The purpose of this paper is to look into online gaming and the way in which communities are formed around these games and the people who play them. This paper will demonstrate the multiple types of communities that exist around online gaming and gaming platforms and will argue that online gaming communities are present in most online games and have as important effect on gamers as any real world community.
Despite arguments against the validity of communities created in the gaming world, this paper seeks to argue that these communities and relationships are important to gamers and are as equally valid as any other community in a gamers life.
In recent years, online gaming has become increasingly popular with people of all ages from around the world. Millions of people actively play online games every day and share the experience with thousands of other gamers. Due to the nature of many online games, potentially number into the thousands of players often play the same server together on online games such as World of Warcraft or RuneScape and this leads to these gamers forming relationships and connections with many other players they share the experience with. As a result of this, communities are naturally formed in these gaming environments consisting of groups of players ranging in size from just a few people to large communities consisting of thousands. Gaming communities are not always linked specifically to a single game or game type, there are many groups of gamers in Guilds or Clans who play many different online games together and potentially stick together for many years. Another form of community that arises around popular online games is the strong community that exists outside of the actual game content. These are communities of gamers passionate about the game who share information and experiences through external platforms such as Reddit or Steam. A third form of community that exists in online games is that which is created and maintained within the actual game itself. Many popular online games encourage users to join communities in the forms of guilds or clans and offer different ways of communicating and grouping up with these players through the user’s guild or clan. With the constantly increasing popularity of online gaming, it is clear that communities found within and around popular games are just as strong and valid as any within the real world.
Gaming Communities That Outlast Games
So many games can be found online that many gamers often find themselves swapping between different games every few months, often trying new games or going back to old games that have been unplayed for some time. Often, gaming communities are developed around players who enjoy sharing their game time with each other and these communities stay present and relevant regardless of the game being played. Clans and guilds can consist of any number of people, sometimes reaching into the thousands of players who connect with each other, forming long term relationships and friendships that last for longer than the time spent playing one game. These communities exist outside of any single game and often use third party tools such as Discord as a means to connect with each other, post news and information to other community members and to easily contact other members of the community. Some major clans of gamers share information about their clan on public websites and openly encourage gamers to apply to join their community to increase their size and number of people within their clan. Having a large community gives them the opportunity to host guild events, potentially within a single game or possibly outside of games completely. It is difficult to count the number of games available online for gamers but the number of games on Steam, a major video game digital distribution service is over thirty thousand in 2019 (PCGamer, 2019). This is the reason why so many gamers seek to find a spot in a wider community with an interest in gaming in general rather that a community that is reliant on a single online game. In these communities with thousands of players, there is always other people interested in trying out new, old or uncommon games and game types. Categories of online games vary dramatically and therefore people are rarely passionate equally about every category of online game. These communities allow people to connect over the types of games that they love and enjoy and create friendships with people who share gaming experiences. In these gaming communities, like all communities there can be arguments and aggressive behavior, but there is more often the chance to meet potentially lifelong friends, as said by Keith Stuart in his article about gaming communities, “Certainly, game forums, like Twitter, can attract hateful, damaged people, but they can also introduce you to lifelong comrades.” (The Guardian, 2013). These groups demonstrate a common and clear way that gamers find and create communities with which to share their game time, but communities can exist in many other forms as well.
The Communities Around Games
Online gaming is incredibly popular, and this is clearly demonstrated by simply analyzing the number of concurrent gamers playing popular online games. An example of this is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds which managed to hit over three million people playing the game at one time in 2017, at the peak of the game’s popularity. (Polygon, 2017). Online games that have a strong base of concurrent players usually develop a large online presence where players communicate and discuss the game external to the game itself. Gamers share videos of gaming tutorials and funny clips on video sharing sites like YouTube, they share funny posts and information on popular community sharing sites such as Reddit and they communicate on gaming forums such as NeoGAF. This presence around the game makes up a huge community of players who share their activities and experience from the game with others who are also passionate about playing. An example of this form of community is Old School RuneScape. The community around RuneScape consists of hundreds of thousands of users connecting over hundreds of different sites and groups to communicate about the game. Searching the name of the game shows some of the most popular community websites around the game such as Reddit and YouTube. Settled is a content creator in Old School RuneScape who uploads videos of his gameplay adventures to YouTube, often seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers. His YouTube series, Swampletics, is massively popular in the RuneScape community and is known to almost everyone who actively plays the game, with every video in this series receiving over three hundred thousand views (PC Gamer, 2019). This demonstrates how strong the connection of an external gaming community can be, that exists entirely outside the physical bounds of the game and is created and supported by gamers actively communicating outside the game. Many separate sites that have nothing to do with each other such as Reddit and YouTube support this community simply by acting as a platform for these gamers to use to share their content and experiences. It is not only active players who find themselves browsing different online community sites for a popular game they enjoy, but commonly people without the time or inclination to play the game still find themselves enjoying being a part of the community that surrounds the game (Wired, 2016). Gamers enjoy being a part of a community to interact with others with similar interests to themselves and there are many different types of communities, another being communities that exist within the actual game.
In Game Gaming Communities
Many popular online games encourage players to create or join communities such as guilds to find other players to enjoy game content alongside. The games often provide an in-game system which allows the players to invite other players to their guild, and set up a guild hierarchy with multiple ranks, permissions and benefits for potentially hundreds of players. World of Warcraft is a popular online roleplaying game that has a huge focus on group content in both PVE, player verse environment and PVP, player verse player, situations. Some PVE dungeons in World of Warcraft are designed for up to forty players to tackle, requiring these players to work together in a large group to achieve quite difficult tasks. Due to the difficult nature of these dungeons it is very beneficial for the players to form up as a regular group or join a guild to help coordinate the group effectively and properly organize people with times and events that work for everyone. Due to the high number of players, these times and events can be very hard to organize without joining a guild, but it is important to note that the guild forms many other functions for the player as well. Guilds are also useful for connecting with other game users, forming up small groups to do questing or small dungeons together, and to simply have other people to play the game alongside. Whilst joining a guild is not a requirement for playing the game, many players find themselves joining one to find other players to complete game content with. Guilds are sometimes only small groups, or sometimes very large but they can be great communities within the online game for people to create relationships with the people they enjoy playing with. Research suggests that people are significantly happier and more relaxed when playing games when they are part of a community in which they feel that they belong. The ability to communicate with others and create lasting friendships over an online game is important to a persons lasting passion and interest in the game (The Conversation, 2020). Community exists in gaming in many forms, and many different online games encourage players to form these communities. Friendships and relationships that are formed through gaming can last for many years and many gamers create these relationships through the communities in which they meet many new people.
Over the years the way that community is viewed has changed and evolved but it has always been an important part of life. For gamers, finding their place in an active community in online games that they enjoy is vital to being able to continue to use gaming as a haven to relax and be happy. Communities exist in many forms surrounding the world of gaming and there are many ways that people can join these communities. Playing games with others encourages people to form close relationships and bonds that hold them together potentially for years, with some friendships that come from gaming lasting for life. Communities in the real world and communities in the gaming world are not the same, but they are both important groups for people to be able to express themselves and communicate with other people who share similar interests. Gaming communities are only getting larger with time, so it is important to understand the significance they have on the lives of gamers.
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