Online Gaming: Redefining Social Interaction

Deputy Science & Gaming Editor Ryan Gulliford explores the significance of promoting social interaction in today's games. Is online gaming a key tool in aiding people with social anxiety?

Over the last two decades, the world that surrounds the gaming industry has expanded undeniably, often leading the way in social and technological developments. Often, there has always been a negative stigma associated with gaming and young people, where people feel that playing video games deprives you of social interactions. In today’s society, the phrase ‘social interaction’, has a complex definition, particularly with online gaming communities providing their own take on what it means to express yourself socially. So, does gaming really have an effect on mental health?

Online gaming communities are paramount to exploring this question, with multiplayer gaming being at the very forefront of the games industry, its social impacts are hard to ignore. Millions upon millions of people share a common interest, in the form of a particular game. The popularity of gaming has surfaced in most homes and in some cases, offers a virtual escape from the pressures of the outside world. In a sense, online gaming still offers a similar level of social interaction with new people, but with the added confidence of being able to step away if you should want to. Gaming with new people removes any of the harsh judgement some people face in real-world situations, with the game world being a place where someone can remove their mask if they so wished. With the ease of global communication in today’s society, the social ability of gaming is working its way into the central ethos of many game developers.

Gaming with new people removes any of the harsh judgement some people face in real-world situations, with the game world being a place where someone can remove their mask if they so wished.

Multiplayer gaming has undergone somewhat of a paradigm shift. What was a platform made to challenge and improve a game, is now a catalyst for forming long-lasting friendships and subsequently, memories. Simply connecting with someone over a game you both love could have the potential to bring best friends together, even though you haven’t physically met. Situations like these show just how far the games industry has contributed towards what we deem to be social development in today’s era.

Digital worlds are quickly becoming a place where social anxiety could be ever so slightly subdued, encouraging young people in particular, to play, connect and interact, with the potential of making some new friends along the way.

The main opinion here revolves around multiplayer gaming becoming a safe place for a lot of people, an escape from the sense of pressure surrounding real-world scenarios and interactions. While some online personalities aren’t catered for everyone’s tastes, this problem is still apparent in any other real-world context. We are experiencing the emergence of a new era, where gaming represents support, friendship, respect and most importantly, being an advocate of mental wellbeing. Whether you’re on console or PC, there’s an online community just around the corner and anyone is welcome.