Is it true that online gaming has social benefits? Let’s look at the social benefits of gaming.
When I was growing up, online gaming was fairly uncool. Still in its infancy, online gaming was something teenage boys did in their basement when they weren’t popular enough to get invited to any parties on the weekend. Not to throw either of my awesome brothers under the bus, but they basically fit directly into this mold. They gamed, usually together, in the corner of my childhood basement for years, in large part because they enjoyed it- but also because they were never really into sports or really had much else to do…
But online gaming has come a long way since its inception, and today’s online gamers are no longer your average social outcasts. Gamers today aren’t just introverts or the antisocial types who avoid hanging out with other people. As it turns out, studies in the last decade or so have discovered that online gaming is actually a very social activity these days, and online gaming has become so mainstream that, according to Pew Research, 75% of teenage boys and 57% of teenage girls game online. These kids must be on to something!
Online gaming: socializing online
It certainly doesn’t hurt that today’s games are social experiences. When I would play video games with friends in the 90s, my friends had to be in the same room as me. We would take turns racing each through Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo thinking it was the coolest thing ever. As the 90s gave way to the early 00s, my brothers started playing online video games such as EverQuest with headsets on so they could chat with their friends as they ventured through the online world. Suddenly, they could game with friends who weren’t in the same room. This experience took their Friday nights to a whole new level. Staying in and gaming became the new going out to hang out with your friends.
It turns out that my brothers were early adapters to what has become a commonplace activity nowadays. My girls love to play Roblox, an open-world game where players can create, build, play and so on, with their friends. Anytime they earn screen time on their iPads, they rush to log on to Roblox and then call their friends via Facebook Messenger and play Roblox while talking to them. This routine came in especially handy in 2020, when suddenly the Pandemic put an end to playdates and overnights. My girls lived for afternoons when they could spend time virtually with their friends within the open world of Roblox. Online gaming became a lifeline to kids and adults all over the world, who could use it to feel connected from an appropriate social distance.
Online gaming: statistically speaking
While I’ve personally never been one for online gaming, I’d be in the minority at my five-person household. My kids vacillate between primarily Roblox and Fortnite, enjoying these games as much because of the gaming components as because they get to engage with their friends while playing. Forbes claims that, by the age of 21, the average American has spent 10,000 hours playing video games. Let that number sink in!
A 2014 study published by the American Psychological Association says that online gaming actually has a number of benefits for kids, which has helped me make peace with the amount of hours my kids spend on Roblox. The APA study says that more than 70% of gamers play online with friends, breaking my decades-old stereotype of online gamers being social outcasts.
Online gaming: social benefits
Aside from being a great way to pass time, online gaming has a number of social benefits for the young and old alike. Online gaming helps players learn to multitask, and it helps players learn more about spatial awareness. The Forbes article I linked above states that online gamers are more likely to help someone in need in real life than a non-gamer. Online video games help people connect, the same way that football or soccer does. It gives kids a common interest to discuss at lunch or on the playground. It can unite individuals who might not otherwise have much in common. Online gaming has also been linked to an increase in cognitive function, which is definitely an added benefit.
Online gaming: the wave of the future
Online gaming is most certainly here to stay, like it or not. And whatever stereotype you have about online gamers from your childhood, well, you can ditch that now. Today’s gamer isn’t just some male outcast. Online gaming platforms today are so much more than just first-person shooter games that may or may not by your cup of tea. But today’s online gaming platforms are diverse and fun. People are using the popular game Animal Crossing to host birthday parties and go on dates. Talk about creative socialization online!
In 2020, four out of five consumers in the US played video games. That’s a lot of online gaming! With the Metaverse on the horizon as the next (virtual) frontier, it is safe to say that online gaming is going to play a big role in your social life in the future. So sit back, relax and enjoy the (virtual) ride.