A new study conducted by researchers from various universities find that online gaming can help build key social skills and foster interactive friendships.
While everyday online gamers can tell you that gaming can be a wholly interactive and sociable experience, there exists the common stereotype that brandishes MMO players in a negative light. South Park‘s infamous WoW-focused episode stylized this stereotype in a rather hilarious and unforgettable way, but it appears that this assumption isn’t very accurate.
A study held by researchers from various universities found that online gaming can help build social skills among players and provide positive real-world applications–including engaging behavior that’s key to building friendships.
“Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they’re highly social people,” says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study.
“This won’t be a surprise to the gaming community, but it’s worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm.”
To conduct the study, researchers visited more than 20 public gaming events across the United States and Canada–from larger 2500-player events held in convention centers to more intimate 20-player events held in bars. The collected data reflects how gamers interacted with one another in the virtual world as well as the real world, and in these public settings, at least, players engaged one another in many different ways.
“We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” Taylor says. “Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.”
The next phase of the study would logically involve surveying gamers who play online games in an isolated area–a basement, for instance–by themselves. While the social atmosphere will generally ignite social behavior, it’ll be interesting to see how the data reflects more at-home casual play.
Interactive in-game chatting as well as webcam sessions can virtually simulate the atmospheres created at key events or even casual bar gaming sessions, and even online console gaming is highly interactive via these same measures. Just because you’re home alone and playing a game, it doesn’t mean you’re alone; in soothe gamers have a veritable world of other players to interact with as they see fit, and it’s nice to see that this can be beneficial to all gamers.
In essence, it appears that gaming is not only an outlet for entertainment but can be a social venue in itself. Competitive games such as Battlefield 4 can build friendships and contribute to a gratifying and engaging experience, proving that it’s not the waste of time that some may claim.
The social elements of gaming will likely be pushed farther as VR tech progresses, seeing as virtual reality may unlock unprecedented interaction between gamers and their online friends. It’ll be interesting to see what the future of gaming holds in so far as entertainment as well as social aspects, where we may be able to virtually sit-in with others at whim.
For more information on the paper Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings, be sure to head on over to the NC State University webpage.