Today our society is a vast array of technological advances.
Every year sees the newest and latest rendition of all types of technology that
make life easy and more enjoyable and video games are just about them. With the
increasing numbers of people playing video games around the world, there is no
denying the effect it has on people all over the world. Within the gaming
community, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the gaming culture and
how it affects our society. From mobile games on our handheld devices, e.g.
cell phones and tablets, to bigger platforms e.g. home console systems
(PlayStation, Nintendo), laptops and PC’s: video games have infiltrated our
everyday lives. Amongst all the variety of video game platform, I will be discussing online video games and how it
affects our mass culture, how it shapes us and brings people together. I will be
discussing briefly the back history of video games, in general, leading into
online gaming. Then using an immensely popular online game called World of
Warcraft as an example of this cultural phenomenon.

The history of gaming is a continued debate on when it came
to fruition but popular opinion usually settles on the early 1970s with the
first game called Spacewar! created in 1962 by computer programmers. Shortly
thereafter the invention of the Atari 2600 home console system in 1972 by Nolan
Bushnell and Ted Dabney pioneered gaming as we know today. Home-based PC video
games came about during the late 1970s well into the early 1980s with the Apple
II and Commodore PET. Later on came the cheaper models of these PC’s and was
called the Commodore 64 which made it more affordable for people to have in
their homes. With the increasing demand for
computing power old DOS graphics weren’t enough, so we start to see the rise in
3D graphics, CD-ROM’s and sound cards. Elite, Alpha Waves, and Elite Plus on
MS-DOS are a few examples of these early games using 3D graphics. Then in the
late 1990s, we began to see more enhanced graphics in PC games with affordable
upgrade technology such as 3D accelerator cards or graphics processing unit
(GPU) for the personal computers. After this, the emergence of better quality
online games started being produced such as Age of Empires, Quake, StarCraft
series, and the Warcraft series. These games depended on web-browser plugins
like Java and Adobe Flash to function properly on the home PC. This will be the
tip of the iceberg when it comes to the massive market in the online video game
industry and its major influence on society today.

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In today’s generation technology is constantly changing and
video games, in general, have continued
to evolve rapidly. It has also influenced, shaped, and impacted our culture and
way of life. This influence has carried over for the past 30 years and helped
kick-start a cultural revolution with the latest gaming technology still in
development being virtual reality gaming. Online video games continue to grow and evolve, thus establishing
itself as a prominent force in the video game world. Offering high-quality
graphics, relatable characters, immense gameplay, and a connection to play with
other players from all over the world online video games provides an avenue for
any person to get lost in and enjoy. No matter what online game a person
chooses to play, the connection to other people is the main focal point of how
it has become such a cultural phenomenon. Being able to make friends from all
over the world to share your love of video games helps to void out cultural
barriers, bringing them together under a common interest. Another top influence
of online video games is education; more importantly, it helps to encourage
problem-solving skills and logical reasoning. With certain games, a person is
able to solve puzzles creatively in a literal and figuratively ways while
developing better motor skills such as hand-eye coordination and quick decision
making when under stress. These games also provide an incentive for increased
typing skills and greater reading comprehension.

The impact of online video games such as World of Warcraft,
created in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment, is massive in scale and has
intersected itself with pop culture. With an overall
of 12 million subscribers in its peak World of Warcraft also called WoW for
short definitely left its mark on the world. The game has been going strong for
12 years and it is followed by six expansions that extend the storyline of the
game (Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, and Legion) with
a 7th one (Battle for Azeroth) on its way next year in 2018. This masterpiece
of a game sees billions of hours of gameplay and shows no signs of slowing
down. Even if a person has never played the game before or knows much about it
the word WoW is a shorthand that is easily recognized when mentioned. The game
is a world of fantasy that is defined by its lampoons and incorporates homages
of pop culture mixed with their own storytelling, gaining items in-game, and
earning achievements. Examples of these homages range from Paris Hilton, The
Legend of Zelda Nintendo game series, Rambo, and Indiana Jones just to name a
few. WoW even received its own episode on the widely popular adult cartoon
South Park called Make Love, Not Warcraft (Season 10, Ep. 8) that help define
Warcraft as a home for pop culture references but also being big enough to hold
itself on its own. WoW is known to have brought back the fantasy genre back
into the cultural mainstream as to the like of the popular Lord of the Rings
movie franchise. Men, Women, young, old, celebrity, regular people, anyone can
find their place in World of Warcraft and play together and make lasting
friendships, relationships, and marriages with WoW-themed
weddings. Another example of its impact on pop culture is the Leeroy Jenkins
video (that can be found on YouTube) that established itself as the first
internet memes. The name Leeroy later would become a verb that means to rush head-on
into a situation of danger with no regard to the potential consequences. WoW
has cemented its place in pop culture history winning the hearts of millions and
found its immortality that will last a lifetime.

In conclusion, video
games continue to be prominent in our modern-day
society. The major impact that video games in general provide can vary from
helping provide social skills to cognitive development skills. Online video
games provide an immersive and fun escape from the mundane realities of
everyday life while improving motor skills and quick thinking. With video games
people can come together and form friendships which helps improve self-esteem
and confidence, thus providing positive mental health development. The expanse
of video games over the past 30 years has grown exponentially and I believe
will continue to do so the more technology grows. Online video games will
continue to have a major impact on society through these means stated above and
have no signs of slowing down or disappearing from our culture.

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