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.
Chikhani, R. 2015. The History of Gaming: An Evolving Community. TechCrunch. https://techcrunch.com/2015/10/31/the-history-of-gaming-an-evolving-community/?guccounter=1
Wera, J. 2008, Online Community Management: Communication Through Gamers. Gamasutra. https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3603/online_community_management_.php?print=1
Bolding, J. 2019. Steam now has 30,000 games. PC Gamer. https://www.pcgamer.com/au/steam-now-has-30000-games/
Stuart, K. 2013. Gamer communities: the positive side. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2013/jul/31/gamer-communities-positive-side-twitter
Hall, C. 2017. PUBG hits 3 million concurrent players, breaking its own record. Polygon. https://www.polygon.com/2017/12/29/16829768/pubg-3-million-concurrent-players-record
Wood, A. 2019. Meet Swampletics, the ingenious player taking the RuneScape community by storm. PC Gamer. https://www.pcgamer.com/au/meet-swampletics-the-ingenious-player-taking-the-runescape-community-by-storm/
Klepek, P. 2016. ‘RuneScape’ Has Survived For 15 Year By Never Forgetting its Past. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3dbj5j/runescape-has-survived-for-15-years-by-never-forgetting-its-past
Muncy, J. 2016. Why I Watch People Play Video Games on the Internet. Wired. https://www.wired.com/2016/08/why-i-watch-lets-plays/
Marshall, C. 2019. World of Warcraft Classic’s community is all about kindness… for the most part. Polygon. https://www.polygon.com/2019/9/2/20839572/world-of-warcraft-classic-community-player-culture
The Conversation, 2020. Playing video games can ease loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic. https://theconversation.com/playing-video-games-can-ease-loneliness-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-134198
Button, C. 2019. The Communities Working to Give Gamers a Good Name Again. Junkee. https://junkee.com/building-communities-around-games-love/210839
Badham, V. 2017. What makes a gamer? Sally McManus, Jordan Raskopoulos and more on why they play. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/26/what-makes-a-gamer-sally-mcmanus-jordan-raskopoulos-and-more-on-why-they-play
20 replies on “Online gaming and the communities that it creates.”
I enjoyed reading your paper 🙂
I was wondering what arguments against the validity of communities created in the gaming world you might have encountered and considered?
The objection I most run into is that they lack face to face communication.
Thanks for taking the time to read my paper.
Lacking face to face communication is definitely a big one that I think people use to object to the validity of gaming communities. Gaming is unfortunately perceived by many as a hobby and pastime and they fail to see the great cooperative and friendly nature of many multiplayer games.
– Cheers, Lleyton
I have to admit that I chose to read your paper out of curiosity form although I have four sons who all play(ed) online games at some point (they are now 28-40) and at times with people from all over, they never got into them in the way you describe in your paper.
I really enjoyed reading it and learning just how they can create the sense of community. A few things you said reinforced that in a way that I wasn’t aware people even did 😊! Such as the forming of teams and communicating externally to discuss tactics etc. Or the use of other SM like YouTube & Reddit as platforms for ongoing discussions, advice. And I would imagine where you write “Categories of online games vary dramatically and therefore people are rarely passionate equally about every category of online game” would probably open up more conversations about those different experiences some take away from a game that might vary from others.
The way you have put your paper together makes me think you have first-hand experience – would that be a fair assessment? And like Lachlan asked what would be an argument you might have encountered against online gaming as a possible environment for creating communities. Have you personally experience any aggressive behaviour?
Thanks Lleyton for the insight into online gaming communities.
Thanks for reading my paper, I hope you enjoyed it 🙂
You are absolutely correct about me having first-hand experience. I am quite an avid gamer and I have enjoyed gaming for as long as I was remember. What you said about different people enjoying different types of games is very true and it means that there are many gaming communities that vary a great deal in the average players ages and geographical locations. I’ve personally come to know many new people through gaming by relating our personal gaming experiences, even on different platforms.
Unfortunately there is always going to be aggressive behavior in many games, but this is mostly limited to games where you play random match ups with people you don’t necessarily know. What I mean by this for example is queuing for a Car Soccer game called Rocket League, you can play any players from around your region often being a pool of thousands. Generally in games where you become familiar with people, they are much more friendly and better to play with.
This is an interesting topic and a good read.
I developed new insights in the way you covered the theme of online gaming has been so much involved in the negative effects associated with them. The agreeable concept that is apparent in your paper is the fact that it is increasingly becoming popular, and users often have a wide selection to choose from. I tend not to agree with you on the fact that “communities found within and around popular games are just as strong and valid as any within the real world.” I doubt this factor because it is unlikely that online communities in gaming sites are united. Maybe you could elaborate more on this because I find that it is hyperbolic, I would love to hear your opinion on this. I also liked the way you organised the topics in subheadings and thus made it easy for the reader to comprehend the different aspects you covered. Overall, I find the topic relevant to the young generation involved in online gaming.
