Communities and Social Media

Social Media as A Third Space for Participation: Online Gaming Communities


The importance of participation within communities has been emphasised by numerous articles, with most of them placing the blame on the decrease in offline community participation towards technological advancements. However, the blame cannot be placed entirely on the internet as it has given birth to a new form of community, online community. This paper will examine the shift from offline to online community but comparing the difference in structure, function, and why there’s a lack in engagement in an offline space but extremely high amount of activity in an online space. Breaking down why social media platform are essential to the increase in participation, using the online gaming communities as a case study. Bringing into attention that offline and online communities’ effect one another and are exchangeable. Social media makes it possible for a person to become involved in an offline community and assist the growth of participation in an online community.


Online social networks have become a crucial service within the 21st century, affecting the lives of billions as more and more people become reliant on the internet. Transforming the way people interact and communicate with one another. According to a report on Statista, there are currently over 3.78 billion users of social networks as of 2021 and is expected to reach 4.42 billion by 2025, (Tankovska, 2021). The usage of internet has also led various offline structures, way of life, systems and so on, to the transfer onto the online environment. However, this by no means suggests that their functions within the online scenario will be the same or similar to that of the offline. Keith N. Hampton and Barry Wellman explain that community is a fundamental part of society, but as technology advances further, it’s commonly believed that community has been lost, (Hampton & Barry, 2018). With the enormous amount of people and activities online it can be said that communities have been amplified within the online space due to the nature of the internet, discoverability and spreadability of information. Additionally, the growth and popularity of video games was possible due to the internet and social media platforms which has facilitated online gaming community. In order to highlight how social media platforms act as a third space for increasing participation for individuals who are unlikely to contribute to an offline community; with the focus on gaming communities. This paper will demonstrate the difference between offline and online communities, how the structure of social media platforms increases participation, online gaming community’s engagement with social media platforms, and online communities’ influence over an individual’s offline community and actions. 

The foundation in which offline and online communities have revolved around is the same, but online communities include a larger scale of interactions and communications between individuals or groups. Hampton and Wellman describe a community in an offline environment as the place the person is born into, and the location in which they live in, that stretches for a limited distance. Family, friends, neighbours and colleagues (school or work) are examples of people who would be considered as a part of an individual’s offline community. Community members share the same beliefs and have either the same or similar background and tasks, (Hampton & Wellman, 2018). On the other hand, online communities are constructed based on people who hold the same interest and goals in life, and consist of a diverse group of individuals, (Wang et al., 2011). The move from offline to online has greatly affected the level of participation within offline communities. There are less face-to-face interactions and conversations occurring as large number of people develop their own individual networked community. Taylor Dotson (2017), as mentioned in Hampton and Wellman (2018) explores the idea of society moving towards networked individualism, resulting in a shift in the way community functions as well as a decrease in social gathering and solidarity inside the local group. Instead of going outside to socialise with other members of the community at the park or club, they’re spending a massive portion of their time online. The shift from offline to online also means that the connection with community members is able to be maintained as they’re able to stay in touch with each other despite the difference in time, space, and distance. Unlike offline communities, the relationship between members within an online community is no longer as closely knitted as they used to be, access to information is not filtered and communication with a diverse group of people is possible through social media platforms.

Mobility and easy access of the internet has had a positive effect in the online community as the number of participation increases. Indicating that the higher the engagement online, the lower the number of people contributing to an offline environment. Despite the lack of research on the motivation behind online participation, several factors which can be used for reasoning as to why an individual is likely to participate in an online space are due to the diversity in communities and resources, friendliness of the space, to accomplish a shared goal(s), and the perception of contribution online as an action that’s meaningful, (Wang et al., 2011). In this aspect, social media platforms act as a third space where the motives mentioned earlier are made possible. The ability to create and post content is made available to all users of the internet, generating a sense of belonging to particular communities depending on their level of activeness. Sharing of content and knowledge by individuals expand the amount of information available online, encouraging other people to share. Jessica Kennedy and Helen Lynch state that although sharing of personal information in an online space may place the individual at danger, it can also enable them to progress further in life, (Kennedy & Lynch, 2016). The individual sharing their knowledge or content in the online space is not expected to be knowledgeable in the field, this removes the pressure placed on members within the community to participate, as there’s no right or wrong. Participation in an online space not only refers to sharing of content, but also reading of content, (Harris, 2020). It’s important to understand that both types of participation are necessary to maintain a community.

