Most modern video games are very much focused on connectivity and going online. What we mean by online gaming, is simply the playing of a video game over the internet, usually with friends.
What Is Online Gaming?
The ability to play with other like-minded people all around the world is a marvel of modern technology and has forged hundreds of thousands of friendships and experiences that just wouldn’t have been possible as early as a couple of decades ago.
Online games can be played on any number of devices, from dedicated video games consoles like PlayStations, Xboxes and Nintendo Switches, to PCs, laptops and mobile phones.
Going online is almost always exceptionally straightforward. Connect your device to the wi-fi or ethernet cable, make sure the game you want to play is downloaded or inserted, and away you go. Setting up online profiles is usually mandatory before the actual fun begins.
What are the features?
While different games can have any number of specific features attached to them - look up the myriad of different video game genres, and most of them will have their own unique variations - most will offer the ability to talk with teammates via a chat functionality.
As well as most games having a chat option, consoles will also enable players to host their own chat parties whilst gaming online. In truth, anything that players can talk to each other on could be used, like Facebook, WhatsApp, or Discord.
What are Esports?
You might have heard of something called esports. In a nutshell, esports (electronic sports) are competitive online games, played in front of huge audiences in arenas, for massive amounts of money.
Professional gamers dedicate hours of their day honing skills to be the very best. Typically, these pros will be quite young and retire early, as they benefit from much higher reaction times and have more time in general for online gaming.
What are the benefits of online gaming?
Gaming online certainly has its pitfalls, but there are a number of really positive aspects to it as well such as:
- Strengthening bonds with friends and improving social skills.
- Developing skills in teamwork, problem-solving and multi-tasking.
- Increasing hand-eye coordination, memory and concentration.
- Aid and improve learning and development at younger ages.
Online gaming is a world in which anything can (and frequently does) happen. As exhilarating as any rollercoaster and as absorbing as even the most well-crafted novels, there’s a lot to benefit from loading up your favourite titles and spending a few hours gaming online.
What are risks of online gaming?
Some of the most common and well-document risks include:
- Contact with strangers and online grooming
- Online bullying (cyberbullying)
- Gaming disorder
- In-app purchases, loot boxes and skin betting
- Viewing or experiencing age-inappropriate content
While making friends in the farthest corners of the globe is certainly enticing, there’s always the chance somebody will have ulterior motives. Going online is like a digital version of going to a playpark with friends; ninety-nine per cent of the time it will be really good fun, but there’s always the chance something bad could happen.
It can be quite costly, too. New consoles and upgrading computer parts takes care of the hardware, while microtransactions (the art of paying for small, in-game boosts with real money, such as loot boxes) can run up costs rapidly.
Online gaming: how to keep safe
It's always worth familiarising yourself with the numerous parental controls many online video games offer.
Most games will have their own security settings, such as the ability to block or report problem players, tone down blood and gore or limit chat functionality.
More recent games will also offer a wide suite of inclusivity options, for example increasing subtitle and text sizes, or changing colour pallets for those who are colour blind.
Consoles, too, have their own settings that often cater to more general safety. Think stopping too much money from being spent and limiting play times, and you get the idea.
Online gaming: general safety tips
It's imperative that kids never share their personal information with people online.
Talk to them about how important it is to keep their online profile safe and how to spot the warning signs of bad people while gaming online.
Knowing who they're playing with and when, can help you intervene before it's too late.
Of course, the best way to understand online gaming, is to simply give it a try yourself. It's never been so easy to pick up and play and learning the basics will help you understand what all the fuss is about!