Is Gaming the Best Way to Build a Community?

By: Nelson Arroyo Jr

    I remember even just five years ago I would walk through the halls of my school knowing that I had a hidden side to me that no one knew. When night fell, and I was behind closed doors I was actually the most dangerous warrior ever. Of course, this was only while I was playing Skyrim, but still, no one knew about it.

    The reason that no one knew about it is that at some point every gamer has run into the stereotype of the overweight, unhygienic, unsociable gamer. The best example of this is from South Park in the episode ‘Make Love Not Warcraft’ (Season 10 ep. 08). In this episode, a guy who plays World of Warcraft plays so much that he becomes basically a demigod within the game. But the outside characterization of the player is overweight, grease, and lives in a small messy apartment. With stigma like this, it is easy to understand why some gamers would be hesitant to expose themselves.

    But video games have been on the social rise since 2010, I think we can credit this to the emergence of streaming services like Twitch and Mixer.

    Not only has the image of gamers changed, but it’s actually started to become something that brings people together. I remember a time when I was with friends playing Sea of Thieves when we ran into another ship, we quickly befriended that ship and started adding each other as friends building a community among each other.

Guest writer John Martineau, Plymouth State Neuroscience and Psychology Major as well as an avid gamer, had this to say,

“How does one build community? I think there are three main driving factors required for the formation of anything resembling a community: (1) interaction with other humans, (2) a common goal to bind the group together, and (3) a desire for each member of the group to want to join the community. By this standard video games must necessarily build community, and I firmly believe that they do through the inherent qualities that make them enjoyable in the first place. Often people are tempted to think that playing video games is an isolating experience, but with the advent of globalized connectivity and recent advances in those information technologies, we see the majority of triple-A video games avoiding isolating experiences. For although they can be a singular experience, to detach oneself from the outside world and dive into a mythical land of any choosing, most people’s fondest memories of video games, in my personal experience, has always been with the presence of at least one other human being involved somehow.

Referring to my aforementioned three-part definition of community building, video games not only fulfill all three criteria but also create and fulfill a fourth: an experience of happiness and pleasure in the partaking of the common goal. Although some communities have a common goal, such as academic organizations, they aren’t necessarily the most enjoyable experiences. Video games, on the other hand, you can grab three other people and get lost in another world and laugh non-stop for hours on end. Furthermore, video games have a unique advantage of being able to connect people all over the world digitally, meaning we do not need to have someone next to us to get some social connectivity. Additionally, the common goal of video games is to enjoy them, and all members of a video game-centric community want to play them and play them with others. As a result, there is a positive feedback loop present within video game centered communities.

I want to play a video game, but it then matches me with other people to play with (in most games these days, multiplayer is unavoidable), I get to then experience this common goal, to play video games, with other people. Well, people tend to have fun playing video games, ergo they seek to play them more. Video game centered games are self-sustaining, because the draw of entertainment that many other goals must actively create, video games inherently possess. Political organizations, academic circles, food connoisseurs, must find a common enemy, new breakthrough in research, or start traveling to keep entertaining people and drawing them back; however, video games simply exist as they are already entertaining and draw people back again and again. And what happens if one game gets boring, you can simply choose another out of the hundreds of thousands in existence.

Humans are social creatures, and although those of the introverted kind enjoy alone time, almost every human abhors isolation. Video games allow you to have both your cake and your pie and eat them both. Want to enjoy something by yourself today? Play Fallout 4 or Witcher 3. Want to enjoy something with others today? Play Stick Fight or Space Engineers. Video games of the past would see people pass the controller, but contemporary video games are actively designed to encourage cooperative play, whether through the local split screen or 64 person online multiplayer games. We can even empirically verify this through the rise of clan and guild systems, people who get married after meeting through a video game, and people seeking each other out at massive conventions such as PAX East or Twitchcon. Through this self-fulfilling cycle of others seeking out others to play video games with, video games being enjoyable, and global interconnectivity, we see video games unable to not build community.”

    With all of this, it is easy to see how video games help build a community among, friends, strangers, and possibly even family.

    As a military brat, I was constantly moving around so if I wanted to stay connected to friends we had to be creative. So, my friends would always connect over Xbox Live, or Steam once we got PCs.

    What are your thoughts on community building over video games? What ways have you built community digitally? What games do you like to play with friends? Let us know in the comment section below, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or connect with us in the GG Report Discord channel.