Title Card: Video Games Occasionally Improved My Social Life

How Video Games (Occasionally) Improved My Social Life

When people think of video games, there is often the belief that it is a solo experience where you shut yourself away and ignore the rest of the world. People immediately look at them as a way to remove yourself from society, ignoring everything in favour of spending time shut away and secluded from everyone else. The gamer stereotype is one of a recluse hidden away in their parents’ basement, spending hours upon hours of time logged in front of a screen collecting virtual items for their personal gain. Gamers therefore have very little by way of social skills and very rarely opt into going into the real world to interact with others, choosing the safety of their virtual environment to avoid contact with other people.

Now, I’m not saying that this type of person does not exist, but the fact that this is the stereotype that is perpetuated is confusing and misleading. To be a gamer, you do not have to log entire days, weeks and months in front of a screen, dedicating yourself wholly to this activity. Most gamers are in fact quite casual, logging only a few hours a week and using the time to wind down and relax with a fun activity. In fact, many people use games as an opportunity for family time, as my family would on a regular occasion playing games like Pictionary or Wii Fit minigames on our home system.

This is exactly the point I am reaching here, in that there are many ways that I have experienced where video games can be a quite social activity. Aside from the family time I would regularly enjoy, and plan to enjoy when I eventually have kids of my own, getting my first experience starting video games was a very social one. In high school, I would regularly have friends who would get together every lunch hour to play using connected handheld devices with up to eight people at a time. It would get quite competitive, and I would always look forward to those times because it brought a whole bunch of people together, a few of whom I still hang out with to this day. My best friend was in this group, and it resulted in a friendship that has so far lasted about 14 years. Sure, we would play video games from time to time, but now, we just hang out and spend a few holidays together, something I never would have had if I didn’t play games with them so many years ago.

Multiplayer online games have also gotten a bad rap. Again, you hear stories of toxic people berating others just for the fun of it while playing behind the anonymity of a screen name and a virtual environment, but that is not the whole story here. I have also met people online who I have met in real life because we enjoyed talking and playing together. One such person I met when I was on a trip to San Francisco, deliberately making plans to see each other and have a day of fun. He got to show me around some neat places, and we even got to take in a museum together. I’m very grateful for the experience and the pictures from that trip and it will definitely remember for some time to come.

Gamers also tend to love meeting other gamers who hold similar interests to their own. I would find people quite frequently who would share at least a few of my games of interest and it would generally spur conversation as a result. I would talk with a few of my friends at length about some of the games we have played or the experiences we have had. When shopping in games stores, I would also regularly find friendly people who would share a quick conversation about the pieces they were buying or trading and what they enjoy, and in all my experience with this, they would more often than not be more than happy to chat with you about what they know or enjoy.

The gaming industry is ever-expanding, reaching a wider audience with each passing day and becoming less and less of a niche. You will find that people are willing, excited even, to talk about their interests. The gaming hermit stereotype might have had more credence a number of years ago, but it is becoming increasingly incorrect as time goes on and more people take up the hobby. I have met a countless number of great people with whom I could speak about my interest at length, and it is my hope that the trend continues. Video games, although not without its opportunities for seclusion, is a very social and inclusive hobby with many people who will talk or partake with you for hours on end. You just have to be open to the possibility.