Are online gaming communities the new members’ clubs or will the next generation of online gamers will be lacking any social skill who cannot recognize a three dimensional object even if it falls on his head? Looking at some of today’s online games shows that despite all the gloomy prophecies, virtual games create a new, bigger, world-wider form of communities based on human interaction.
One of the most ancient and common claims against online gaming was directed towards its anti social nature. Internet opponents saw online gaming as the community enemy, which causes people to prefer the solitary act of playing internet games over taking part in more traditional types of social activities such as playing sports games, visiting the local bingo hall, etc.
However, the growth and the development of online games, made this claim a little bit irrelevant. About ten years of broadband internet access proves the opposite: online gaming is a social activity by nature. From classic card, board, puzzle, and sports games to massive multi player online games (Second life, World of Warcraft, etc), online games are nothing but isolated and/or antisocial.
Let’s take online backgammon for example. Backgammon, the ancient board game, was traditionally played in backgammon clubs as a one-and-one game or a tournament. Backgammon rules used to be spread around in the old fashioned viral marketing – by word of mouth.
But what would do a small town backgammon player who has no backgammon clubs nearby? Online gaming solved this dilemma. The largest online backgammon rooms host hundreds of thousands of players who can practice backgammon games against each other, chat with one another, discuss game tactics and strategy, share information, gossip and do whatever members of community do when gather together.
Another game that proves the importance of the social aspect in today’s online games is Second Life. The relatively new game has become a phenomenon. Although defined as a game, Second Life had shed all traditional characteristics of a game: it has no rules, no strategy and no actual competition or goal.
Instead, Second Life players, excuse me, residents, can keep themselves occupied in various social activities including buying and selling stuff, throwing parties or being invited to ones, exhibiting art objects or visiting art exhibits and involve in other life like behaviors. At the same time they can make new friends and/or foes and experience the entire scope of human emotions towards one another.
These were only two extreme examples – the classic board game turns virtual and the embodiment of the cyberpunk authors’ visions. However, online gaming communities are far richer. Online gaming communities can be based on a shared interest in a certain game or on the abstract idea of interaction. Either way, the basic need in human communication did not pass from the world with 3D web technologies.
By Saul Rivers
Saul Rivers is a new media expert who covers the online gaming industry and related topics. Rivers contributes articles to various skill gaming websites including online billiard, chess and backgammon sites such as http://www.play65.com, for example.