A/N: Essay written for university subject; NET102 – Internet and Everyday Life. Received a Pass.


Electronic gaming in society has been around since the 1980’s.  It is only in the last decade we have seen an increase in the interactivity of electronic gaming through online play.  Gaming culture and community has increased over the last few years, through the use of the Internet, particularly through social media and gaming lobbies.  While the news and media frequently blame gaming for school shootings and violent crimes, it is in fact quite the opposite.  Online gaming has increased the culture’s sense of community and has allowed people to form close connections with like minded people.

Traditional video gaming which was popular in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s consisted mainly of a single player environment; this meant the player would move through a storyline or ‘campaign’ alone using an avatar (Reer & Kramer, 2014).  Excluding arcades, this type of gaming was largely played at home, in the private space, by children and teenagers (Ferguson, 2008). As Reer and Kramer point out in their 2014 article; “In comparison to traditional videogames, online-games are social environments, where up to several thousands of players interact, communicate and play with each other” (pg. 179).  This type of online gaming largely began with Role-Playing Games (RPGs), such as World of Warcraft, however this quickly caught on as a popular type of game environment which led to other genres picking the online world up.  A great example of this is the Borderlands series which began in 2009; this particular gaming series is a First Person Shooter (FPS) and allowed Co-Op play with up to four players either through a Local Area Network (LAN) or over the Internet.   Since online gaming became popular we have seen many types of games include the multiplayer option, whether this is through Co-Op play or the classic ‘deathmatch’ or ‘capture the flag’ scenarios, online gaming has become a truly viral incident (Reer & Kramer, 2014).

Negativity in the media began in the late 1980’s with the release of arcade games such as Street Fighter which infamous gaming company, Capcom, brought out in 1987, the game involved fighting ‘to the death’ with another opponent (Ferguson et al. 2008).  This type of gaming was questioned due to its violent nature and it was commonly associated with Satanism (Schulzke, 2010).  Another game that was seen as morally unacceptable for its time was Wolfenstein 3D which was developed by ID Software and released in 1992.  These games, which at the time were played in both the public and private spaces, found themselves on the receiving end of a lot of negative attention from both the media and health professionals alike, who were concerned as to whether the players, who at this stage were largely children and teenagers, could determine the difference between a virtual world and the reality around them (Ferguson, 2008).

Research, however, contradicts much of this negative press.  Some researchers found that gaming increases cognitive functions, highlighting in their reports that people who play video games show an increase in memory, imagination, perception, and reasoning (Batista & Vaz de Carvalho, 2008). Several studies also point out that gaming does not increase aggressive behaviour in participants, in fact to contradict the common conception that video games encourage violence in humans even further, it goes on to state that females who participated in the study had a significant decrease in aggressive feelings after playing a violent video game for thirty minutes (Ferguson et al, 2008).  Video gaming also increases mental abilities, such as reaction time and can be used to teach people morals and values (Batista & Vaz de Carvalho, 2008; Hamilton 2014).  Unfortunately the media is unwilling to do adequate research on the subject before releasing articles that link gaming to violence in people.  This is proven from a story that was run by the Daily Telegraph in May of 2014, linking the popular first person shooter, Call of Duty to the deaths of four teenagers.  There was absolutely no evidence what so ever to point to the video game other than the four boys had played it at one stage or another, there was no reasoning behind the article other than to blindly point the blame, serving only to make the media look unintelligent and ill prepared (Prynne, 2014).

Gaming communities are developing both in and outside of the gaming environment.  The massive explosion of online multiplayer options in games has increased a sense of community within the gaming environment.  Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) are extremely community orientated with hundreds of thousands of players all over the world contributing (Kuss & Griffiths, 2012).  These in game environments are highly interactive, players are offered opportunities to share resources, interact socially, and form teams known as clans and guilds (Hussain & Griffiths, 2014).  Through these social interactions in game, players develop friendships with other like-minded people they have never met before, people who live halfway across the world.  Interactions with other players from diverse backgrounds with differing world views can be an enlightening experience for gamers, it bridges social gaps and fosters tolerance, giving gamers the opportunity to meet new people and extend social networks (Steinkuehler & Williams, 2006; Kobayashi, 2010). Ironically the gaming stereotype of ‘unpopular, overweight, and socially inept’ is still going strong (Kowert, Festl & Quandt, 2014).  However this is proven ridiculously inadequate in describing gamers, people from all walks of life play video games, according to statistics 40% of all gamers are females and not all gamers are children and teenagers 49% are between the ages of eighteen and forty-nine (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2010).

