Choosing The Right Gaming Medium

Within a span of roughly 40 years or so, video games have become one of the largest forms of entertainment media in the world. Once a small niche hobby that was enjoyed on university computers, local bar coin-operated machines, and home television compatible devices, video games have since invaded practically every form of electronic hardware currently available. With game availability ranging from cell phones, personal computers, mp3 players, and countless other devices, gamers all over the world are faced with a plethora of options for entertaining themselves or passing the time. Although variety is wonderful, trying to play on so many different platforms can be cumbersome and expensive, and many choose to devote their time in only one or two areas. The downside is that juvenile rivalries often ensue between fans of the different platforms, resulting in many individuals refusing to play anything outside of their own gaming sub-community. However, such divides are superficial and ignorable, which means you are free to play on as many or little platforms as you desire. The following is a guide describing the different video game categories available, and explains the benefits and disadvantages to playing in each.

1. Arcade/Coin-Op: Once the pinnacle of video games in the 70's and 80's, coin-operated games are rapidly fading into obscurity. While the industry has long since moved away from these quarter hungry machines, they can still be found in many prominent sports bar/grills and small billiard and arcade halls. Many arcade games lack the cutting edge graphics shown by modern console and computer games, yet they can still provide an enjoyable experience. Arcade games are often equipped with and operated using peripherals (such as a wheel and gas pedal for racing games, plastic guns for rail shooters, etc.), which allow for a more immersive and unique gaming session. One of the major drawbacks to playing arcade games is the financial cost. Such games usually cost anywhere from 25 cents to 2 dollars per round (usually tracked by a certain number of "lives" or play-throughs), which may be inexpensive for casual play, but can be costly for long gaming sessions. Another drawback is the lack of human competition. In the days when arcades were at their height in popularity, competition between players was often readily available either in real time, or through the use of tracking high scores. Nowadays, such competition is more widely found in online gaming, leaving arcade gamers with little opportunity for playing against others. Despite this fact, some arcades are still backed by the spirit of local "neighborhood" competition.

(Note: While the term "coin-op" still applies, such games have long since switched from quarters to reloadable game cards.)


2. Computer Gaming: Computer gaming has experienced many ups and downs in popularity over the decades, yet it has mostly remained the underdog in mainstream video gaming. Despite this fact, computers offer many advantages over the other listed categories. A good gaming PC has the potential to generate high resolution graphics and is specifically designed for online games. In addition, PC games can often be purchased for considerably less than their console counterparts, making them more affordable in the long run. Perhaps the most significant aspect that separates computer gaming from all other devices is the use of a keyboard and mouse for controlling games. This often serves as a deal breaker for those who are more familiar with playing on a console, as the keyboard layout appears much more intimidating than the 4 to 10 button layout of current console controllers. However, with a little practice, the keyboard and mouse combo can easily become second nature. For those who enjoy playing PC games, but feel more comfortable using a gaming controller over a keyboard, there is a variety of USB controllers on the market suitable for computer gaming. One final selling point for the computer gaming crowd is the abundant supply of Massively Multiplayer Online games (or MMO's for short). Although some MMO's exist on current generation consoles, the majority of such games are only available to play on computers, such as the highly popular World of Warcraft.

3: Console Gaming: Home video game consoles have long been the popular example of mainstream gaming. While not always the lead in the bout for superior graphics, the standard video game console's primary function is for playing games, giving it more of a home field advantage over other electronic entertainment devices. Console games typically cost more than games on other platforms, although an array of smaller budget games (as well as low priced downloadable titles) exist for each system. One significant restriction that affects console gamers is the existence of console exclusive games. While not as abundant as in previous generations of consoles, the presence of console exclusive titles limits the playing options for those who can't afford to buy multiple gaming systems. Another disadvantage to console gaming is the access to additional downloadable content. While PC gamers are able to obtain mostly free downloadable content when it is made available by the game developer, those playing on consoles are required to pay, sometimes to the excess of 15 to 20 dollars, for the same content due to console licensing fees. Despite these setbacks, console gaming can be a thoroughly enjoyable option for casual and hardcore gamers alike.

4. Portable/Pocket Gaming: Although portable gaming devices have been around for decades, the trend for handheld gaming hadn't really come into popularity until somewhat recently. Whereas handheld gaming was once limited to a small number of portable game consoles and LED devices produced by video game and toy manufacturers, the widespread abundance of cell phones made it possible for a large portion of the population to play video games wherever they happened to be. The more recent popularity and availability of smart phones, tablets, and other touch-based devices has expanded the platform and has made it possible for new, innovative styles of gameplay to emerge. Although many of the games available for portable devices are simple in design and graphics, the prices often fall into the 1 to 10 dollar category, making them extremely affordable for the content provided. In addition to smart phones, tablets and mp3 devices, there are several portable gaming system options available which provide more of a console gaming experience, yet still offer the freedom of playing games on the go.

Regardless of the gaming medium used, the true enjoyment of playing video games lies in their ability to immerse us in new worlds, test our mental prowess' and problem solving skills, and expand our imaginations. Video games platforms are always changing and expanding, allowing gamers to continue interacting with the games they enjoy in new and exciting ways. Whichever medium(s) you choose to play on, remember that the primary reason is to have fun.

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