Nov 12th, 2016, 12:49 PM

Online Gaming Creates Genuine Communities

By Nooh Barzani
Photo Credit: rangizzz, Shutterstock
Fosters frienships for those feeling rejected by peers

Online gaming has always been looked at negatively. The stereotype is that people–especially teenagers and children–get addicted to playing games, which unfavorably alters their lives. The truth is, online gaming can sometimes be a savior when your own community and friends reject and exclude you or when you are at your loneliest.

When I came to Paris six years ago as a Kurdish university student, I struggled to make friends and it was very difficult for me to adapt my new lifestyle. I was far away from my childhood friends and I felt like I didn’t belong here. I felt excluded and not qualified enough to become a part of my new community. Maybe it was because of my different cultural background and interests, or maybe because I was not social enough and lacked self-confidence. These feelings lasted until I found some other students who were suffering in the exact same way. We became friends because they were more or less like me, with almost the same taste of interest.

Image Credit: Video Games Amino

Online gaming provides people who are rejected by those around them the opportunity to join and participate in virtual online communities. If you have ever been rejected by your own community or treated coldly and denied by friends at school, you probably have looked for an alternative where you are accepted the way you are. Many youngsters nowadays find this alternative in online gaming where they can interact with real people and become real friends, even best friends.

Let me provide a quick description of what a ‘virtual community’ is: A virtual community is a community of people sharing common interests, ideas, and feelings over the Internet or other collaborative networks. Online gaming is the platform providing the virtual communities to which people feel attached. It is like a ‘second family’ for lonely people; it helps them to find an online community that will help them overcome their feelings of isolation.

Image Credit: 4psa blog

Online communities are like shelters for those who are alienated from their societies. They allow them to make friendships that they cannot normally make in physical communities; they give people the chance that they are never given to participate in real communities. Jane McGonigal, author of the New York Times bestseller Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, has said, "Games bring us, and keep us, together.” Your society and friends refuse you? Don’t worry, you are not the only one and virtual communities are waiting to accept you the way you are.

McGonigal has also said, "Games help us band together and create powerful communities from scratch…Community feels good. It feels like belonging, fitting in, and actively caring about something together." For those who face difficulties to settle in ‘real’ world communities, it is a way of socializing and getting over isolation and friendlessness through online platforms.

A very interesting point of view is that online gaming communities seem to be only for men or at least many people look at them this way, but guess what! they aren't! women play online games for making friends and becoming a part of a community as much as men. Women also get isolated and rejected by their physical communities and they find themselves in the friendly hands of online communities to overcome their loneliness.  According to a study held by the Internet Advertising Bureau, 52% of gamers are women.  

Not only does online gaming bring people together through means of entertainment, it also brings people together who may have the same feelings of isolation, which can form sincere, long-lasting friendships. Online communities are easier to cope with and become a part of. Mobile Strike game is a great example of such virtual communities that offer gamers a family of real people all around the world.

Image Credit: Video Games Amino

Mobile Strike is just the right game to show the good sides of gaming. It is a US-based strategic Bird-Eye angle (camera showing from above) game which, according to iTunes, “is an… action game of modern war that lets you build a base, control the action, and train elite troops to fight against enemies on the battlefield." The game puts players into alliances (communities) where they are able to exchange conversations in chat rooms, which are essentially used to make calls and orders when playing the game. This online community has allowed people to become part of a group (group of friends) and to make friendships that they were unable to find in normal life. I personally play that game and I can certainly say, my online community is friendlier and closer to me than my actual physical one, regardless of the distance between the gamers.  Many players in this online game are women and they are as active as men, participating in planning, sharing thoughts and leading attacks in the game.

The game has an internal chat tool, where players not only discuss strategies and plans of the game, but also share their real life stories. It can almost be said that the game community is their second family. Mobile Strike helps many socially isolated players to find an online community for themselves, to which they can relate and depend on. Friendships in this game are just as real and truthful, if not more, as real world’s. We can think of it as an actual home in which members of the family stand by each other’s side and help whenever needed; in this game players provide help to each other by sending resources which are needed to grow and become a stronger player, having said that, those resources cost real money to buy in the game. Players share stories of their lives and are emotionally backed up by other online friends. This is something that, even in real, is not easy to find nowadays.

Image Credit: Mobile Strike

It is essential to have these types of alternative communities as some people severely struggle in their actual societies due to being constantly rejected and alienated. Through Mobile Strike, people have made connections that go beyond online. They add each other on social media and become actual friends who know and see each other outside of the game. This means that online communities are not short-term but can result into long lasting relations. Online gaming does not only create virtual communities for people, but it also helps them gain or regain their self-confidence in order to be more active in the real world. It actually teaches them how to socialize and be more confident in front of other people and not to be shy when it is their turn to speak out. 

Gaming is freedom. Gaming is a domain and an open community to embrace people who feel lonely. It gives them an online society in which they are bonded with other players around the world who might have experienced the same societal struggles. 

Image Credit: Kids Help Phone