One thing that has increased in popularity in the last few years in online gaming communities in the social network environment, there are now many groups that get together and talk about gaming through Facebook and other social platforms.  A particularly great gaming community is Legit Lady Gamers; the community has over 50,000 members with people from all over the world. When asked the question of whether they form connections with like minded people through gaming, there was a huge response, most replying with yes they had made connection with many friends some of which are closer than people they had met face-to-face (Legit Lady Gamers United, 2015).  One member stated “I’ve met some of my closest friends online… I’ve made more long term friends through the interwebz than I ever have…” (Legit Lady Gamers United, 2015).  These relationships are a great example of the real sense of community that gamers have.

Gaming communities are not without issues as one member points out; “…down sides are the guys that act like dicks with everyone and the girls that post a bunch of selfies to the group but never actually talk about the games…” (Legit Lady Gamers United, 2015).  Members who posted on the thread agreed with her on that point however also pointing out that these people are quickly ‘booted’ from the group.  One theme that seemed to be present in the discussion was the support received from community, two members shared some thoughts; “These communities are the best.  Everyone is here to joke around and help each other out…” “I literally moved to a whole new state 4 months ago, no friends and family, its these people right here that keep me sane and stop that alone feeling… ty [thank you] for being so awesome everyone you have no idea how much the little things mean to me.” (Legit Lady Gamers United, 2015).

Another excellent community is called Don’t Feed the Gamers, this page is run by two of the loveliest gamers you will ever meet, and they encourage everyone to be a part of a neutral and friendly community.   The wonderful thing about these pages is the sense of support, everyone who contributes is encouraged to have their opinion but also respect others, hate speech, trolling and general abuse is never tolerated and that’s what creates strong connections and a fulfilling community.  The sense of support and community you get from these groups is unlikely anything I have ever experienced, from a personal point of view, it has meant a lot to be a part of it.

Online Gaming is a fantastic social past time that gives players a strong social connection with other like-minded people.  The idea that gaming creates violent individuals is both completely unrealistic and bogus.  Communities are formed both inside and outside the game, with people from all over the world.  Gamers support and help each other through these communities and the amazing ones like Legit Lady Gamers and Don’t Feed the Gamers have a strong sense of loyalty to the community and are always willing to give an opinion or suggestions.  Gaming is not only epic fun but it has the ability to allow you to form strong social connections through the Internet.


References

Batista, R. & Vaz de Carvalho, C. (2008). Work in progress – learning through role play games. Frontiers in Education Conference, 2008, FIE 2008, 38th Annual (pp.T3C-7-T3C-8).

Don’t Feed The Gamers. (2015). Facebook Page. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/pleasedontfeedthegamers?fref=ts

Entertainment Software Rating Board. (2010). Video Game Industry Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.esrb.org/about/video-game-industry-statistics.jsp

Ferguson, C.J. (2008). The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link: Causal Relationship or Moral Panic? Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 5(1-2), 25-37.

Ferguson, C.J., Rueda, S.M., Cruz A.M., Ferguson, D.E., Fritz, S. & Smith S.M. (2008). Violent Video Games and Aggression: Casual Relationship or Byproduct of Family Violence and Intrinsic Violence Motivation? Criminal Justice Behavior, 35(3), 311-332.

Hamilton, K. (2014). A School using The Walking Dead Game to Teach Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.kotaku.com/a-school-using-the-walking-dead-game-to-teach-ethics-1503533906

Hussain, Z. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). A Qualitative Analysis of Online Gaming: Social Interaction, Community & Game Design. International Journal of Cyber Behaviour, Psychology & Learning, 4(2), 41-57.

Kobayashi, T. (2010). Bridging social capital in online communities: Heterogeneity and social tolerance of online game players in Japan. Human Communication Research, 36(4), 546-569.

Legit Lady Gamers United. (2015). Facebook Post. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/groups/LegitLadyGamers/?fref=nf

Prynne, M. (2014). Call of Duty linked to four teenage deaths, coroner warns. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/10857984/Call-of-Duty-linked-to-four-teenage-deaths-coroner-warns.html

Reer, F. & Kramer, N.C. (2014). Underlying factors of social capital acquisition in the context of online-gaming: Comparing World of Warcraft and Counter Strike. Computers in Human Behaviour, 6 (2014), 179-189.

 Schulzke, M. (2010). Defending the morality of violent video games.  Ethics and Information Technology, 12(2), 127-138.

Steinkulehler, C. & Williams, D. (2006).  Where everybody knows your (screen) name: Online games as “third places”. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 11(4).

Creative Commons License
Internet Hugs, High Fives, and Cookies for Everyone! Why Communities Who Game Together Stay Together. by Sheridan Brownlie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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