The ability to connect online very easily has fundamentally reshaped the way we play games. What used to be an entirely physical pursuit has now extended its borders to the digital frontiers, creating opportunities to hang out with friends and meet new people like never before. Though this new development offers immense advantages, it can also act as a double-edged sword. Taking a look at both the good and bad, we want to explore the effects the digital landscape has on online friendship, and the common ways it manifests on both sides of the aisle.
A Possibility for Problems
As great as talking to others can be, it comes with the caveat that people are not always great. Cyberbullying is the most extreme example of this, with bad actors using open communication to harass or insult other players. With the age of social media and online friendship platforms like Steam, this problem for gamers continues to grow.
As this piece from ExpressVPN shows, basic modern practices can go a long way to keeping users safe. Small and simple changes to activity like not tagging live locations and limiting posts to close friends can make significant differences in keeping people protected. These solutions aren’t perfectly applicable to all social gaming systems, but they can address the core problems that easier communication presents.
Building New Connections
With the doom and gloom out of the way, the good side of communication developments is far more pronounced and much easier to appreciate. For gamers, the most evident progress from the digital age is the increased ease with which people can play together. In the “old days”, gaming with others meant meeting up in arcades or friends’ homes.
Around the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the popularization of the dialup and then DSL modem, the decades-long default of at-home play began to change. As CBR notes, with Halo on the Xbox and Quake 3 on the PC, players from hundreds or even thousands of miles away could connect through their home systems. From this starting point, communities and tools appeared to carry gamers the rest of the way.
These communities were first formed around online message boards like GameFAQs and older chat programs like IRC. These groups allowed the coordination of players in games at certain times, which could have a feedback effect when finding more players in open servers to join in on communities and chat rooms.
In the most recent sense, it’s the chat program called Discord that has been the most influential in building online friendships around the online gaming realm. Free and easy to use, Discord has centralized gaming and internet communities in a way not seen since the early BBS and Usenet days detailed on MakeUseOf.
For large groups of gamers or just a couple of friends, this system and its integration into the different platforms make it the likely de facto home of digital friendships for at least the next few years.
For mostly good and sometimes bad, the online age has redefined the way we forge and maintain friendships in the gaming space. Not only can this help us in terms of enjoyment and entertainment, but it can also aid like-minded individuals in creating lifelong bonds.
Across nations, languages, and cultures, the implications of gaming communications are immense and worth far more than their often underestimated individual parts. Keep safe, and you could find a new best friend on the other side of the world, even after blowing up his car in GTA.