Gaming has long been considered the domain of those who would rather stay indoors than head outside. Many gamers would probably describe themselves as introverted. And while this assumption probably has some credence to it, this doesn’t mean gamers play video games to shun socializing.
After all, introverts don’t necessarily dislike the company or go out of their way to avoid making friends. Rather, the main difference between introverts and extroverts, in general, is that the former simply need time alone to unwind and recharge their social batteries, while extroverts feel more relaxed in the company of others. And for many introverts, gaming offers the perfect opportunity to socialize with others at their own pace and in their own space. From playing online to competing in eSports, gaming is a lot more sociable than people might think and has helped to create a community for those who are more inward-facing.
People game specifically to socialize
The majority of gamers don’t actually play by themselves, and instead, use it as a means of interacting. According to statistics from the Entertainment Software Association (the trade association of the US video game industry) almost two-thirds of gamers play with others. And while this can be partly attributed to the popularity of multiplayer games, socializing has long been proved as one of the main motivations for gamers. For example, a 2016 Quantic Foundry survey of over a quarter of a million gamers revealed that being part of a community was among the main reasons why people game.
This was exemplified when the coronavirus crisis forced the world into lockdown, and people turned to video games as a way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Reacting to the surge in video games sales during the pandemic, Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, stated: “Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose, and meaning.” In fact, one study even found that online gaming buddies can help with “filling an IRL social support deficit”. Video games have also been shown to be a safe place for vulnerable people to socialize, such as those with social anxiety, autism, and insecure attachment styles.
It’s easy to socialize while gaming online
A major reason why gaming is such an effective way of socializing is simply how easy it is to do, as you don’t even need to physically meet up with anyone. Online gaming lets anybody connect with other people around the world. In addition, many popular titles are multiplayer games that encourage players to collaborate, or face off against each other, all while talking over a headset.
Take first-person shooter Call of Duty: Warzone, where teams of up to four are dropped into the fictional warzone of Verdansk together and tasked with outlasting the hundreds of other players in the game. Or Animal Crossing: New Horizons, in which players explore an island together and carry out wholesome tasks like gathering materials for building and jobs given by the townsfolk. Meanwhile, sports games like NBA 2K and FIFA let gamers compete against their friends or even random opponents online.
Some games — especially those on PC — are also renowned for their enormous communities, particularly MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). With in-game live chats and online forums enabling gamers to easily talk to and play with strangers, they have long been used as a way to make new friends. While research on the subject is limited, one study on MMORPG games found that most players have become good friends with those they’ve met online, with around 40% saying that their online friends are comparable or even better than their real-life companions. Examples of popular community-based games include Team Fortress 2, Rocket League, and Little Big Planet.
Gaming community events bring people together
But even though online gaming is how most people enjoy video games together, it is becoming easier to compete in real life as well. Before the days of home consoles and gaming PCs, gathering at arcades was the only way most people could actually game, alone or together. And challenging others was commonplace, helping to make arcades a significant social hub. As home consoles and online gaming became commonplace, this led to arcades practically dying out by the mid nineties.
However, largely fueled by the popularity of eSports, gamers are now meeting up more than ever. The last few years have seen fans from around the world regularly converge to watch professional eSports stars compete playing their favorite games at the tournament level. Take the League of Legends Championships, which saw 43,000 people attend Beijing’s Olympic “Bird’s Nest” stadium in 2015. Meanwhile, ESL and Intel welcomed over 174,000 fans for a succession of tournaments across two weekends in March 2019.
Though most everyday gamers won’t ever compete in these high profile tournaments themselves, there are countless amateur eSports competitions they can play in against others. The Indy Gaming League, for instance, boasts a community of over 5,000 gamers. while Facebook Gaming announced its own amateur eSports tournaments in April 2020. With eSports and gaming bars popping up across the world, community gaming has undoubtedly made a comeback.