Online gaming offers sense of community
Imagine a world where you can make friends and enemies without ever having to meet them face-to-face, or even leave your dorm room: Welcome to the online gaming community.
Online gaming is a booming part of modern society, expanding since the invention of the Internet and thriving successfully with technological advances such as high-speed connections and Wi-Fi. People originally started playing online with the rise of the personal computer in the 1990s, and the field eventually expanded to gaming consoles such as Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Wii – the bestselling console of the present generation. GameSpot.com listed Nintendo selling 67 million Wii consoles as of January 2010.
Today’s gamers often join a “clan” to enhance their gaming experience. The concept of a clan is basically like that of a team competing against other groups of players in various games such as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” a first-person shooter video game. The game sold 4.7 million copies in the first 24 hours it was released last year, and sold over eight million in its first five days. “Modern Warfare 2” is a reaction-based game where you compete against up to 18 other players in real-time, while trying to complete various objectives such as ‘capture the flag.’ Players can receive promotions in rank for continued success.
Chris Maxfield, 21, of Amherst, N.H., is an avid online gamer and can play an average of two hours every day. However, his two hours are miniscule compared to other online players. While the average gamer only logs a few hours per day due to jobs and other priorities, some dedicated souls are “hardcore” players. According to Edge Magazine, these “hardcore” gamers can play for 39 hours a week or more.
Maxfield is part of “The Bomb Squad” gaming clan, which was created a year ago by Robert Gicherman, a 30-year-old from New Jersey. The “clan” not only plays together online, but communicates through its own website where members can talk about any topic relevant to video games or not. Most of the members have not met each other, although they spend a great deal of their personal time playing together online, and consider themselves a thriving electronic community.
“We have a great community,” said a member who goes by the online name deliveryboy555, a 24-year-old from London, England. “It’s easy to get to know people quickly.”
No one is prohibited from joining the clan. Anyone over the age of 16 is allowed to play with the team, with its members ranging from teens to adults in their 40s. The only rule regarding joining the clan is that one must be an active member both on the website and in online game play; this aspect appears to help engender true personal ties between the gamers.
A majority of The Bomb Squad clan and the online gaming community in general are males. Females are a minority when it comes to video games of any kind according to Edge Magazine, citing that only 28 percent of online players are females.
Whether playing with friends or anonymous people, “it has the same effect as face-to-face meetings with regards to some people you can’t stand and others you like instantly,” said Zachary Flowers, 23, of Mineral Bluff, Ga.
Some people even find it easier to play with others online than deal with real teammates.
“I don’t have to actually see them,” said Gicherman, “so if I want to leave I can just turn off the PS3 or PC.”
Online gaming offers players the opportunity to interact with humans who possess actual reasoning skills, rather than a computer-generated player. Often times, playing against a computer is too easy. With a human opponent, even one on the other side of the world, there can be more strategy to consider, and the unpredictability provides more of a challenge. There are various types of strategies one can choose for domination in online play – whether that means sticking together with a clan, or just taking a chance on your own; it all depends on what each person wants to do in the context of the game.
“That’s what makes playing in a clan better; you know people’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Maxfield. “Even if you are not following a specific strategy, just knowing how your teammates play gives you a better chance of winning.”
The online gaming community does not always revolve solely around video games. Almost any relevant topic can be touched upon when you join the community, including some very personal concerns. Ultimately, online gaming offers yet another electronic location for social activity and interaction, but in an especially unique manner that allows genuine friendships to span the globe.
Elizabeth Tran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org