Gaming communities have been around for a long time, from the card and board games to competitive sports. But the emergence of online gaming has created webs of interconnected and vibrantly growing communities around the world.
Currently, around 67% of Americans play videogames, which is about 211 million people. Thanks to handheld devices, more and more Americans are getting into online gaming. In fact, 90% of gamers play on their smartphones or tablets.
The number of released games on a variety of platforms continues to grow and with it the gaming communities built around each title.
In this article, we will explore how the online gaming community came to be and how it’s benefitting society as a whole by bringing people together.
Games as social networking
While gaming communities in the past have been niche and limited, today the social networks that games command is massive. There are essentially four categories that have built the online gaming communities we have today—massive online games, mobile gaming, streaming, and eSports.
MMORPGs in PC gaming opened the floodgates for socializing via videogames as they act like a social network (many of them even before Facebook). Forums and chat rooms developed into what became the social media of the time. Additionally, the proliferation of consoles from PlayStation to Xbox also fueled big forums like Gamefaqs and GameSpot.
The rise in casual gamers
Gaming became even more social through breakthrough titles like the World of Warcraft and Ragnarok Online. However, Facebook took over, as its gaming plugins were an instant hit. Flash games and mobile gaming gained popularity side by side. So much so that some of the more popular flash games have been recreated as mobile games.
In fact, casual puzzle game Candy Crush holds three places in the top 10 apps worldwide. With over 9 million daily users, Candy Crush is now synonymous with Facebook as players can compare scores and communicate. Casual online games also have the ability to appeal to different age demographics and involve them in a community.
A review by Newsday on online games for older generations explains how games like Monopoly Bingo replicate the experience of playing in bingo halls. This experience is being simulated across different platforms, with Foxy Bingo’s guide to the 75-ball version detailing how online games start every few minutes and involve multiple players much like in an actual hall. Many of these platforms will also have online chat rooms where gamers can interact with each other, just like Candy Crush players can on Facebook.
Streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch continued to snowball in popularity, as online gaming communities become closer-knit. Discord has replaced forums as both a chat room and as an in-game VoIP platform. Hundreds of dedicated sub-Reddits have been spawned to discuss gaming strategies and exchange knowledge. The shared experience in gaming and the social aspect became central in launching titles.
On the other hand, professional competitive gaming has risen as the pinnacle of entertainment in online games. eSports is now a career choice the new generation can get into.
Online gaming is now one of the fastest-growing industries that’s boosting the global economy, earning around $43.3 billion in total revenue last year. It has exceeded global box office film ticket sales and even streaming services like Netflix. Tech giants Apple and Google are doubling down on the industry with the launch of their gaming platforms Arcade and Stadia, respectively. All of this is because of online gamers getting together to compete in global tournaments.
Benefiting other aspects of life
Online gamers highlighted in a Qutee survey how gaming communities have benefited them. As gaming communities speak the same colloquialisms and share experiences, they imbue a sense of belongingness, according to the report.
Gamers explain how games have piqued their interest for future career paths in history and technology. Around 34% say it has improved their cognition, problem-solving, and social skills.
Online gaming communities are also some of the most globalized social groups. As internet-native connections, you’d be hard-pressed to find more diverse groups than gamers. The potentially anonymous and icon-based interactions in games gave rise to more connections. Cultural diversity is now an important cornerstone of gaming communities.
The rise of the community of gaymers (gay gamers) is a testament to the empowering nature of gaming. Meeting other people online with mutual interests and shared experiences can open up your social circles due to in-game interactions.
Regardless of race, gender, nationality, or ethnicity, games provide a common goal that binds the community. In addition, genres like fantasy and role-playing games provide a fresh start in redefining your place in a community—a sense of belongingness.
Today, all good games have strong communities. Every year, there are meetings, conferences, vlogs, streaming channels, and massive get-togethers like MineCon, the GDC, and the MOBICOM that demonstrates the power of expanding online gaming communities.