Socialogy / Trend
image: @ courtesy of Matjaz Slanic / gettyimages.nl
TCHI Magazine #4: The rise of the social gamer
Since the dawn of videogames in the early 1970s there have always been negative attitudes towards gamers. Even today, there are still many negative stereotypes, nearly all of which have been debunked by science. In this article, we investigate the most stubborn gaming stereotype of all. Spoiler alert: gamers are not lonely, socially inept nerds, they are actually more social than the rest of us. Get your game on!
21st Century Skills
Experts agree that parents need to change their mindset about the seemingly obsessive gaming behavior of their kids. Obviously, climbing trees is nice, but in the digital era gaming seriously helps develop 21st century skills. We won’t bore you with arguments about why gaming is the greatest thing ever, but it obviously improves coordination, problem-solving, attention, concentration and social skills. Wait, what? Social skills? Yes sir!
A report based on a United States survey by research and consultancy firm LifeCourse Associates shows that gamers have more positive attributes than their non-gamer counterparts. The survey specifi cally revealed that gamers consider family a top priority (82% vs 68%) while also placing a high importance on friends (57% vs 35%) than non-gamers. In terms of values and norms, gamers are more likely predisposed to making a positive impact on society (76% vs 55%). And they prefer businesses that promote social causes (58% vs 36%).
In Good Company
Okay, so gamers are not as unworldly and self-centered as myths might have us believe. That still doesn’t make them great company, sociable and amicable. Right? It’s true gamers are sometimes stigmatized as being too insulated, but again the opposite is actually true. They sometimes choose not to express their interest, for fear of shaming and stereotyping, so some may decide to move the social aspect to the online space. Others fi nd camaraderie with other gamers. The rise of multiplayer experiences online has given way to a new form of socializing in which players work together to solve problems. But studies have shown games can also be the catalyst for friends to gather in person: roughly 70 percent of all players play with real life friends at least some of the time.
Gamers do not just play together in the comfort of their own home, they actually get around and visit public gaming events, ranging from E-sport tournaments to conventions and LAN-parties. Those of us who have never been to a LAN-party, tend to think it’s a lot of guys staring at monitors all day (and night). Again: drop the scepticism! U.S. researchers travelled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the U.S. to observe the social behaviour of gamers and survey another 375 playing massive multiplayer online games. In tracking both online and online behaviour, they found that gaming was just one aspect of social behaviour at these events. “We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviours at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” said Nicholas Taylor, lead researcher and professor of communications. “Gaming did not eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it. “This was true regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player’s behaviour in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialise normally online.” What she is actually saying is: someone could be the most-feared serial killer in an online game and still be the gentlest person you will ever meet. Honestly? Deep down, we already knew that to be true.
“…Read this, you cynics!”
For all the sceptics reading this, thinking: mwah, these gaming relationships are just substitute friendships for people who fail at connecting in real life, we have four heartwarming examples of gamers really getting in touch with eachother.
Guy makes Xbox friend his best man
There isn’t a stronger piece of evidence that online friends are exactly like real life ones than this story. It’s about an in-game friendship that lasted for 15 years and reached its peak when one of the guys decided to make the other one the best man at his wedding. Mind you, at that point in time they had never seen each other outside of the virtual world. The immense amount of trust they shared shows that establishing strong bonds doesn’t necessarily require physical contact.
Couple gets engaged in game…. and then in real life
Getting married in a video game is not unheard of. In fact, many players were doing this kind of thing in popular games like World of Warcraft. Marie and Jay Coulbeck crafted some killer avatars for themselves in a 3D chat room and after interacting almost daily, they decided to get engaged, virtually. Even though their real life personas didn’t physically match the perfection of their online ones, these two lovebirds ended up getting married in real life. It’s one of the most heart melting love stories online gaming has ever seen.
Rapper and grandma spell f-r-i-e-n-d-s-h-i-p
Spencer Sleyon (22) and Rosalind Guttman (81) have a very unusual friendship that would have never bloomed if they had fi rst met in real life. What brought them together was the Scrabble-like game Words with Friends. After playing more than 300 games together, aspiring rapper and hip-hop producer Spencer fi nally went to Florida to meet his new best friend in the fl esh. Word up!
Online friends meet after one of them gets terminal cancer diagnosis
A group of six men had been playing online titles together since meeting on the internet over five years ago. Like many gamers, they had formed a close friendship despite never meeting in person. But the group finally came together after one of them, 23-year-old Joe, started treatment for cancer. David Miller shared the story and the image of the group at Joe’s bedside and it immediately went viral. Speaking to the BBC, Miller said: “We played pretty much everything. We played all the time. Even if we weren’t playing games we would be just hanging out, talking about anything.” While meeting people in real life having only known them online isn’t always easy” Miller said it didn’t even feel like this was the first time they’d met. “We just hung out like we had done it a thousand times before.”
“If such moving stories do not convince you of the connective powers of online gaming, you cannot be saved. And that’s the end of it.