Social Gaming

Nerd, geek, dork, antisocial, hermit – these are all titles that may have been awarded to a connoisseur of video games, back during the industry’s infancy. Video gaming was certainly considered a reclusive hobby. Through the years, however, video games and their users have transformed their portrayed image, and now approach a summit where the social value of this beloved pass-time will inevitably be thrust into a position of legitimate recognition once and for all.

Early on, video games were disparaged by poor press. The technology was met with resistance, just as so many forms of media before it. Television and rock n’ roll come instantly to mind. Popular culture often referred to gaming in a derogatory manner, and portrayed gamers as completely lacking social skills. However, gaming is very much a social pursuit, and continues to grow and develop in this direction.

I imagine most individuals who grew up with games fondly remember going off to school and thinking about a particular game or games they were playing for nearly the entire day. Being in a social environment already, it was easy to discover others who shared the same interests, and the love of video games was premier on that list. Gaming is an avenue that allows children to make friends in school, and to do so with enthusiasm. As with anything else, these little interactive gems spawn endless discussion, debate, and mutual retrospection.

Gamers form a certain¬†camaraderie¬†— a brotherhood — through which all understand and can relate to one another. These circles of friends will often trade games between members of the group, arrange visits and play sessions together, and even formulate traditions revolving around video games. Maybe every Thursday becomes game night at John’s house, or a certain game becomes a consistent after-school affair.

Of course manufacturers have taken notice, and it is evident in home console design. Initially allowing only two controllers to be attached, consoles have always moved in the direction of adding more players to the game. First supporting peripherals such as the multitap to get the job done, and then by increasing the number of controller ports, as the N64 did in 1996. Now, the PS3 allows for up to SEVEN simultaneously connected controllers, and the Wii’s entire mission seems to be getting everyone and their mother playing games together.

Furthermore, social networks based almost entirely on gaming have become more and more prevalent. With the rise of the internet, society has borne witness to the development of a variety of electronic discussion boards concerned with a vast range of topics. Video games are a very common focus for these forums, and allow users to interact with one another, often inspiring thorough analysis and in-depth discourse.

On top of online e-boards, the internet houses hundreds upon hundreds of dedicated video game sites. These range from all-encompassing game news publications to private blogs; from specific game sites to deep musings about and intellectualization of the craft. Even Smashing Bricks proves that if people have something to say about video games, they can do so – and even receive mass feedback on their opinions.

Pervasive internet connectivity has given rise to the increasingly popular world of online play. Usually as simple as repeated contests of skill such as deathmatches, capture-the-flag variants and sports competitions, these modes of play afford gamers the opportunity to always play with another person, rather than alone. Many of these games are set up with “lobbies” where players chat (via text OR voice) between matches. Xbox Live is Microsoft’s online service, and strives to create and maintain an online community of gamers, with game and stat -tracking, as well as communication options and personal profiles. It is both ambitious and successful, with with a large user pool and obligatory developer support. This service has certainly been an instrumental part of the maturation of social gaming.

Lastly, and the most enmeshed form of player-world-player interaction, are massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). These games are built around central servers that house a tangible and persistent world that is the same for every player who participates. As one travels this online environment, they meet up with hundreds of other individuals who are playing at the same time, and can then interact with them in the form of simple chatter, trading, alliance, or combat. Possibilities are only as limited as the real world – and actually, less so. These persistent worlds develop their own unique social dynamics, and even approach forming entire cultures around the goings-on inside the game.

If nuclear winter should ever hit, and we all must head underground, then something like THIS may be how we remain united.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.