Standalone games are the “old-fashioned” way of playing computer games—you load Tetris or solitaire on your PC and you play a game whenever you feel like it. A standalone game is one that it is not dependent on being online in order to play the game. Many smart phone games (like Angry Birds) are essentially standalone games, where the game play itself doesn’t require an Internet connection. Some early PC games provided multiplayer capabilities in addition to standalone modes. Connectivity was typically achieved by physically wiring two machines with a serial cable, or perhaps connecting a number of machines over a local area network. Doom was one of the first networkable games, with up to four players able to interact via a Novell NetWare LAN.
Today, of course, the ubiquity of the Internet has made online game play a commonplace phenomenon. Most teens and children who spend any significant time online have favorite websites (like PopCap Games) where they can play standalone games. There is no stranger danger in most of these games because they are single player, despite being played online via a web browser.
As a general rule, online games provide more variety and greater ease of access than standalone games (which may have to be purchased and installed), although both varieties can create a significant draw for game players. Online games potentially create a stronger draw than standalone games primarily because of the ease with which updates and additional game levels can be added to the game play. Historically, computer games such as the Space Quest or King’s Quest series could be played until the game was won, at which point the user either had to stop playing or start again from the beginning (which would be a little pointless after having figured out all the requisite puzzles needed to solve the game). Today, new levels can be dynamically added, keeping a player engaged for a more extended time frame.