Remember the days when playing video games consisted of plugging in your Nintendo to your TV, then spending the next ten minutes trying to figure out where to plug in those color-coordinated plugs? Figuring out why the colors never seemed to match up with the inputs on the TV was often a game in and of itself.

That time has passed. The Internet made it possible for a whole new era of gaming to emerge, and it’s changed the entire video game landscape.

1. The Shift From Solo to Multiplayer
Before Dragon Age there was Donkey Kong. Generation X spent hours trying to maneuver Mario up the ladders and over rolling barrels in an effort to save the princess from that nefarious ape. It was a solo mission, and the only way to win was to keep at it until you found the right strategy.

The Internet enabled gamers to team up with other players from all over the world for an enhanced game-play experience. Instead of going on these quests alone, these virtual friends can help you in battle or talk you through conquering a level. The online era made gaming a social experience with more than the other gamer down the street.

2. Mods and Patches
The Internet also brought coders and gamers the opportunity to expand their gameplay experiences. Gamers skilled in coding can now insert modifications (or mods) into games, allowing them to create their own unique characters, weapons, or quests.

These skilled gamers can also fix glitches and bugs the creators of certain games might have missed. Gamers today are able to alter entire storylines both on the PC and through systems, like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox Live. You don’t like a certain character design and would rather come up with your own? That’s fine, just create it or find someone savvy enough to do it for you. If you’re tired of Mario always saving the day, switch him out yourself and play as Toad.

3. In-Game Sales
Online gaming took off quickly and companies like Square-Enix and BioWare began to insert what are known as microtransactions into their games. Microtransactions are additions available for in-game purchase, like extra levels, special weapons or, horse armor.

Gaming companies found ways to stick microtransactions into just about every game out there. Some gamers argue these transactions are blatant attempts at garnering more money, which can be frustrating when you’ve already paid for the game itself, but rarely are you required to make an added purchase to finish a game.

Fans of Angry Birds might recognize microtransactions as those pesky pop-ups telling you to buy more lives, which leave you wondering if it’s the birds that are supposed to be angry or the players.

4. Mobile Gaming
Speaking of those dastardly birds, they wouldn’t be flying very high without the advent of mobile gaming. When the Internet came to mobile phones, it brought with it a new way to spend our time, all in the form of gaming apps.

Suddenly, everyone is gaming. It’s not something with a stigma of being just for nerdy guys hiding out in their mothers’ basements, but now for everyone with a little time to kill, wherever they are. Mobile games opened the gaming world up to a wider audience and even allowed anyone with coding ability to become a game developer.

5. Piracy and Hacks
All of this led to some pretty great stuff but of course have to come in and spoil it. With so many people involved in the world of gaming, some have taken it upon themselves to begin hacking into online gaming environments and stealing people’s personal information.

Thanks to microtransactions and mobile gaming, people’s credit cards and private info are available for hackers to get through games. This takes what used to be a fun experience at home in front of the TV now poses quite a few privacy and financial risks for those involved.

Gaming is also susceptible to people who just like to mess with your head. The recent attacks on PlayStation 4 and Xbox Live systems show how easily it is to interrupt the gaming experience now that it’s online. Hackers can simply go in and overload the systems so players can no longer access their games because many of them are no longer available without an Internet connection.

So is it Better or Worse?
It’s safe to say that gaming has become a better all-around experience. Since the Internet allowed gaming to go global, it’s become a way to gain more social interaction from the comfort of your home and allowed many people to let their imaginations soar. The Internet enables more people to bring their skills and creativity to the table rather than just the video game companies.

Of course, there’s still something to be said for going outside and using your imagination face-to-face too.

Photo Credit: Mack Male/Flikr