When kids play video games, they may interact with other players — both friends and strangers. This type of online gaming is called multiplayer, and it can involve playing cooperatively or competitively with other players — either locally on the same computer or remotely over the Internet. While multiplayer gaming is fun, it can also pose safety challenges for children.
A multiplayer online game is any video game that allows multiple players to play simultaneously over a network. These networks are usually the Internet, but can also be a local area network (LAN) or a dial-up modem connection. Multiplayer games can be played on either PCs or consoles such as the Xbox or PlayStation.
The most popular form of multiplayer online game is what’s known as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, or MMORPG. MMORPGs can involve hundreds or thousands of gamers playing together online in a persistent virtual world. Typically, these games have a storyline that continues over time, and often include an in-game economy that provides opportunities to purchase and sell virtual items and power-ups. Examples of MMORPGs include World of Warcraft, Everquest and Lost Ark.
More recently, real-time strategy games have become a popular genre of multiplayer online game. In this type of multiplayer game, the player controls units – often soldiers or vehicles – that battle an opposing team. Examples of real-time strategy games include the Civilization series, Command and Conquer and StarCraft.
Another popular form of multiplayer online game is the first-person shooter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many gamers turned to multiplayer online games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty to connect with friends and find community. These games have a wide range of gameplay styles, from simple team battles to the more complex capture-the-flag style.
While the number of users of online multiplayer games has skyrocketed, there are still some limitations in how smoothly they work. For example, online cross-play between PCs and consoles can sometimes be a challenge. Developers tend to avoid allowing players on different platforms to play the same games, for fear that they will have a disparate gameplay experience or unfair advantages (e.g., PC gamers with mice and keyboards will often have a significant accuracy advantage over console gamers using controllers). This can create some frustration for fans who want to play the same games on both platforms. However, this is not a widespread issue. As the number of online multiplayer games grows, it is important for parents and educators to understand the risks and benefits of these games. They should make sure their child has appropriate safety controls in place to prevent them from being exposed to harmful content or being contacted by strangers. In addition, they should encourage their child to talk with them about the games they play and the people they meet online. This will help them feel safe and comfortable playing online. They should also be aware of the possible negative social consequences of playing these games, including cyberbullying and online predatory behavior.