To a great extent, the history of gaming technology cannot be separated from that of computing technology. Many computer games can of course run on the same hardware as business software. There are however a number of differences between computers whose primary role is to run game software, and those used mainly for business purposes.

Many of the earliest examples of video games ran on arcade machines, and were implemented using discrete components and purpose-built circuitry. Such machines could not really be considered to be "computers" in the sense that we generally use the term. A game console, on the other hand, can justifiably be described as a computer, albeit a highly specialised kind of computer.

I often get asked by (non-technical) friends and acquaintances to help them choose a new computer. Two questions always spring to mind. The first is "how much do you want to spend?" and the second is "What are you actually going to use it for?".

Of course, most avid PC gamers will already have a good idea of the features their new computer will need in order to run state-of-the-art computer games, and don't need to ask my opinion, but I have to ask anyway, just in case. Because if you want to run the latest games on a personal computer, you'll need something with a little bit more under the bonnet than you'll get with a standard entry-level computer.

As most PC gamers will happily tell you, the most critical component of the computer from a gamer's point of view is the graphics card. The latest third person shooter (for example) will make heavy demands on the graphics processor. In fact, most graphics cards used for serious gaming now have multiple processors.

Computer gaming has also driven the development of numerous computer peripherals, both for game consoles and for the personal computer. Whereas the average business or home user is perfectly happy to work with a mouse and a keyboard, the serious gamer may additionally require the services of a joystick, a gamepad, a steering wheel, foot pedals, a headset, various types of sporting paraphernalia, or a selection of infra-red weaponry. Indeed, the list is almost endless.

On the software side, computer games have followed the general trend in software development, which is for programs to get bigger and to require more working memory. There have also been some interesting developments in the programming languages used to write gaming software.