With the growth of the Internet, the development of online game play has been a natural extension. There are a variety of ways to conceive of online gaming and its manifestations. The term online gaming is somewhat open-ended and encompasses everything from fantasy sports to video games, from simulations to social networking. Moreover, online gaming can refer to other competitive games such as chess, and even reach into the realm of online versions of casino games like cyber poker. The online gaming world serves as both a form of brand extension of existing products, while also becoming a platform of its own.
A logical progression of the world of video games was the adaptation of an online component. The advent of broadband technologies has enabled video game players to seek out opponents via modem. A number of video games and video game systems have developed technologies that allow users to log on and compete against players around the world.
Games like Madden NFL Football have been able to grow their brand by allowing for online competition, downloadable game content, and the creation of online gaming communities around the product. This endless pool of competitors and content to consume makes the value of in-game branding and advertising that much more viable and valuable in the digital age.
The online community portion of the video game has prompted the growth of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). Rather than using the Internet as a means for consumers to find new opponents, MMOGs are developed with the intention of using advancing bandwidth and storage capacities to create spaces in which several users participate in the same game at one time. MMOGs are leveraged in many ways. There are sport games in which several players, globally, are competing in the same game (e.g., soccer or football) at the same time in much larger numbers than can he handled on a traditional, offline gaming console. In combat games, users are battling one another in real-time (e.g., the major hit game Halo). Role-playing types of games are prominent as well, in which users assume a role as part of an enormous community. Games such as the widely popular World of Warcraft fall into this category.
Social MMOGs have also served as an extension of emergent social media sites. These sorts of games would include Second Life or any community-based game in which the competition among users is somewhat secondary to creation of a virtual reality. Social media sites like Facebook, in which social networking is encouraged by the site, allow users to extend that relationship into the virtual world with virtual tasks. Coupled with improvements in mobile technology, games like Farmville, where users can tend to imaginary crops, have acquired huge online followings.
Rapidly evolving technology has also sparked the creation of sport simulation Websites in which users are able to replay, recreate, or rewind seasons with complex algorithms used to simulate the on-field performance of real players, such as the online appropriation of the Strat-o-Matic Game Co. games, traditionally dice-driven board games, which can be found on http://SportingNews.com. http://WhatIfSports.com also uses complex simulation technology for mimicking the statistic outputs of various players across time, space, and circumstance, but has also developed dynasty-type games in which algorithms are not simulating real-performances but rather serve as coding for virtual players, playing a virtual game, in a virtual world. In the MMOG vein, users are able to simulate recruiting college athletes or draft and develop baseball players, who are a byproduct of computer simulation as opposed to mirrors of real world equivalents, and represent one of several teams competing in a simulated sporting reality.
Similar to Strat-o-Matic and the growth of simulation technology, fantasy sports games have found a home online as well. The record-keeping capabilities and official relationships with professional sport organizations have created a convenient platform for fantasy gamers. In addition to the traditional baseball, basketball, and football fantasy games, there are now systems in place for fantasy golf, auto-racing, tennis, and other sports. With message boards, avatars, and financial record-keeping information; fantasy games in many respects are MMOGs based around strategy, real-time updates, and a quasi-virtual reality.
As televised poker has received significant coverage over the past few years on wide-reaching networks like NBC and ESPN, the popularity of the game has grown. ESPN's coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, won by Chris Moneymaker, serves as a milestone in the proverbial poker boom. Moneymaker, who qualified for the $10,000 buy-in event online through a $40 satellite event, earned $2.5 million by winning the tournament against the top players in the world. This underdog narrative fit well with a sports network and the exposure teamed with the story helped to drive participation in Main Event from 839 in 2003 to a high of 8,773 in 2006. 2010 drew 7,319 participants. Many of the participants, often those who cannot afford the $10,000 entry fee, attempt to follow in Moneymaker's footsteps by winning a spot online.
Since 2003, one of the most popular Internet games has been poker—and that comes with several concerns. Perhaps the most obvious concern pertains to the safety and security of both financial information and the integrity of the game being played online. While cheating is possible in many of the various online games, there is added consideration given to site security with money at stake. Most notably, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker on the Cereus Poker Network had significant security breaches which lead to major cheating scandals between 2005 and 2007.
In 2006, Congress passed the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act. Title VIII of the Act is known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which polices the transferring of funds from banks or other financial institutions. Given the complexities of the law enforcement surrounding age restrictions, jurisdiction, gambling, and the Internet; the financing of online games for money has been made increasingly difficult. The challenges of depositing and receiving funds from these sites speaks to the decline of sorts in participation after 2006. Fantasy games are explicitly excluded from the act.
Facebook, Fantasy Sports, Gambling and Sports, Virtual Advertising, Virtual Communities
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