Roll the clock back by a couple of years, almost a decade, and you’ll see, that the internet was a much simpler place. Social media platforms were a lot less vitriolic than they are today, memes were just beginning to go mainstream, and most people were generally optimistic about the future of tech and the digital space. 

Online games used to refer to online video games that people played for entertainment, fun and to socialise. Now, betting games and fantasy leagues have appropriated the term and corrupted what the term originally signified. Image Credit: Pexels

Back then, online ‘gaming used’ to be a term that simply referred to playing basic, flash-based video games or multiplayer video games on the internet. These games could be anything from first-person shooter games to massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs and could be played on a variety of devices, from consoles to personal computers.

It was a form of entertainment that allowed people to connect with each other and play games together, regardless of where they were in the world, that too for free, or very little admittance fee, if the game was very popular. 

The focus of these games was on entertainment and social interaction, with players forming communities and friendships within the game world.

However, in recent years, the term has been appropriated by the online betting and fantasy sports industries in such a way that most people who are not gamers, just sneer when they hear the words “online gaming.” As a term, “online gaming” has been bastardised and now carries a completely different meaning than what it used to a decade ago.

The rise of online betting and fantasy sports has been fueled by the growth of the internet and the increasing popularity of league-based sports. Online betting, which includes activities such as sports betting, poker, and casino games, has exploded in popularity in recent years, with millions of players worldwide wagering real money, against real people in a digital setting. 

This has made it easier for people to gamble and has led to a significant increase in the amount of money being wagered on sports. The problem is, in many countries, including India, online betting isn’t exactly legal. Enter fantasy sports, a “game” that allows people to create virtual teams of real-life players and compete against other users to see whose team performs the best.

As the popularity of these industries has grown, so too has the use of the term “online gaming” to refer to them, when in fact, it has very little to do with actual gaming. In fact, many people now use the term to describe all three – online video games, online betting and fantasy sports. This has not only led to massive confusion among consumers but has also diluted or rather corrupted the original meaning of the term.

While online betting and fantasy leagues can certainly be considered forms of online gaming, they are vastly different from traditional video and computer games. For one, they involve the use of real money, which introduces a level of risk and potential financial loss that is not present in traditional gaming. Additionally, the focus of these activities is on competition and the potential for financial gain, rather than on entertainment and social interaction.Very often you’ll see these “games” as being advertised similarly to get-rich-quick schemes.

Even when online video games involved real money before fantasy leagues and online betting were a thing, it used to be in the form of an admittance fee, or for the exchange of special skins, costumes, or abilities. Never did online video games entice consumers by offering them a false hope of winning real money. 

How betting apps and fantasy leagues appropriated and bastardised the term “online gaming” (1)

Online video games now suffer from the same stigma that online betting and fantasy leagues once had, simply because the online betting industry misappropriated the term and bastardised it. Image Credit: Pexels

The word “gaming” carries connotations of fun and enjoyment, whereas “gambling” carries connotations of risk and addiction, so of course these industries couldn’t refer to themselves using those terms. By using the term “online gaming,” these industries are able to present themselves in a more favourable., albeit false light and appeal to a wider audience.

Another reason why the term “online gaming” has been appropriated is that it allows these industries to tap into the existing market of gamers. Many people who enjoy playing video games are also interested in sports and may be more likely to try online betting or fantasy sports if they are presented as a form of gaming. By using the term “online gaming”, these industries are able to appeal to a demographic that they may not have been able to reach otherwise.

Furthermore, the co-opting of the term “online gaming” by the online betting and fantasy league industries has led to a generally negative perception of all forms of online gaming. Traditional video and computer games are often seen as frivolous and unproductive, with many people viewing them as a waste of time and money. However, research has shown that online gaming can have numerous benefits, including improved problem-solving skills, increased social interaction, and enhanced cognitive abilities.

The appropriation of the term “online gaming” has also led to a blurring of the lines between gaming and gambling. While video games are typically considered to be a form of entertainment, online betting and fantasy sports involve risking money in the hopes of winning more. 

Furthermore, this has stigmatised internet-based video games as well today. This, in turn, has led to a decrease in the visibility of the video game industry and has made it harder for video game developers. Naturally then, most developers are now jumping ship to publishers who have cracked the code of gamification of betting and fantasy leagues. 

In order to combat the negative perception of online gaming and protect consumers from the potential dangers of online betting and fantasy leagues, it is important for the actual traditional gaming industry to reclaim the term “online gaming” and educate the public about the differences between traditional gaming and betting activities that are hiding under the garb of “online gaming.”

In order to combat the negative perception of online gaming and protect consumers from the potential dangers of online betting and fantasy leagues, it is important for the gaming industry to reclaim the term “online gaming” and educate the public about the differences between traditional gaming and these activities. 

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