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Games can be played on a variety of platforms, ranging from dedicated gaming con-
soles used in conjunction with a normal television set to standard home computers or
standalone handheld consoles and electronic devices such as mobile phones and handheld
PC's, instruments that were not originally designed for gaming but on which gaming has
become popular.
There are no hard and fast rules about what is and what is not a game and `games'
may range from hi-tech Global Position System (GPS) populated golf simulators
(Microsoft's Links 2003) to blocky and primitive `timekillers' such as Nokia's proprietary
Snake series for mobile phones.
Basic hardware
The hardware used to play games has remained remarkably similar since the birth of
removable cartridge game systems. Most video game systems will have the following
components in common:
- User control interface.The user control interface allows the player to interact with
the video game. Modern consoles use sophisticated controllers with a variety of but-
tons and special features. Computers use standard input devices such as keyboard,
mouse and joystick, while games on devices such as phones and handheld PC's most
often use existing buttons and alpha-numeric keypads;
- A Central Processing Unit (CPU) carrying out the fundamental computing tasks;
- Random Access Memory (RAM) which provides very fast temporary storage space
for games to make use of.Without RAM, games would not be fast enough to main-
tain the goal of interactivity;
- Software kernel or that part of the operating system which provides interfacing
duties between the various pieces of hardware;
- Storage medium for games.The most common storage technologies used for video
games today are CD, DVD and ROM-based although cartridges, memory cards and
hard disks are used by some makes of console;
- Graphics processors used to provide mapping, texturing and geometric functions as
well as controlling the video output to a television set or an inbuilt screen;
- Audio cards to handle and enhance sound.
Types of games
The game software has evolved amazingly from the simple rectangular blips used in
Pong. Games today feature richly textured, full-colour graphics, powerful sound and com-
plex interaction between player(s) and system.The increased storage capacity of comput-
ers and consoles allows game developers to include incredibly detailed, almost photoreal-
istic graphics as well as CD-quality soundtracks. Many video games have built-in soft-
ware
103
that adds unique features like lighting effects or real-time texture mapping. Just as
there are said to be only seven essential stories that can be told
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, most games fall into
one of several broad genres (examples given in brackets):
Games Technology
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103 When game systems were cartridge-based, the cartridges would often contain proprietary hardware as well.
104 Cinderella, Achilles, Faust,Tristan and Isolde, Circe, Romeo and Juliet, Orpheus.