Online Gaming as Social Lifeline

Trapped inside… with the rest of the world.

Video games used to have a pretty bad reputation. And in some circles, they still do. That image of a grown man sitting in his mother’s basement is the quintessential image of the average gamer. Or moody teens sitting in their dark bedrooms, avoiding homework and wasting their time.  

These stereotypes couldn’t be more wrong today. 

Gamers come in all shapes and sizes. They’re office workers passing the time on long commutes. College students playing FIFA over a beer and a takeaway. Parents enjoying a multiplayer game with their kids. 

But perhaps the most surprising thing (well, to non-gamers at least!) about the gaming community is exactly that, it’s a community. There’s a connection between players, genuine friendships can be built, and in the solitary eighteen months we’ve just gone through, gaming has provided a crucial social lifeline for many of us.

Trapped Inside… with the Rest of the World 

When lockdowns hit en masse, people all over the globe were suddenly disconnected from friends and family. No more trips out to restaurants, no family get togethers for the holidays, and in some places going outside was banned altogether. 

Humanity was suddenly trapped inside. 

The saving grace? Video games. Gamers have long known that playing is not a solitary experience behind closed doors. Sure, your body is alone and enclosed within four walls, but connections can be made thousands of miles away. 

It’s not all about competition either. Sure, if you’re playing a shoot-’em-up, the goal is to eliminate your opponent, but there’s something oh so satisfying about completing missions as a team. In the end, we’re social creatures, and collaborative achievements are often more rewarding. 

Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, where players spend a long time riding horses or patiently hunting wild animals, the ‘posse’ (the term for teams in the game) has time to get to know each other, find out about each individual’s unique lives. It’s common for people to load up the game alone, but end up in a group of several. 

This social effect also happens in places where you wouldn’t expect it; online casinos, for example, have been a haven for people who were used to frequenting their local land-based alternatives. When brick and mortar shuts down, online can take its place without missing a beat. 

Players get together not necessarily to gamble (although who doesn’t love a cheeky punt?), but to get together with like-minded individuals. Establishments like superseven casino, for instance, give players the chance to interact with live video dealers, as well as talk to other players using the chat function. 

It seems that players appreciate the social bonding element most of all; perhaps even more than the games themselves. Mark Griffiths, who is a leading professor at Nottingham Trent University, has studied gaming for several decades. In 2003, he worked on a study that concluded that almost a third of players appreciate the social connections most of all. 

This has only increased in recent years, with players now able to use video and audio far more effectively to connect. Twenty years ago, players often socialized by a simple chat function, or crackly and uneven audio feeds. With the technology 2021 has to offer, getting to know other players is easier than ever. 

The conclusion from these studies is clear: video games are not isolating or antisocial. They don’t exclude people from society, but rather connect players from all over. They can sometimes even lead to romantic connections, with this couple meeting over a game of Overwatch

2021’s Industry Growth and Beyond 

It’s clear that no matter how you slice it, the gaming industry is growing like crazy. Fueled by the happenings of the last eighteen months, global revenue is slated to break records this year. Predictions from industry experts see the industry growing by a staggering 20%, with revenues skyrocketing to $175 billion. 

Game developers that have released cooperative multiplayer games have fared particularly well. Among Us, a mobile game where players band together to find a saboteur in their midst has been downloaded over 100 million times (and counting). 

For Nintendo Switch, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has proven to be an absolute goldmine for the company. It has tripled Nintendo’s profits, an incredible achievement for a game not expected to dominate the market. 

When lockdowns are a thing of the past, don’t expect the industry growth to suddenly stumble. Eyes have been opened, with traditional non-gamers now seeing the true value of video games. They’re not just entertainment, but provide a social lifeline.