Electronic gaming has evolved dramatically in recent years. As data bandwidth, processing power and screen resolutions steadily increase; developers are keeping pace to provide more realistic and immersive Internet entertainment experiences. It is hard to imagine a world without the wealth of online games that today’s web surfers have come to expect, but the history of online gaming goes back well before the mainstream adoption of the Internet.
The first games to be played over computer networks were developed in the early 1970s. These were built on multi-user timeshare terminals at universities. The latter part of that decade saw the arrival of multi-user dungeons (MUD,) which later evolved into multi-access dungeons (MAD) and massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG.)
In 1985, the game Islands of Kesmai was released for users of the commercial CompuServe computer network. With graphics made up of ASCII text characters, this multi-player RPG bore little resemblance to the games of today; but in many ways, it was a precursor to the modern MMORPG. The fantasy role playing battles of this game were among the earliest ancestors of today’s online fighting games.
Later in the 1980s, the first games were developed which used the Internet Protocol (IP) to communicate. In 1991, the game Neverwinter Nights was released for AOL subscribers. This is widely hailed as the first 3D graphical MMORPG. As the Internet grew in popularity among the general public, the 1990s saw an explosion of role playing, shooter, strategy and online fighting games with multiplayer capabilities. Some of the most notable are Doom, Warcraft and Quake.
The year 2002 saw the launch of gaming networks such as XBox Live and Steam. As social networks grew in popularity throughout the decade, companies such as Zynga jumped on the bandwagon to create casual games that users could play against their friends. Today, the options for online gaming range from commercial software packages, to social network gaming, to browser based games and even mobile apps.