous and one of the earliest video games ever is called Space Invaders. Space Invaders was made in 1978 as a coin operated arcade game but a version has been made for almost every game console and home computer ever available.

Components of a video game

Arcade Sugoi Malmi Helsinki
Arcade video game machines at the Sugoi arcade game hall in Malmi, Helsinki, Finland

To distinguish from electronic games, a video game is generally considered to require a platform, the hardware which contains computing elements, to process player interaction from some type of input device and displays the results to a video output display.

Platform

Consoles-computerspielemuseum
Various gaming consoles at the Computer Games Museum in Berlin

Video games require a platform, a specific combination of electronic components or computer hardware and associated software, to operate. The term system is also commonly used. Games are typically designed to be played on one or a limited number of platforms, and exclusivity to a platform is used as a competitive edge in the video game market. However, games may be developed for alternative platforms than intended, which are described as ports; these also may be remasters - where most of the original game's source code is reused while art assets, models, and game levels are updated for modern systems - and remakes, where in addition to asset improvements, significant reworking of the original game and possibly from scratch is performed.

The list below is not exhaustive and excludes other electronic devices capable of playing video games such as PDAs and graphing calculators.

Computer game
Most computer games are PC games, referring to those that involve a player interacting with a personal computer (PC) connected to a video monitor. Personal computers are not dedicated game platforms, so there may be differences running the same game on different hardware. Also, the openness allows some features to developers like reduced software cost, increased flexibility, increased innovation, emulation, creation of modifications or mods, open hosting for online gaming (in which a person plays a video game with people who are in a different household) and others. A gaming computer is a PC or laptop intended specifically for gaming, typically using high-performance, high-cost components. In additional to personal computer gaming, there also exist games that work on mainframe computers and other similarly shared systems, with users logging in remotely to use the computer.
Home console
A console game is played on a home console, a specialized electronic device that connects to a common television set or composite video monitor. Home consoles are specifically designed to play games using a dedicated hardware environment, giving developers a concrete hardware target for development and assurances of what features will be available, simplifying development compared to PC game development. Usually consoles only run games developed for it, or games from other platform made by the same company, but never games developed by its direct competitor, even if the same game is available on different platforms. It often comes with a specific game controller. Major console platforms include Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo.
Handheld console
A handheld gaming device is a small, self-contained electronic device that is portable and can be held in a user's hands. It features the console, a small screen, speakers and buttons, joystick or other game controllers in a single unit. Like consoles, handhelds are dedicated platforms, and share almost the same characteristics. Handheld hardware usually is less powerful than PC or console hardware. Some handheld games from the late 1970s and early 1980s could only play one game. In the 1990s and 2000s, a number of handheld games used cartridges, which enabled them to be used to play many different games. The handheld console has waned in the 2010s as mobile device gaming has become a more dominant factor.
Arcade video game
"Game On" at Pacific Science Center (5559659293)
Games such as Galaxian, Galaga and Donkey Kong were popular in arcades during the early 1980s.
An arcade video game generally refers to a game played on an even more specialized type of electronic device that is typically designed to play only one game and is encased in a special, large coin-operated cabinet which has one built-in console, controllers (joystick, buttons, etc.), a CRT screen, and audio amplifier and speakers. Arcade games often have brightly painted logos and images relating to the theme of the game. While most arcade games are housed in a vertical cabinet, which the user typically stands in front of to play, some arcade games use a tabletop approach, in which the display screen is housed in a table-style cabinet with a see-through table top. With table-top games, the users typically sit to play. In the 1990s and 2000s, some arcade games offered players a choice of multiple games. In the 1980s, video arcades were businesses in which game players could use a number of arcade video games. In the 2010s, there are far fewer video arcades, but some movie theaters and family entertainment centers still have them.
Browser game
A browser game takes advantages of standardizations of technologies for the functionality of web browsers across multiple devices providing a cross-platform environment. These games may be identified based on the website that they appear, such as with Miniclip games. Others are named based on the programming platform used to develop them, such as Java and Flash games.
Mobile game
With the introduction of smartphones and tablet computers standardized on the iOS and Android operating systems, mobile gaming has become a significant platform. These games may utilize unique features of mobile devices that are not necessary present on other platforms, such as accelerometers, global positing information and camera devices to support augmented reality gameplay.
Cloud gaming
Cloud gaming requires a minimal hardware device, such as a basic computer, console, laptop, mobile phone or even a dedicated hardware device connected to a display with good Internet connectivity that connects to hardware systems by the cloud gaming provider. The game is computed and rendered on the remote hardware, using a number of predictive methods to reduce the network latency between player input and output on their display device. For example, the Xbox Cloud Gaming and PlayStation Now platforms use dedicated custom server blade hardware in cloud computing centers.
Virtual reality
Gamescom Playstation VR Playseat (36454815300)
Players using the PlayStation VR headsets in 2017
Virtual reality (VR) games generally require players to use a special head-mounted unit that provides stereoscopic screens and motion tracking to immerse a player within virtual environment that responds to their head movements. Some VR systems include control units for the player's hands as to provide a direct way to interact with the virtual world. VR systems generally require a separate computer, console, or other processing device that couples with the head-mounted unit.
Emulation
An emulator enables games from a console or otherwise different system to be run in a type of virtual machine on a modern system, simulating the hardware of the original and allows old games to be played. While emulators themselves have been found to be legal in United States case law, the act of obtaining the game software that one does not already own may violate copyrights. However, there are some official releases of emulated software from game manufacturers, such as Nintendo with its Virtual Console or Nintendo Switch Online offerings.
Backward compatibility
Backward compatibility is similar in nature to emulation in that older games can be played on newer platforms, but typically directly though hardware and build-in software within the platform. For example, the PlayStation 2 is capable of playing original PlayStation games simply by inserting the original game media into the newer console, while Nintendo's Wii could play Nintendo GameCube titles as well in the same manner.