Continuing on the point that social media platforms increase participation of individuals, the online gaming community is sustained due to the large amount of contribution made to the community on various platforms. According to Game Marketing Genie, some of the most popular platforms used by the gaming communities are Facebook, YouTube, Discord, Twitch, and Twitter, (Game Marketing Genie, 2020). It’s also important to note that an industry report by CompareCamp, indicates that there are close to 3 billion gamers worldwide as of 2020, excluding those who’re viewers of gaming content, (Zuckerman, 2020). The popularity and size of the communities is an indication to the amount of participation which is taking place. Like most information on the internet, it’s common to come across a specific content on various platforms a number of times. The original content is not the only thing being distributed and shared throughout the different media; remediation of the original work is another example of a technique showcasing the participation of members in the community. For example, PewDiePie’s Minecraft hardcore series on YouTube (PewDiePie, 2020) can also be found on Reddit, Twitter, TikTok, and many more. The series has also led to viewers participating in his community through the creation of memes, fanarts, and video compilations. To enhance one’s relationship within the online community the members should be actively involved in activities. In the gaming community a sense of belonging to a community and level of tie is shown through purchasing of merch, a membership, or simply commenting and subscribing to the content creator. Furthermore, engaging with other gamers inside or outside the game create deeper attachment to the community.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) is a genre of game which encourages members to interact and communicate with other players within the game or community to progress further in the game, (Zhong, 2011). This interaction between members is not limited to the online space, in some cases individuals must make contact with other people within the community through social media platforms in order to arrange a meet up in the offline world to exchange information or game inventory. For example, an in-game interaction would be when players join a guild or work together in a group for them to accomplish a quest or qualify to battle the dungeon boss. By interacting with other members and the community, the bond between the two is strengthened. “The identity of being a member of an in-game community and the sense of belonging to the community make social interactions meaningful to the gamers,” (Zhong, 2011, p. 2353). As these forms of social interactions are viewed as a meaningful activity, participation is more likely to occur. MMORPGs enable people to play with others be it in a small or large group (solo playing is also an option), players often come into contact with hundreds of individuals on a daily basis, (Molyneux et al., 2015).  Although the players may only come into contact for a particular purpose for a set amount of time and never cross paths again throughout their entire gameplay, their interaction during that moment still holds importance. This links into how members of an online community have a common goal, as mentioned earlier in the paper. Rachel Kowert and Julian A. Oldmeadow’s study suggests that the online gaming community is entirely motivated by goals, emotional communication plays a large role in the construction of relationships; therefore, players prefer to play on a server that is populated, (Kowert & Oldmeadow, 2013). In a popular game such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, players who are a part of a clan will often use platforms such as Discord to communicate with each other during the game. This allows for their interaction to be more intimate and is also an example of how online communities push individuals to take actions offline. Individuals gain more confidence in participating in an offline environment, due to the success of their online interaction and knowledge obtained. 

Communities that are formed in an online space can also transfer to the offline space. As of now there’s a lack of research on whether online participation can influence an individual to become more involved in an offline scenario. Based on the available research in this area, events such as Gamescom encourages a large-scale offline gathering in which many members of the online gaming community gather to meet and interact with not only content creators from platforms such as YouTube and Twitch but also members of the community face to face. “The amount of people who attended was mind-blowing, filling up every square inch of every room…”, Natalie Bergman one of the exhibitors of Gamescom commented on a review, (Tradefest, 2019, para 5). This clearly demonstrates that people from the online gaming community are taking actions beyond the screen and are willing to participate in events where online communities are given the opportunity to come together. A hybrid form of community is created with the combination of offline and online communities, the structure of both communities can be seen when analysing the action of attendee and what the convention is about. For example, the people who’re attending are from a large range of online and offline communities producing a diverse range of individuals. Like Bergman many individuals who attended the same convention shared content of the event through the social media platforms for those in the online communities to see. In this aspect, both communities affect each other in a way that something which happens offline can been passed onto the online environment, and vice versa.  

This paper has been describing the various way in which participation has been increased in online and offline communities by analysing sections of gaming communities and how social media has facilitated this growth. In spite of limited academic research and studies in relation to online gaming community and community involvement, the paper has highlighted that participation in communities has increased as a result of online community and social networked platforms’ characteristics. Constant sharing of content on multiple media has expanded the amount of information and content made possible to view and use; as well as motivating others to create and share. It can be said that online community has indeed increased the number of member’s participating online and offline as they gain confidence, also providing an opportunity for people to partake in community events where they willingly contribute.  


Bergman, N. (2019). Gamecom 2019. Tradefest.

Chung, J, C., Fulk, J., McLaughlin. (2011). Community Participation: A Technology Acceptance Perspective. Communicating Research, 39(6), 781-801.

Game Marketing Genie. (2020, July 7). What Are the Best Social Media Platforms to Reach Gamers On?.

Hampton, K, N., & Wellman, B. (2018). Lost and Saved … Again, The Moral Panic about the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media.  Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 47 (6), 643-651.

