Despite the lasting stereotype that the key demographic of online gamers are socially withdrawn teenagers, it’s clear to anyone who indulges in it that gaming can be an incredibly social activity. Be it sharing a physical gaming experience during couch co-op or a virtual one by linking up with friends and randoms on your game of choice, it has been stated that over 70% of gamers play with others.
But what is it about games that make them the perfect stimulant for building and maintaining relationships?
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The most obvious facet about games as a whole (that’s games of all sorts) is that the vast, vast majority need to be played with at least one other person. While an arguable majority of traditional games will pit you against one another—from chess to poker—many modern video games will instead pull you together as a team to work towards a shared goal, whether that be against another team of players or to progress a narrative.
This act of playing together is fundamental to the ability of video games to stimulate relationships for a number of reasons.
1) A Shared Goal.
By giving players a shared goal, you and your fellow player(s) have something mutual to engage with and work towards—and that is the perfect fuel to start a friendship.
This naturally allows each other’s problem solving and pragmatic abilities to shine through, stimulating discussion of the task ahead, while also facilitating the banter which comes with that plan working out (or not).
2) Opening Up Avenues for Communication
Alongside your discussion of how to obtain the goal, there’s bound to be a bunch of downtimes. But by already getting your brains into gear by discussing a way forwards, the floodgates for communication have been opened.
This means that during that downtime it’s the perfect time to strike up a conversation, whether it’s wholly relevant or not. From talk of game mechanics, how to get certain items, or completely random comments about yourselves in the real world, this likelihood for conversation means you’re likely to get to know your fellow players if you’re all wanting to engage socially.
Of course, such communication may lend itself best to certain types of games or players, but in an empirical study way back in 2003, Mark Griffiths and colleagues found that 10% of EverQuest players stated their favorite part of the entire game was chatting with friends and guildmates.
3) Having Each Other’s Backs
As they say; actions speak louder than words. In such a way, whether you’re in need of a few more crafting materials in an MMO or are being flanked in an FPS the act of someone else looking out for you in the virtual world can be another point of solidifying relationships.
This is especially true when you become more familiar with a given player and have experienced a number of encounters with them.
But this, as with most things regarding relationships, can also come back around to communication—with the ability to help bolster your fellow players’ resolve when they see defeat or failure ahead, congratulating them overplaying well or calming them down after a particularly tense moment.
4) Creating Memories
On the most basic level, whoever you play with and whatever you do in that play session, you are making memories. Memories that are either directly linked to the game you’re playing or totally unrelated memories of chatting and being in each other’s presence.
The Ever-Increasing Importance of Social Gaming
After living through 2020, I think all of us can agree that online spaces are incredibly important for facilitating social spaces to both further existing relationships and make new ones. As such, the ability for video games to play a prime role in this whole interaction can’t be overlooked.
But even more than friendships, it is becoming more and more common to hear of romantic relationships and marriages to find their origins in online gaming—a handful of such stories are most easily sampled on Reddit.
And somehow we have gone through this entire discussion without even mentioning purely social games like the legendary Habbo Hotel, Club Penguin, or the more recent VR Chat—which are themselves testament to people’s desire to socialize in digital spaces.
So, what are you waiting for; grab that keyboard or controller and plug in your headset and go and have some nice, social fun with some buddies, new or old, on your favorite game. Who knows, maybe you’ll make some new friends.
(Disclaimer: The article is sponsored, and hence promotes some commercial links.)