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The Social Gamer

The Social Gamer

       When I started to play video games as a kid, the experience was mostly centered around the aesthetic and mechanical elements of the game. It wasn’t so much about the nature of the gameplay that enchanted me but instead that I could push a button and make something move on the screen in front of me. It was a way to access portions of reality that were super-real which led to my imagination growing in beautiful and unexpected ways. I consumed many games in this manner, from the classic Rayman sidescroller to the heart pounding action of Half-Life. However, over time my consumption of video games changed from being primarily a sensory experience to that of the social one. The apex of this example came with the release of Minecraft (Alpha) in 2010. My friends and I would stay up late at night on our privately-hosted server building things and genuinely enjoying the game but also talking over Skype in a fluid conversation that would span the entirety of our gaming session. Frankly, I found this permutation of the experience to be a lot more compelling than simply playing a video game alone. The presence of people added a dimension to the game which made it more fun and gave it a greater longevity.

    Many people automatically assume that video game consumption is, by definition, an activity that limits itself to being antisocial. This assumption creates a stereotype that is not shared in other types of media consumption such as movies and television. Unfortunately, this stereotype could not be further from the truth. Many gamers crave social interaction and have created complex systems to afford this opportunity such as guilds (gaming groups) and co-op events that take place in real life. People don't want to be alone but instead wish to have the option to connect with other gamers and enhance relationships not only in person but also through the digital world. This is no different from the friend group that arranges a bowling event or a golf game as a method of action to accompany a social exchange. Even going out to dinner is extraneous to the mechanism of community, yet we all seem to talk a little more freely when surrounded by good food!

    As the video game industry grows, I look forward to seeing how it chooses to capitalize on the social market. Certainly, we don't need things that are so socially plugged as Farmville was during its heyday, but gentle integration with digital communication services and a thorough understanding of the human need for companionship will do great things to both add value to digital brands while simultaneously making them more balanced. My generation is no different from any other: we want to be connected with each other, regardless of whether we are playing Super Smash Bros. or grabbing a cup of coffee.

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