These are a type of games where the players interact with the help of a server. Some also allow players to interact with other players.
They can be of several types. One classification is:
- Simulation: These involve strategic thinking as the player is put in simulation of an experience.
- Role playing games: These allow players to play a role in a particular environment; these are scenario-centered games.
- Multi-user dimension: These are also like role playing games, however, they are text-oriented; they inculcate the involvement of a cyber community in their play.
- Shooting: These evolved from arcade shooting games; the main game play involves shooting at a target and hitting it.
There are several factors that influence the popularity like dazzling graphics and sound, the ease of access and widespread availability of online games as well as the feelings of thrill and excitement felt when people play these games. People repeatedly play and spend a lot of time and money behind these because it provides them pleasure. The motivation to play stems from the rewarding experience that these games provide. These have a high possibility of losing, so it presents a challenge and a tangible goal. Being able to complete the challenge and win despite the odds give a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy to the players.
However, this also contributes towards the risk of gaming addiction.
Although they have been regularly criticized for their negative effects such as encouraging violence, cyberbullying and xenophobia, there have been research to prove that online games do provide benefits to the players. Some of these are:
- Online games that are action based may enhance specific cognitive abilities because they involve a certain amount of training and brain plasticity is affected by it. They require the activity of the senses, rapid processing of information, adaptively since these games are challenging and the level of difficulty increases after each success.
- Shooting games improves span of attention because they require sensory discrimination and quick information processing as well as monitoring all part of the screen or game environment.
- Women who played visuo-spatial puzzle games were found to have improved visuo-spatial performance and this improvement was retained even after 5 months. Moreover, visual contrast sensitivity was found to improve in young adults after playing shooting games.