The Social Gaming Environment

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Results from a study done in 2013 by the Entertainment Software Association says that 68% of gamers like to play socially. A long-time has passed since then and over the years, with the release of many new multiplayer and social games, the percentage has surely changed a lot. This is true, especially with the release of multiplayer games such as Fortnite, Overwatch, PUBG and the possibility of playing them on mobile. The different number of player interaction in the online world has changed and evolved with cross-platform support, letting players that use different platforms to come together and enjoy gaming. Immersion within the game world through socialization has shown to have a positive impact on the overall experience for gamers. 

The Social Experience of Multiplayer Games

The revolution of gaming came with the possibility of playing over a LAN network and later, the internet paved the way for massively multiplayer experiences. Among the first multiplayer experiences came with the release of Pathway to Darkness in 1993 and since then, LAN gaming took off very fast. It was with the release of the first Quake by id Software in 1995 that LAN parties became popular. Also, as ethernet cards became more affordable and Microsoft released their Windows 95, LAN expanded from being used mostly on consoles to PC as well. The next phase of multiplayer gaming was, of course, online multiplayer. Everquest was the first to pave the way for the new way of enjoying games together. One of the goals for Everquest was for people to interact with each other and socialize, collaborate and overcome obstacles together.

World of Warcraft just celebrated its 15th anniversary, an impressive feat for an MMORPG game. The game was released back in 2004 and some players have continued to engage with it since its first day. Although many features of the game have been altered over the years, the core gameplay remains. Completing objectives with other people by participating in raids and dungeons has been the game’s main appeal. The player participates in completing shared tasks and helping each other overcome any obstacles thrown at them. What is more important si guild leaders. These guild leaders have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders and are the person taking charge of a large group of people, leading them and making sure to keep everyone in check. It is no surprise that many smart businesses, when hiring, consider this detail. In a survey made by IBM Research, it was reported that people that have leadership roles in MMORPGs have better leadership skills in the real world, and 4 out of then of the people surveyed have also applied these skills into the real world, such as a daily job.

Digital Gameplay and Social Connectedness

Until smartphones became popular, these games were mostly played by a niche audience. However, with mobile phones, gaming has quickly been adopted by the majority and the world has developed a greater appreciation for gaming in general. It has led to social connectedness among people. Social connectedness is similar to a resource, a resource accumulated over time by interacting with other people. The terms can be also known as social capital which has the potential to make people participate in collective actions. Studies have been made to show the impact of gaming on social capital with mixed results, however, some of them show positive outcomes. For example, gaming with other people, especially with friends can strengthen and build bonding social capital that a person has with friends and can even lead to expanding one’s social network. Multiplayer and social gaming can also have a positive impact on bridging social capital and social connectedness with distant acquaintances in different countries. 

The game’s space found in MMORPGs are social environments. When beginning the game, the player’s character must improve through the process of “leveling”. It is an activity that most, if not all, MMORPG games have and can be viewed as a period where the player can do this at a relaxed pace, while at the same time socializing and completing objectives together “questing”. The social spaces are unique since they combine social interaction with a playful environment. Similar to chat rooms and instant messaging, people can talk with each other instantly, however, unlike instant messaging, the playing aspect has a huge role in the overall player engagement and player bonding.

Social Features Can be Found in Most Games

There is a concept of playing alone together” where people do not necessarily need to interact with one another, however, seeing other people playing around you provides a feeling of connectedness. Another term given on this phenomenon is ambient sociability. Doing similar tasks like other players or just seeing them in the background gives a feeling of connectedness without the need for interaction. Casino companies have also implemented social aspected into their online casino games. Things such as inviting friends or comparing scores on the leaderboard to other players. These casino games can be played for free and because of the social aspect they are called social casinos. Being social casinos, it can be a great way to enjoy  playing slot games such as Book of Ra, among other popular games. Not limited to just slot games, the social casino also has roulette, blackjack and video poker, depending on the online casino chosen.

Most games, even single-player ones have some sort of social features incorporated within them. A social game does not need to be played with multiple people, but it can be experienced with others. An example would be the social games found on Facebook such as Farmville. Each player has their farm but can also help other players’ farms or invite friends to be their neighbors. But mostly, the core gameplay itself is a single-player oriented. Another social aspect of the game is the possibility of a player to share his/her score and comparing it with others playing the same game. The story driven 3d person adventure game, Life is Strange also has a social aspect to it. The social aspect is extremely small but it still there nonetheless. The game consists of five episodes. At the end of each episode, a score is displayed, comparing the choices you have made in the game with other people that have played it. 

Social gaming is still in the process of improving. This can be seen with newer technologies such as virtual reality. VR can be used to create a more immersive experience for people to socialize, not just in games. Many attempts were made to create social environments that can be experienced using VR, however, they were not that different than a chatroom, just with different virtual wallpaper. Despite this, the future looks promising and this can be seen with companies like Facebook which are preparing to launch their own VR project named Horizon next year which is designed to be a virtual sandbox with people able to create their own virtual space.

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