OMG it’s an MMOG!

Social and Economic Evolution of Online Gaming

Beginning screen for a text driven MUD.


The history of the MMOG can be traced back to MUD (Multi-User Dungeon, Domain or Dimension) which are essentially text-driven games dealing with rooms, which contain different paths, surprises, enemies, and treasures.  These were the first to push into the online realm and are generally considered to beginning of the MMOG.

Air Warrior by Kesmai (introduced in 1987) was the first MMOG for civilians to contain graphics.  The game was an online flight combat simulator with simple black and white wireframe graphics, and cost between $10 and $12 per hour to play.  The amount of subscribers remained relatively small due to the lack of ubiquity of the internet in 1987 and the steep cost to play. 

The first commercial MMORPGs commercially appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Neverwinter Nights was the first graphical MMORPG and ran from 1991 to 1997 on AOL.  The game also shows one of the first appearances of clans, which are groups of players who regularly play together in multiplayer games.   

Meridian 59, the first 3D MMOG, was launched in 1995 and released commercially in September 1996 with a flat-rate monthly subscription. The game was a typical sword and sorcery, in which the player travels the world to fight monsters and other characters.  It is often credited as being the true beginning of the MMOG due to its notable success.  The game has a slight cult following, with gamers still playing over ten years after the game’s inception.  However, the game was still relatively small, because it could only support only fifty players simultaneously. 


Today, the world of MMOG has grown at an incredible pace.  Graphics are far more advanced and lifelike, and many games include impressive AI systems and characters.  In addition, the worlds have become far more interactive, as well as conducive to player interaction.  This has led to a very interesting creation of a completely fictional world existing only on the internet.  Through this world, a small economy has been created, whole online communities have developed, and players from all over the world interact through this new medium.  The MMOG has found its niche in the new millennium and continues to grow at an increasing rate.  Currently, the most popular MMOG is World of Warcraft, which holds a record of 200,000 simultaneous users with over 8,500,000 current subscribers. (This is around 0.1% of the world’s population.)


The effects of this new world are dramatic and merit attention. Addictions to online gaming have been discovered, a universal online vocabulary has developed, and certain social implications, especially in the younger generation, are becoming increasingly apparent.  The online world has astonishingly begun to have significant effects in the real world. 

Neverwinter Nights

Meridian59 in game play

World of Warcraft (above) is currently the world’s most popular MMOG.