Harris, G. (2015). Participation in Online Communities: Reconfiguring Relations of Participation [Doctoral Disseration, The University of New South Wales]. Unsworks.

Kennedy J., & Lynch, H. (2015). A shift from offline to online: Adolescence, the internet and social participation. Journal of Occupational Science 23(2), 1-12.

Kjellberg, F. [PewDiePie]. (2021, February 25). Minecraft Hardcore Series [Video]. Youtube.  

Kowert, R., & Oldmeadow, Julian, A. (2013). (A)Social reputation: Exploring the relationship between online video game involvement and social competence. Computers in Human Behaviour, 29(4), 1872-1878.

Molyneux, L., Vasudevan, K., & Gil de Zúñiga, H. (2015). Gaming Social Capital: Exploring Civic Value in Multiplayer Video Games. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(4), 281-399.

Tankovska, H. (2021). Number of global social network users 2017-2025. Statista.

Zhong, Z, J. (2011). The effects of collective MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) play on gamers’ online and offline social capital. Computers in Human Behaviour, 27(6), 2352-2363.

Zuckerman, A. (2020). 50 Video game statistic: 2020/2021 Industry overview, demographics & data analysis. CompareCamp.,top%20three%20gaming%20markets%20worldwide

19 thoughts on “Social Media as A Third Space for Participation: Online Gaming Communities

  1. Hi Bethani
    Your paper was really interesting to read. As a gamer, I totally agree with you. I am happy you took the example of Discord as that platform made it possible for me to really participate in online communities. I joined servers as well as make them. Even on Twitch, I have my own community. I do find myself contacting people on my communities if I need help with something in game. I am also part of BTS ARMY communities and before the pandemic, I met some great people on there that made me want to go offline to BTS events!

    1. Hi Munika,

      Thank you for reading my paper, it’s amazing to hear that Discord and Twitch was able to act as a space where you could engage yourself within the gaming community. You should definitely check out K-Pop Discord, Twitter or Instagram if you’re looking to participate in offline events, there’s always something popping around in various places around the world.

      This goes to prove that online communities increases user’s engagement and encourage offline actions.

  2. Hi Bethani,

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read throughout the conference. I found it really interesting that you specified how social media platforms act as a third space specifically for individuals NOT likely to contribute to a non-virtual, in-person community. You also highlighted how MMORPGs facilitate meaningful interactions between players. These points rung true for me because as a gamer, I’ve experienced these kind of interactions and communities myself. I think the power of online gaming lies in the ability for people not inclined to participate in social communities in their every day lives to reap the benefits of that type of participation and those types of relationships in a setting which feels more comfortable to them.

    Thanks so much for sharing, your article was thought provoking and all of your research is interesting and enlightening.

    1. Hi Silas,

      I’m glad to hear that you found my paper interesting and enlightening, thank you for your kind words. People who are not likely to participate in an offline setting was the main focus of my paper; especially within the gaming community since I was one of those people but through online social media platforms I was able to be apart of a community and participate in various activities. The sense of belonging through shared interest and lack of pressure to take part as I’ve mention in my paper is some of the reason people feel comfortable with members of the community, leading them to share. If deeper analysis of the benefits was to be made, the anonymity provided by social media platforms is also an influencer which assist in helping gamers gain the confidence to participate.

  3. Hello Bethani,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your conference paper and had no idea there were so many gamers online. In my studies over the past few years I have come across a number of articles that refer to the ‘Third Place’ as somewhere a person goes other than home or work to enjoy some leisure time. These places used to be cafes, restaurants, parks, etc. but now more and more the internet and particularly social media is being referred to as a ‘Third Place’. With that many gamers online I’m sure they have established multiple communities on and off line as your paper eludes to. Without the internet and these social media platforms these gaming communities would not exist, yet as you succinctly point out these online gaming communities have spawned a whole new offline community that run gaming exhibitions and conferences that travel globally and attract thousands of attendees in every city they visit.
    It might be true that the internet and social media may have lessened the participation in certain local community activities but they have introduced a whole new world of online communities that attract a diverse cross-section of the population on a global scale to interact and socialise and build that sense of community as illustrated in your paper.
    Thank you Bethani for a wonderful conference paper.


    1. Hi Bernard,

      Thank you for taking your time to read and comment on my paper. Internet has definitely boosted the number of communities, especially for the gaming sector which were not as popular or well known. Based on the research I’ve found it was thought that the online and offline were seperate spaces, that the virtual community is created by the existence of technologies/internet. However, if we were to look at today’s online gaming community it will prove that it’s not the case. As Eklund (2015) explained, communities are formed as a result of individuals interacting with others and participating in online games.