Game media

NES-Cartridge
An unlabeled game cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System

Early arcade games, home consoles, and handheld games were dedicated hardware units with the game's logic built into the electronic componentry of the hardware. Since then, most video game platforms are considered programmable, having means to read and play multiple games distributed on different types of media or formats. Physical formats include ROM cartridges, magnetic storage including magnetic tape data storage and floppy discs, optical media formats including CD-ROM and DVDs, and flash memory cards. Furthermore digital distribution over the Internet or other communication methods as well as cloud gaming alleviate the need for any physical media. In some cases, the media serves as the direct read-only memory for the game, or it may be the form of installation media that is used to write the main assets to the player's platform's local storage for faster loading periods and later updates.

Games can be extended with new content and software patches through either expansion packs which are typically available as physical media, or as downloadable content nominally available via digital distribution. These can be offered freely or can be used to monetize a game following its initial release. Several games offer players the ability to create user-generated content to share with others to play. Other games, mostly those on personal computers, can be extended with user-created modifications or mods that alter or add onto the game; these often are unofficial and were developed by players from reverse engineering of the game, but other games provide official support for modding the game.

Input device

Nintendo-Super-NES-Controller
A North American Super NES game controller from the early 1990s

Video game can use several types of input devices to translate human actions to a game. Most common are the use of game controllers like gamepads and joysticks for most consoles, and as accessories for personal computer systems along keyboard and mouse controls. Common controls on the most recent controllers include face buttons, shoulder triggers, analog sticks, and directional pads ("d-pads"). Similar control sets are built into handheld consoles and onto arcade cabinets. Newer technology improvements have incorporated additional technology into the controller or the game platform, such as touchscreens and motion detection sensors that give more options for how the player interacts with the game. Specialized controllers may be used for certain genres of games, including racing wheels, light guns and dance pads. Digital cameras and motion detection can capture movements of the player as input into the game, which can, in some cases, effectively eliminate the control, while on other systems such as virtual reality, are used to enhance immersion into the game.

Display and output

Game-Boy-FL
Handheld units, like the Game Boy, include built-in output screens and sound speakers.

By definition, all video games are intended to output graphics to an external video display, such as cathode-ray tube televisions, newer liquid-crystal display (LCD) televisions and built-in screens, projectors or computer monitors, depending on the type of platform the game is played on. Features such as color depth, refresh rate, frame rate, and screen resolution are a combination of the limitations of the game platform and display device and the program efficiency of the game itself. The game's output can range from fixed displays using LED or LCD elements, text-based games, two-dimensional and three-dimensional graphics, and augmented reality displays.

The game's graphics are often accompanied by sound produced by internal speakers on the game platform or external speakers attached to the platform, as directed by the game's programming. This often will include sound effects tied to the player's actions to provide audio feedback, as well as background music for the game.

Some platforms support additional feedback mechanics to the player that a game can take advantage of. This is most commonly haptic technology built into the game controller, such as causing the controller to shake in the player's hands to simulate a shaking earthquake occurring in game.

ArcadeGames
Video game arcade

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