As a young pup, did your parents ever tell you off for spending too much time sat in front of a computer screen?
Many of us would’ve probably been given the vague reason that it’s just not healthy, physically and socially, to spend so much time playing computer games. Because, of course, we should all be playing in the fields all day, picking strawberries and climbing trees, or whatever the previous version of young adolescent leisure was supposed to be.
Okay, so while they were right about exercising more and getting out of the house regularly, when it came to understanding the basics of social networking online, our parents were total noobs. Sorry, mum, but it’s true.
Those who have lived the good old days of dial-up internet will remember that, even before MySpace or Bebo took off, games were one of the primary realms of digital networking. It’s only over the past decade that the words ‘social’ and ‘computer’ have started to find themselves in many of the same sentences. In fact, they’re now inseparable.
Like football or rugby, art or music, games give us a reason to unite… and plenty to discuss during our school or work days. It’s no surprise to find that 54% of all gamers play computer games with others because humans are inherently social creatures. We’ll always look for new ways to connect with each other and the range of options is wider than ever before.
Here are a few good examples of the interesting ways in which the social element was embraced by games across the video game spectrum.
The explosion in online casinos, poker rooms and the like has quickly developed a distinct social edge. By aiming to create a lifelike experience of a real casino floor, iGaming websites now give players the ability to interact with live dealers and speak to other players while the game is in full flow. Providers use livestreaming and RFID chip technology to connect the player with their live casino room of choice, where a live dealer will treat them exactly as if they were physically there.
Sun Bingo is a prime example of this, and features a sophisticated chatroom function which even has high-quality video interviews of hosts. Like many operators, they’ve also invested in an intuitive Android app so that players can log in and play with thousands of people at a moment’s notice from anywhere (with a decent internet connection at least).
Massively multiplayer online role play games are social beasts by their very nature, with prime examples like World of Warcraft a perfect showcase for what these games are all about. Among all the quest completing and levelling up, a core aspect of the game play is teaming up with other players to battle, trade with and troll each other’s beloved characters – all social interactions in their own right.
These epic digital worlds are also very likely the birthplace of online clans as we know them, and even elements and abbreviations of language that previously never existed. It’s not even that much of a surprise to find dedicated online dictionaries that serve the sole purpose of cataloguing the slang used in World of Warcraft, but it does cement the position of MMORPGs as the real long-standing communities of the gaming world – ones that still thrive to this day.
Sometimes, the simplest of concepts are the ones that last. That’s certainly true for online drawing games, one of the very first type of game that brought players together online, on mass, under the premise of having a bit of a laugh. In fact, your parents are likely to have played a similar charade pictionary-type game in their friends’ living room after a dinner party.
Again, even before the early social networking platforms took off, sites like Jippii which had a neat little drawing game (along with noughts and crosses and the like) were huge and filled a very similar purpose in terms of chatting with your mates, albeit with way more basic capabilities. Now, we’ve got modern, mobile responsive versions like the almighty Draw Something, which historically ranks among the most popular downloads in the entire App Store.
The point is...
Compared to a decade ago, the idea of social gaming online has blossomed with the unstoppable rise of the internet.
We now have no trouble whatsoever logging into a game and playing against people halfway across the world, on a game that is entirely catered to our own specific tastes and interests. And just because there’s no physical board, dice, or game pieces involved doesn’t make joining in on an online game with your friends any less fun, or important for our social health. By all means, we need to savour real life, exercising outside and picking strawberries as much as we ever have. But let’s not deny that technology is here to stay, and it has an unlimited potential to bring people together like never before.