How online games are helping young people to befriend players around the world
“He just sits in his room and plays video games all day. He has absolutely no social life.”
We all know the stereotype: the solitary gamer, locked in front of a PC or console for hours on end, only coming out for meals. Doesn’t go out, doesn’t talk to anyone, has no friends, has no life. The kind that parents worry about, co-workers find odd, and most others just ignore.
“Most people think I’m a loner. They don’t know I’m still with my closest friends,” smiles Dev B, a 19-year-old living in Bangalore, India. A hardcore gamer of the hugely popular online shooter Destiny 2, Dev plays with a bunch of other people every day, people he considers his dearest friends. “I am very close to Adria and Mac who come from the United States. We first met online while playing dark souls 2 about three years ago. Mac was a very skilled player and I loved fighting him. We trotted match after match and added each other as friends on the PlayStation Network. Adria goes to the same school as him, so soon she started playing with us and we sort of became a gang,” he says.
The trio is really close to each other. They have fun on voice chat, play intense competitive gaming sessions, provide emotional support on tough days, and send each other gifts halfway around the world. The fact that they have never met in person does not take away from their friendship.
With an ever-increasing number of people choosing to play online multiplayer games year after year, major platforms like XBOX, PlayStation Network, and Steam are constantly adding features to enhance their social experience for gamers. With voice chat, party and game sharing features, friends can all play the same game or split up and play completely different games, watch each other play or even sit around doing nothing, all while staying connected to voice chat. It’s like hanging out in a room with multiple TVs and consoles, except with people from all over the world.
The rise of the insanely popular communication app Discord, with its easy-to-integrate and remove voice chat rooms and game streaming features, has helped people stay in touch with their gaming friends even when they’re on the go. are not in front of their consoles. Discord has seen a 50% increase in voice usage by its 100 million monthly active users since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020. It’s also constantly adding features to make sure people stay connected. throughout their daily lives, its gaming platform integrations making it the communication app of choice for gamers.
While new technologies have made things easier, the passion with which gamers have connected with each other all over the world has been around for a few decades now. “I’ve made most of my closest and most meaningful friendships online,” says Reetesh Yelamanchili, who works in Seattle on the XBOX manufacturing team. In the late 90s and 2000s, Yelamanchili was an active participant in online gaming communities and once created a community of gamers from underrepresented countries (other than the United States, Europe and Japan) so they can play online with low ping and low bandwidth servers. He organizes tournaments for Towards 2, TrackManiaNations and Earthquake IIIand found himself with longtime friends from many countries, many of whom became game developers (one of them founded Ogre Head Studios in Hyderabad, the creators of Asura). “We are still in contact. We attended each other’s weddings and still sometimes visit each other for gaming sessions. The bond was cemented on the game,” he recalls.
Today, Yelamanchili is working to create the next generation of game consoles. “I hope that I can provide future generations with places not only to be entertained, but also to make meaningful connections that pave the way for a life supported by kind people who believe in what you love and in you,” he told VICE.
For many young people, it is not easy to make friends at school, college or at work due to their inherent shyness.
“They say it’s better and easier to make friends offline. But that’s for extroverts. I’m introverted and social, a bit awkward, and I only make friends online,” explains Robbie G, a 22-year-old from London. Robbie met his best friends Mark and Rio on the PlayStation Network during a clan hop (something players do in multiplayer games to find a good clan to join) on Destiny 2. Robbie, Mark and Rio all live in England and meet occasionally in person, but say they much prefer online interactions to offline interactions. Last year Mark logged out of the game destiny for a year to deal with the death of his father. His friends Robbie and Rio were always there for him, staying connected offline and offering their support and love.
“I’m not the kind of person who makes friends easily or is comfortable making small talk,” says Robbie. “When you’re playing a game, there are no awkward silences or the need for chatter. Conversation follows everything you do.
Dev agrees, adding that in his experience, the people he meets online in games are more true to themselves. “When I meet new people in person, they play a role and I play a role. Because there’s a pressure to impress,” he says. interest and ignore the rest. It inspires people to let go of the act and be themselves.
Nihar Pachpande, a Mumbai-based marketing strategist, met a group of college seniors at IIM Bangalore on college game servers, playing games like DOTA and Counter-Strike. While he has earned a solid reputation for his elite skills, he has in fact never revealed his identity (his online nickname, RuSTy, has become a college legend) on campus, fearing anger. seniors he regularly beat.
But eight years later, something cool happened at a popular esports event in Mumbai. “Fast forward to ESLOne 2019, I was in the stands watching my favorite pitcher SirActionSlacks on the podium commentating on the games. Suddenly an old classmate pinged me on Instagram saying he was there and saw my recording at the event. After almost eight years, I finally met some of my college playmates who were attending the same esports event in Mumbai,” Pachpande smiles.
The dynamic of meeting people in online games is in some ways similar to social media and even dating sites, but with the core activity still present of playing a game providing context to all interactions and space safe and engaging for those who don’t. I don’t want to interact. “Unlike social media, you’re playing a game here, so you don’t have to chat,” says Robbie. “No one minds if you don’t engage at all, that’s okay. And the cool things that happen while playing are great conversation starters.
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