Game patches are an optional add-on provided by game developers to update games, usually for the PC. Game patches work in a simple, independent manner that does not require heavy knowledge of their functioning to use.
A patch is a game update, issued by the developer, that deals with functionality issues and adds or modifies gameplay aspects. Game developers issue patches every couple of months after a game is released for a varying amount of time. A lack of a patch will not disrupt the game, but the addition of one can help a game that has become buggy or has an initially messy interface or game aspect.
Users download patches from a developer's website or a personalized game website (e.g. Gamespot, GameBurnWorld or the game's own website). Some games also come with a download interface, or a prompt in game to look for updates. If finding a patch on these types of sites is proving difficult, search for the relevant game on google, and add the word patch.
Patches are primarily used to address functionality issues, such as when games crash to the desktop unexpectedly, games freeze, or certain aspects of the game don't work. They can also be as simple as a making in-game moves faster, increasing loading times or simply changing the color of a game aspect. Patches also add features. For instance, the Civilization IV 1.61 patch describes itself as "a major upgrade to Civ IV, and includes a number of new and exciting features including new scenarios and map scripts, unit adjustments, unit enhancements and more!"
Patches download as a .exe (executable) file, and the patch installs in a similar way in which you would install a game. Patches do not disrupt your system or change anything that would affect it adversely. Most changes a patch makes will go largely unnoticed, but they speed up games or increase their functionality, as well as adding content. In terms of large multiplayer games, game exploits (which enable some users to cheat) are often fixed with patches.
Patches are not necessary, but they are a useful tool for addressing game issues. Added content is also a bonus. Patches should be checked to see what they address before they are downloaded. Gaming forums can provide helpful information on the functionality of a patch or the content it addresses/adds.
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