Gamers are the social ones now

Socially Isolated…

Addicted young people…

Few real-life social ties.

This was the definition of a lonely gamer from an article which I read back in 2015. At the time, I was writing a blog post about the depiction of gamers in popular culture. The year is now 2020, a full five years after I wrote about the stereotyping of gamers. Guess what? We are the social ones now!

That’s right, the world is changing. COVID-19 has forced us into social distancing measures and going out on the weekend is no longer possible, not for now at least. People are gathering online, using tools like Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc. but this is what gamers have been doing for years. Why is it okay to call that social now, instead of the lonely gamer? This isn’t new, gamers have been social for years as games become more connected and online communities become easier to establish.

Every Saturday and Sunday I “commute” to my second job. I log into my World of Warcraft Classic account where I am a level 60 Orc Fury Warrior and I get together with my guild DECENT (think team) to slay creatures in an online environment. In a time of social distancing, I’m anything but staying away from my guild mates on the weekend.

My guild DECENT on Sunday night. 40 people socializing in an online world.

We use audio software called Discord and we take control of our virtual avatars. For a few hours, 40 people come together and play a game. We laugh, joke around, and defeat bosses for “loot” which makes our characters stronger. With stronger characters we can continue to progress through more difficult content released by the games developers every few months.

My avatar in the virtual world.

At any given time, thousands of people populate our server (world). Kromcrush is an extremely active place and our capital cities are lively.

These are players gathered in Orgrimmar, one of the capital cities in World of Warcraft.

While many people are struggling with social distancing, games are quickly being used as tools to defeat the inability to go and interact in person. According to one article, gaming has increased 75% at peak times (March 16) without any notable release driving those numbers up (no new games came out). Steam, a notable gaming platform, reported similar increase in gaming activity with over 20 million concurrent users online at once.

While some people passively sit back and lurk on social media platforms like Facebook, gamers are engaging with each other and their communities. At the core, this is what games are. They require active engagement, unlike other popular forms of entertainment like films or books.

Gamers are no longer socially isolated, addicted young people with few real-life social ties. We are active engaging participants who will get through COVID-19 together. We don’t feel isolated, we feel connected more now than ever.

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