What is Gaming?

There are many different types of games and gaming activities out there. You can play games alone or with friends. You can represent yourself or take on a whole new identity in a virtual community. Here are some of the main categories. Keep in mind that many of these categories can overlap. For example World of Warcraft is a computer game as well as an MMORPG.

Online Games

Online Games are games played using the Internet. This means you can often play them on a variety of Internet enabled devices like smart phones, gaming consoles, or laptops. Often you play with other human players playing from their PCs. These games can be as simple as a browser flash game (like Text Twist, Bejeweled, etc.). However this broad term covers many type of online games.

Social Networking Games

These are games that are incorporated into a social network. Farmville and Mafia Wars are both examples of this type of game. Often a person needs others in the social network to join the game in order to be successful. Read our article on social network games to learn more about these types of games.

Video Games

xbox_guide_buttonThe phrase "video games" can cover a lot of the games out there, but when we say "video games" we mean games played with gaming systems like the Sony Playstation, Xbox, the Nintendo Wii, or the Nintendo 3DS. You can play games by yourself, with friends in the same room, or with friends online depending on the type of game.

Computer Games

The simplest definition for a computer game? It's a game that you play on your computer. You can play these in your web browser, download and install them from the Internet, or install them from a CD. Some popular computer games you may have heard of include: Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Sims, and World of Warcraft.

Online Gambling

These are online casino games. One of the most common games played online is poker. Gambling regulations vary from state to state. However, since most of the Internet does not restrict sites by locale, the federal government often gets involved in regulating online gambling. 1 Recently the government cracked down on several online poker sites and shut them down. 2 To learn more read our article about online gambling.


world_of_warcraftThese games are probably the most social of all games. MMORPG stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. You must have access to the Internet and work with other players to be successful. You take on a new identity in the game and participate in a virtual community. Examples of MMORPGs include: World of Warcraft, RuneScape, Lord of the Rings Online, and Dark Age of Camelot. Check out our article on MMORPGs to learn more.

There are also other types of Massively Multiplayer games (which are not RPGs but still share many of the online elements). These games have similar safety concerns to MMORPGs.

What are the benefits?

  • Games allow children to problem solve. If the game is multiplayer your child can also develop their teamwork and leadership skills.
  • Some games are used to help kids learn; there are many games focused around math or other grade school topics.
  • Gaming can give children a social outlet. Games put everyone on an equal playing field. A child who is not as outgoing socially may find it easier to socialize or take on leadership roles in a virtual setting. Succeeding in an online world could give them confidence that carries over to the real world.
  • Most games cost money and can be used as goals to teach children how to save and spend money.

What are the risks?

  • Games like MMORPGs allow players to interact with one another. While sexual solicitation is not a common problem in the gaming world (most players in MMORPGs are focused on the game, these problems are more common in chat rooms and social networks). However, some gaming sites are notorious for cyberbullying and flame wars as emotions run high in the heat of an intense game. Swearing, insults, and vulgarity are commonplace in gaming conversations.
  • Gaming addiction. Not everyone gets addicted to games, but there are some people who are susceptible to this type of addiction.
  • Some games have large amounts of violence and/or very sexual depictions of women. Some games have items that represent alcohol and other adult substances. See our page on ESRB ratings for more details.

How Can I Keep My Child Safe?

  • Limit your kid's gaming time.
  • Check the ratings of the games they are playing. You can check out our ESRB article to learn more about what game ratings mean.
  • Look for signs of gaming addiction. Some common signs of gaming addiction include: playing games for a long time, having difficulty stopping the game, sacrificing real world things for virtual things, drastic changes in sleep patterns, sneaking around in order to play the game, and abandoning real world responsibilities to play the game.
  • Learn the features and risks involved with each game. Ratings don't cover every potential risk. For example, a game where your child can talk with others online opens them up to things like oversharing or inappropriate relationships with people you don't know.

Where Can I Learn More?

Visit ouur Video Game Content Directory

Read some of our Newswire Reports on gaming:

Listen to some of our podcasts on gaming: