Playing video games is officially one of the coolest and most popular things you can do to stay entertained in 2021. Once the domain of geeks and tech-heads, gaming has gone 100% mainstream in this new decade, with all kinds of people discovering a new passion for exploring virtual worlds and inhabiting new characters.  

Massive technological developments over the past two decades have meant that gaming has become incredibly accessible, with multiple ways to play and engage with games. 

While the more traditional, physical copies of gaming titles can still be purchased, the market has largely shifted towards the online realm. Naturally, this has meant that there are now more games available to play than ever before — something that can be overwhelming to new players.  

If you’re looking to add online gaming to your hobbies now that winter is on the way, here’s everything you need to know about getting started.  

What Hardware Do I Need? 

The days of needing to go out and buy a brand new gaming console are long gone. Today, all you need to play online games is your smartphone or tablet; there are plenty of fun and interesting games you can download from app stores like Monument Valley, Crossy Road, Alto’s Odyssey, Florence and The Room.  

Simple touch controls make mobile gaming apps some of the easiest titles to get started with, but you can also get a lot of use out of your home PC, Mac or laptop. While diehard gamers will eventually need to invest in a more powerful rig, particular those with aspirations to become eSports players, to begin with, ensure that you have basic accessories such as a solid monitor, ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and a joystick.  

The latest generation of super-consoles was released last winter, making the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X hot property in the gaming market. They’ll both set you back a fair bit though — prices start around £250 — so unless you’re going to be gaming for the long haul, they’re not a necessary purchase at this stage.  

What Types of Games Can I Play? 

Answer: Whatever you like!  

Well, within reason and the confines of modern, albeit very advanced, technology.  

There are so many gaming genres available in the online realm nowadays that we could devote a series of articles to them. Whatever your interests are, there’s bound to be a gaming genre out there that suits you. For the purposes of this guide, however, we’re going to stick with a handful of the most popular gaming verticals that are widely available across the globe.  

RPGs 

Role-playing games are the granddaddy of online games. These engaging games utilise lore and worldbuilding to offer a highly detailed world in which gamers can become immersed in the story and characters. Typically set in fantastical other worlds, RPGs blend strategy gaming, action and adventure, and multiplayer options, making them universally popular.  

More recently, RPGs have developed into MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), a trend spearheaded by World of Warcraft, which still remains one of the most popular games of all time.  

iGaming 

For adult gamers only, iGaming is another increasingly popular genre of online games that update classic casino and card games like roulette, poker and slot machines for the virtual realm.  

Most gaming providers have incorporated advanced tech into their online casino offerings, in some cases creating fully immersive experiences thanks to Virtual Reality. There’s also a competitive arm of iGaming too — much like eSports — with online tournaments often pulling in thousands of players to compete for substantial prizes.  

Online casino games aren’t just for experienced players, however, even gamers who haven’t stepped foot inside a casino find it easy to get started with the genre. Take online roulette, for example. The basic rules of this traditional casino game have stayed the same for centuries, even today in its online format, making it a thoroughly beginner-friendly game. 

Battle Royale 

Currently the hottest new trend in online gaming, battle royale games exploded in popularity in recent years, primarily due to the success of titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite.  

Battle royale games are set anywhere and everywhere and you can think of them as upgrades to the 90s beat-em-up genre popularised by the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.  

Legend has it they’re named for the 2000s Japanese movie franchise and it’s clear to see why. A typical battle royale game will drop its players into ever-decreasing battlefields, where they need to scavenge for weapons, engage in combat, and avoid being killed on the field to become the last player standing.