It seems like simple logic: someone in solitude interacts with a machine for a lengthy time. There’s no way that this could benefit one’s social behavior and communication. Although it’s easy to assume beliefs like this to be true, there are many elements to gaming that provide the benefit to the doubt. How exactly do video games allow players to express healthy communication when playing?
While it’s true that playing alone doesn’t allow two or more players to communicate, studies have shown that multiplayer and online games strongly support healthy cognitive behavior and social interactions with others. Simply put, there are many elements of the gaming experience that make people social.
The stigma that gamers sit glued to their screens without any social benefits is well known around the world, not just the U.S. Japan is perhaps the first country to see so many people addicted to video games, since the rise of the Atari. Now, there is a Japanese term, hikikomori, which basically means someone who keeps themselves secluded in one room for a long period of time, while often playing games and reading manga.
Then there is also South Korea, which is known for its internet arcades, where players gather to simultaneously game. The unique thing about gaming in South Korea, however, is that the majority of the games played are MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online) and require players to interact with each other in-game. The reason for so many of these social games is partially due to the fact that South Korea actually makes quite a few games, most of them being online. South Korea also has some of the fastest internet speeds in the world.
Most games released today involve some kind of multiplayer and/or internet feature. Think about it: mobile games exploded once smart phones were popularized, opening up a whole new sector in the gaming industry. What about Candy Crush? Almost everyone and their mom was playing the game, and it involved a lot of peer-to-peer communication. If you “invite” others to play with you, you rake in special bonuses. This encourages players to be social with others, although it might be a one-sided initiative – those requests do get old after a very short period of time.
With that being said, games almost force players to be social. Do you want that extra life? Invite ten friends. Do you want to perform heists in Grand Theft Auto V? Play online with others. The gaming industry has essentially normalized video gaming as a social activity. If you really think about it, this also provides game companies with substantial revenue; instead of inviting friends, buy some coins. If you want to perform online heists with friends, you have to buy an online PlayStation account.
Research has shown that kids that play video games have better social skills and peer relationships than kids who don’t play video games. Video games allow kids to socially connect with other students easily while playing games together, leading to easier integration into daily school life. This makes it easier to understand why so many adult millennials still love games like Pokémon and Mario – they grew up with them, whether they played them alone or with siblings or friends.
The reason I got into video games is because I grew up watching my three cousins play Japanese RPGs together all of the time. I didn’t play much, but we all worked together at cohesively completing game after game, even if they were single player. It was an activity we made into tradition. Video games have the power to bring people together and collaborate.
To say that the “gaming culture” is not social is just laughable. Gamers are well versed in coming together and engage in numerous social activities. E3 is perhaps the most exclusive video game conference, and many celebrities make appearances to show their support. Even in Milwaukee, we have Anime Milwaukee which has thousands of attendees each year, which is known for its massive 24/7 gaming room. The gaming community has formed its own culture, and it’s quite extensive.
Just like with smoking weed or skateboarding, critics also claim playing video games to be a pointless activity that serves no purpose, for you’re not actually getting any positive benefits from, right? It’s just silly to be so harsh about playing video games. It’s a great way to relax, blow off steam, and to communicate with others.
Gaming isn’t just a way to waste time; it is a way to bring people into a whole new world – and not just alone, but together. The gaming industry is worth far more than Hollywood, and is still growing. Playing video games absolutely promotes healthy communication, and that’s not stopping anytime soon.