If your idea of an online gamer is someone who lives in their parents’ basement and spends hours immersed in Fortnite rather than in the pursuit of actual relationships – think again. In fact, this “antisocial” stereotype is the exception, not the rule, according to The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. After attending tournaments and conventions, then studying the behaviors of almost 400 participants, researchers found that gamers can be either introverted or extroverted. Not to mention, they concluded, this hobby often boosts socialization instead of weakening it.
In this current landscape of shelter-in-place, where most people are at home and limited in their contact with friends or family, online games can even be a source of connection to ward off loneliness. If you, like millions of others, are searching for creative and resourceful outlets to maintain a social life right now, do not discount the relational benefits of this online game culture. It’s accessible, it can be tapped into from anywhere, and it’s not just for the introverts. Here are some ways this pastime can enhance your social connections in the months ahead of physical distancing.
Multiplayer Games Boost Communication
Games that require you to collaborate with others, instead of play against a computer, can reinforce both teamwork and communication skills, notes Dr. Matthew Barr, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow. Barr has studied various multiplayer games such as Warcraft III, Borderlands, Team Fortress, and Minecraft which led to his conclusion that online games teach players to communicate effectively and join forces in a shared goal. This research also points out that communication skills tend to make gamers more socially receptive and adaptable too. A poll from Chumba Casino has even found that one in three gamers meet friends or partners through this hobby, and 34% confirm that relationship building is their favorite part of online games.
Live Streaming Platforms Are Interactive
Twitch, one of the most frequented live streaming online game platforms, reaches about 37.5 million viewers each month, based on data from eMarketer. The reason this medium generates so much traffic is because Twitch is entirely interactive which fosters a community-like experience between the gamers who produce content and the audience who consumes it. “There’s an immediacy and spontaneity to interactive live streaming that you simply cannot get from non-real time formats,” adds Eli Stonburg, CEO of the streaming interface Hovercast. “Audience members can have conversations with each other, as well as the broadcaster […which] allows the possibility for audience members to be elevated from viewers to participants,” he continues.
Many Gamers Connect at Real Life Events
In 2019, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) and Intel Corporation, two of the major brands in esports, drew 174,000 attendees from across the globe to their annual tournament series in Poland. This massive crowd of spectators is proof that many gamers do not confine their interactions to a virtual screen, but connect with each other offline and in real life too. In fact, these tournaments and conventions are so popular now that more gamers have started to coordinate and host their own events with other local enthusiasts in their area. While this is not currently feasible in person due to the spread of COVID-19, websites such as Toornament allow you to organize, schedule and invite players to join a remote competition through this online portal.
The misconception that online games are just for introverts is quite simply not true – this outlet is for anyone. Moreover, it’s an ideal way to meet and befriend others who share your common interest, so in a time of physical distance and minimal face-to-face contact, online games can help you maintain those social connections.