For those who can remember the early browser games – the helicopter one, for example –you’ll know that for a little while they seemed like the height of technology. Animated motion graphics dancing across our screen and no-lag controls seemed to be all we asked for in a browser game. The repetitive nature of the game quickly turned competitive and before we realised we’d spent hours trying to beat our own high score flipping penguins, eating fish, or defending our wall.
To compare the games of today with the Flash games of yesteryear would be to compare the Hubble Telescope to a kaleidoscope. But let’s take a trip back through memory lane to see just how far browser games have come – whether we noticed them improving or not. Flash remains the most striking example of a browser game developer, and the code used still allows us simple graphics video hosting.
Browser games have always been a hard sell, mainly because the browser isn’t properly equipped for heavy gameplay. There are certain limitations that arise from the fact they are played on the browser. The standard browser web technologies or plug-ins that they operate on can only power so much.
These web technologies – HTML – power the front end of the website, while more complex operating systems can power the back end. Any derision thrown at browser games is simply because they don’t contain dense game environs and lengthy quests – but they’re not supposed to. The beauty of the browser game is the speed and the ability to dip in and out of playing it whenever you want. The hosting on the browser forces the games to be sharp and for gameplay to be simple – but that doesn’t prevent them from being incredibly engrossing.
The birth of browser games is largely credited to Earth: 2025 – a now defunct MMORPG (massively multiplayer online game). The browser feature enabled the game to host multiple players. The game was continued by fans and was renamed to Earth Empires. The ‘no download required’ that the site still boasts was the main differential point of browser-based games – especially considering the lengthy download speeds required back then.
Complexities of browser games arise when it comes to security measures. This can be a feature of persistent browser games – that is, browser games that require information to be stored on the client’s computer through Flash, ActiveX, or Java. Ones that might record score over time or have some element that requires saving information.
The server-side code can store the information outside of the game, but the user’s computer is more open to attacks. The whole point of the browser game is that server side code wasn’t needed and the game could solely be played on the user’s browser.
Source: @AirConsole via Twitter
But the days of simple Flash browser games are over. You can now play multiplayer games online using your smartphone as the controller and the browser as the console, as Air Console demonstrates. This helps modify browser games up to modern-day standards and expectations. But, certain games have also moved over to downloads – for example, Minecraft wouldn’t function well on a browser due to its intensive in-world nature.
But certain games flourish because they are browser games. Bingo games are a perfect example of evolution alongside browser game technology. Early bingo flash games were accessible only for one player against the computer, with no real prizes except some hastily sketched graphics. Nowadays, as Sun Bingo’s collection of bingo games shows, these games hosted on the browser can be full of immersive features such as chat functionality and give players as many as 19 bingo variants. Four chat hosts take turns to offer 24-hour entertainment and players are continually updated on the latest winners.
But browser games don’t necessarily have to be served on your browser, as Jsmpeg-nvc shows. It is a low-latency, high-framerate screen-sharing service and client for browsers, which allows games to be played on it as the server. Slightly more intense graphics can be afforded, but the games are still considered browser games.
Browser games have definitely changed throughout the years, and while people may opt to play console games, or downloads, there will always be an audience of people out there who enjoy loading up the browser to immediately play a few games.