As my good friend Tom Petty once told me, “the waiting is the hardest part.” Since its announcement back in June, iOS 5 has been a hotly anticipated update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. Ushering in 200 new features, there’s a good deal for gamers to get excited about – and if you plug your device into your computer, you can start installing the latest iOS firmware right now.

If you’re not too sure how to do this, it’s a fairly painless process. Simply sync your device using your connection cable as you normally would, click on the device’s name on the sidebar menu in iTunes, and then click “Check for updates.” From there, it’s as easy as a couple of clicks and a lengthy wait as iTunes downloads the update, backs up your device, installs, restores, takes a coffee break, restores some more, and finally finishes.

So now that you have it, why are you going to love it? Five reasons.

iCloud – Sure everyone is talking about the music capabilities of iCloud, but you know what it means for games? It means your game saves can be stored here and accessed from any device. Want to start a game on your iPhone and pick up right where you left off on your iPad? Go nuts! Developer’s now have the option of using iCloud for exactly this purpose.

Notifications – Again, not something you’d normally associate with games. If anything, getting a text from your grandma or a reminder to harvest your Smurfberries while you’re in the middle of an intense Infinity Blade battle is downright aggravating…. and that’s why we’re so excited. Notifications have now been moved to the top of the screen so as to not block your gameplay, and they’re not going to halt what you’re doing either. Let’s just hope they’re not so out of the way that you neglect to ignore your grandma’s cries for help.

Asynchronous Multiplayer – While it’s not something that’s new to iOS – games like Kard Combat and Hanging With Friends have made tremendous use of asynchronous gameplay – having it built into Game Center is a real game changer. Not only will it make it simpler for everyone and their brother to add asynchronous multiplayer to their games, but there’s going to be a handy page in Game Center to let you know what games you have on the go and when it’s your turn. This is going to redefine social play on mobile.

Game Center gets more social – Add a profile picture, see who friends of friends are, make new friends from strangers you’ve played with – it’s all here in the latest build of Game Center. You’ll also now have a points total from your achievements that can lead to extra bragging for those of you who spend their days grinding away at mobile games to show your friends who’s boss.

Airplay Mirroring – want to play iOS games on your AppleTV? There’s an app for that. Well… sort of. If you happen to be using iOS 5 on an iPhone 4S or and iPad 2 and you own AppleTV, you’ll be able to bring your games to the big screen. What’s more, some games like Real Racing 2 HD will be upping the experience with special Airplay options like four player split-screen. Admittedly it’s kind of a bummer that this isn’t coming to other devices like the iPhone 4 and first gen iPad, but alas, sometimes the march of progress demands new purchases.