So, just what is a game server? Before answering that question, it’s important to understand how online gaming works. Many popular games today, first person shooters in particular, support online play. Such Internet-based play expands the game to whole new levels, and provides an experience not possible in single player environments. Players ranging in numbers from half a dozen to as many as sixty-four can all join what’s called a game server and play on the same map (game level) at the same time. Gaming servers work much like web servers, but instead of hosting websites, host game matches that others can join. Though the game itself is not loaded from the server, important game information such as player scores and rules are. Think of them in terms of a soccer stadium. The stadium provides a scoreboard and a field to play on, and the players come to the stadium to play.
While it is possible for a gamer to host a server on his computer, such servers are only suitable for a small number of players due to the slow speed of their connections. Game servers of any decent size are hosted by what are known as server providers in large data centers. With high-speed connection speeds and high-end server hardware, these providers can host servers of any size. The most popular games hosted these days include the Battlefield series, Counter Strike: Source, the Call of Duty games, the Medal of Honor series, and Unreal Tournament. Most providers offer free support, the ability to change the hosted game on the fly, free voice servers for oral communication, and web hosting. Prices for gaming servers vary greatly from provider to the provider and game to game, but the average is around $2 per player. People who run game servers sometimes pay for them out of their own pockets, but often times a group of gamers will form what is called a clan and share the cost of the server. Once a server is setup, anyone can play on a server for free, though some servers are private and require a password to join.
They make it possible for game lovers worldwide to get together and play their favorite games in an online environment, and have created a whole new market in the gaming world and have changed the way people view gaming. As technology increases, it will be interesting to see how the game server market changes.