Can you expand a bit on what you mean by online communities in gaming sites not being ‘united’?
I’ve had experience with games that have an intense team building aspect to it, like World of Warcraft with their guilds, or Star Trek Fleet Command with their alliances.
Recently playing the latter, my alliance went through a merger with another, all the high level players being organised to switch to another alliance, and leave behind the lower levels. There was a lot of resistance to this because it split up social relationships that had been developing.
– Luke 🙂
What I mean is that, I think even in the game communities there will be ups and downs to it where there will be disagreement within the game with the alliance or team group people that you play with. In result, they leaving the alliance because they are not happy with it.
However, being in alliance also brings out the most out of people. It helps to develops your character.
On the other note, I could be on the wrong side of this argument. Honestly, it’s been ages since I actually play any games.
Hi Cynthiana and Luke.
It is a very interesting argument, and it isn’t easy to determine simply the validity of gaming communities. What you said in the first post about a lack of unity I completely understand, and in some types of games and communities this is very true. However the types of communities in the gaming world are very different, for example as Luke said, the decisions made by your alliance can invoke very real emotions and many users will wish to keep in touch with people even when they leave a guild or group. One example of this that I would make is an Arma 2 server I played called CCG, probably 8 years ago now which closed down about 6 years ago. There were about 30 players who actively played the server, and even though in that game we were actively against each other, many of us became strong friends. I still keep in touch with many of the people from this server even though we cannot play the server anymore and when I have occasionally played other Arma 2 servers since, it is very common to recognize and speak with other people who played the CCG server.
Thanks for your input, it is an interesting topic 🙂
Nice work with your paper 🙂 I found myself very drawn to your topic, as I discussed a similar one within my own paper, but focused more on in-game communities with a focus on MMOs.
I would have thought that constantly switching games may have made it difficult for one to form a sense of community, so it was interesting to discover that this may not wasn’t always be the case! It makes sense that some gamers would want to create communities through independent guilds and clans of likeminded game lovers, as opposed to simply confining themselves within one community for a specific game 😊 and you would definitely be exposed to many more diverse gamers that way! I also liked how you made connections between different platforms such as Discord, Steam, YouTube, Reddit, etc, and over the course of your paper, demonstrated how they all work to serve the community and facilitate a sense of togetherness amongst gamers.
Definitely agree with your overall consensus that games and the act of gaming helps create beneficial and strong communities of likeminded people, though.
Thanks for a great read, Lleyton!
Thanks for taking the time to read my paper 🙂
I agree that most communities do take place inside individual games, I myself am part of a few of these still. Interestingly though I think that even with some groups that focus around a single game, they usually encourage players who may not still have the time to actively play the game to still take part in the gaming forums and chats for the guild.
I really enjoyed your paper and I would echo Leone’s question about you having first hand experience in this?
My paper was similar to yours in the focus of guilds in WoW, but I liked how you spoke about communities forming around Discord, Steam and YouTube. I did not even think to explore those avenues!
I was wondering, in your research have you found any evidence of relationships that were formed online that was then extended offline? One of the papers I read in my research referenced how families will sometimes form guilds in WoW and then play together and I found that really interesting. You may want to read the paper, it’s called “Do those who play together stay together? The World of Warcraft community between play, practice and game design” by Ioana Caratarescu-Petrica (link here: https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/1712852651?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo)
I’d love to hear your thoughts?
Overall a very good effort Lleyton – good job! 😊
Thanks for taking your time to read the paper 🙂
I certainly do have plenty of first hand experience with gaming and I share this with many of my friends. Currently I have been playing WOW after enjoying WOW Classic when it was released, but I also enjoy many other games as well.
I have not read any specific papers which mentioned online gaming relationships forming into real world friendships but I have both first hand knowledge of it, and have heard many stories about it in online forums. Personally I have met in person, five people who I got to know through online gaming. These people all live in Australia, but all across it, from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. I have also read many stories from people in online Runescape forums about people they got to meet, often posting photos together after they had been gaming friends for years.
Thanks for linking your article, it was a very interesting read! It is very easy to relate to much of what many of the responders said, and it also really shows how gaming has changed and evolved over the years.
This was great to read after Duncan’s paper about online chess communities. You should definitely go read his – it connects to yours in so many ways!
I liked that you brought up recent examples of games, but it would have been nice if you could have define/explained guilds and clans for those who do not have a game background (don’t worry – I know what they are). It was good you mentioned that these gaming communities also form strong bonds outside of the games on forums.
It was very fascinating to read more about all of the different communities that spawn from gaming. You researched it well! Something that would have been interesting to read about would have been if you delved more deeply into the products of these communities like making friends, marriages, mental health benefits etc etc.
Personally – do you have any friends/connections that you’ve made through gaming? Or can you think of any case studies in research that you’ve come across? Would you say catfishing could be an issue as well within these communities?
Thanks for the good read!
Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll have to take a look at Duncan’s first up!
You’re definitely right that I could probably have defined exactly what guilds and clans are within games, it’s easy to forget that not everybody will know.
I have a great deal of experience with these kinds of relationships and I know many people online that I have met through gaming communities. Personally I’ve met five of these people in person and each one was great and I enjoyed meeting them, but unfortunately cat fishing is a legitimate worry that is possible in the online world. I don’t think it’s common but it’s definitely worth considering for anyone planning on meeting someone in real life.
Thanks for sharing your paper. While not being an avid gamer myself, I’ve always admired the gaming community and the way in which it can connect so many different types of people from all walks of life.
There is no denying the community that exists in online gaming groups. I think that sense of shared identity amongst gamers and the task based nature of games that requires all members of the group to work together to achieve common goals, encompasses what community means to me.
I was curious if you had encountered studies about the performative identity of gamers in these communities, and how if the way in which gamers present themselves online in these groups determines their acceptance into a community? For example, should one gamer take on the identity of a certain character type within the game would their portrayed identity affect them in being successful in being accepted into a group? And excuse my lack of gaming knowledge :), but I assume that certain character types have different strengths or weapon choices or perks that would be more attractive to other members, perhaps making certain community members more in demand or valuable to online playing groups than others? Furthermore, I can appreciate as you say how external social media platforms provide further opportunity for gamers to communicate. Would gamers in certain communities need to carry on their gaming identity over into the social media space? I wondered if one’s real life identity is ever obscured or altered to afford their acceptance into an online gaming community.
You’re statements are very interesting to think about and true in many ways, but not always the case. I’ll use World of Warcraft as an example to answer the questions you listed. Communities in different games do differ, but WOW is a good example due to the great deal of variety. In WOW and most games, you get to create your character of one of many races, you can choose to be male or female and you can pick one of about twelve (roughly, maybe a couple less) classes. To clarify, classes decide on what abilities and spells your character is able to do. The good thing about WOW is the number and variety of the communities for players. Some guilds will not accept players that don’t meet their requirements, whether they expect the player to have good gear, lots of experience or be a high level, you can’t necessarily join any community. However, there are thousands of other Guilds and groups that likely will accept a player without these things, often focusing on social activities or leveling rather than difficult endgame content. Guilds are very different and often tailored towards different types of players.
In almost all online games people do use some form of Alias to display them, for example in many games I use the name “Captain”. Generally even when communicating outside the game, for example through Discord, the player use the same or similar nametag rather than their real name. Some players may choose to communicate via their real names, but it isn’t common. This is likely a reason why platforms like Discord are used in place of something like Facebook, because of the user transparency.
Like in all walks of life there will sometimes be people that will judge based on race, ethnicity etc if this is discovered, but this isn’t generally the case and this kind of discrimination is just an unfortunate fact that exists both inside and outside of the gaming world.
Amazing paper, great read. Seeing how the gaming community can be like and platforms like Twitch and YouTube has done for the gaming community, I would to know what you think about those platforms have done for the community.
Like E3 is a big deal and everyone is watching the gaming community that weekend and it brings communities together, do you think fandoms can ruin the fun of online gaming?
Twitch and YouTube have been huge for the gaming community in my opinion, because they share funny and enjoyable gaming experiences with millions of people from all around the world. Some major uses of these platforms can reach huge viewer numbers, and are incredibly popular within the gaming communities.
For example on the online game RuneScape, a fairly popular streamer called Settled made a YouTube series where he limited himself to a very small area within the game, creating an incredibly difficult environment for himself and this series received hundreds of thousands of views and is often referenced and mentioned within the game itself. This just goes to show the effect that these outside platforms can have within the gaming communities inside the game.
There are many popular gaming events, such as E3 that receive a huge audience interested in watching. I’m not sure I entirely understand what you mean about fandoms ruining the fun, but I take it to mean that these events can take the immersion out of some games in a way, and that definitely isn’t for everybody but I think that the people who don’t enjoy the events simply don’t partake in them.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Certain aspects of your piece are intriguing to me, especially the idea that a community can outlast a game. This is in it self is a clear indicator that games can me more about the community then the actual game itself. I also like how you linked this piece together by also talking about communities that have been around for as long as some of us can remember and how in-game communities tie into this idea.
Thanks for your feedback on the paper! I agree that gaming communities outlasting games is a certain indicator that gaming communities are important to the gamers themselves.