      Eklund, L. (2015). Bridging the online/offline divide: The example of digital gaming. Computer In Human Behaviour 53(n.d), 527-535.

  4. Hi Bethani,
    This was a very interesting and well-written paper! The topic of online gaming really fascinates me as it is something that has been both overlooked and frowned upon due to the fact that it engulfs people into the online world which is not healthy. I agree that the growth and popularity of video games were possible due to the internet and social media platforms which have facilitated online gaming and influenced people in many ways. This is evident through social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube where there have been advertisements of different games which has tempted me as well so I can see why the online gaming community has increased and will continue to grow.
    You concluded by saying that the online community has increased the number of members participating online and offline and I agree with this – as technology advances, concepts such as participatory culture and media were introduced which changed the culture of media altogether as users were now in control of what was posted and what they could do online.
    Online gaming can negatively impact its users as it pulls them away from the offline world, causing mental health issues and isolation from face-to-face and physical interactions. However, I’ve also been a part of the online gaming community when I used to play Runescape back in the day and there were lots of advantages to being part of it as well such as a support system, communication skills, teamwork, and other skills that can be translated into the offline world.
    There are both negative and positive aspects of online gaming communities and striking a balance between online and offline is extremely important.

    1. Hi Saranya,

      Thank you for your input on my paper, I appreciate it. The gaming community has certainly received negative feedbacks and connotations for a very long time, despite the popularity of games society seems to be out to catch the industry. However, my paper along with numerous articles and research indicates that this viewpoint has shifted within the 21st century.

      Read more about the positive impact of video games

      Positive and negative aspects of online gaming community mirroring that of the offline space… with any type of community both exposure are expected, as a result of community structure. A study on the structure of both spaces demonstrates that the gap between the two is increasingly becoming blurred, (Dunbar et al., 2015). At this point it can be said that both side is able to make up for the missing gap that can be seen in each communities.


      Dunbara, R.I.M., Arnaboldiab, V., Contib, M., & Passarellab, A. (2015). The structure of online social networks mirrors those in the offline world. Social Networks, 43(n.d.), 39-47.

      Vince. (2018, May 9). Yes, Video Games are Good…for Your Mind and Body. iDTech.

  5. Hi Bethani,

    This was an interesting topic that you have chosen. I agree with the part that you had written “the growth and popularity of video games was possible due to the internet and social media platforms which has facilitated online gaming” as a user of social media such as Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube etc. I have seen a lot of different advertisements about games and made me curious to try and play. It is also interesting how you are able to communicate and get to know others with similar interests as you and how you are able to make friends.

    I also agree that “there are less face-to-face interactions and conversation” during offline but whereas with online it is a lot easier to connect with people (friends, family, business etc.) via Messenger, Skype or any related applications where you can access calling or messaging.

    Although, I would not consider myself as a professional gamer, I enjoy playing games in my free time and watch videos. I have quick questions for you, do you consider yourself as a gamer, if so, what games do you play and what gaming community are you part of? Has there online aspects made you participate in any offline community?

    Well done with this topic! It was an interesting and a great read☺️

    1. Hi Danni,

      Thank you for reading my paper and sharing your gaming experience. At the start I didn’t attach myself to or consider myself as a gamer due to the fact my surrounding communities viewed it as “a waste of time.” However, as of now I would definitely consider myself as a gamer even though the offline communities I’m apart of hates the idea of anyone playing games. One of the biggest impact which the online gaming communities I’m a member of has made is to attend offline gathering (events and casual gathering).

      I totally agree that applications that allow for easy access of video interaction brings back the face-to-face communication which is said to have been lost due to the move from offline to online.

  6. Loved the paper Bethani! I always think it is interesting to see gaming be the leaders of new trends in technology and they have led to many developments in both online and offline communities. I believe that many aspects of daily life now have been affected for better or worse by gaming; things like “checking in” on Facebook or internet based video and audio chats, online streaming and even normal daily interactions have elements of gaming engrained within it. Gaming, while it appears on the surface to be a hobby for introverted young people, is actually a highly diverse community of people ranging from all genders, ages and locations around the world, with its affects influencing the world greatly.

    While I think that it is important, especially in young people, to encourage offline community involvement and the promotion of building strong interpersonal skills, gaming has acted as a safe space for young people struggling with identity, fitting in and many other issues associated with growing up. I feel that there are also other valuable skills and attributes that are often overlooked by people who are not within the gaming community, such as; efficient communication skills, ability to share and understand responsibility between a group of people, maintaining composure under pressure, the ability to make friends with a diverse range of people irrespective of location, age and race and many more beneficial skills.

    I think the main problem challenging this community will be to communicate the importance of balance in both the offline and online community, while the online community grants great affordances that offer many great additions to ones ability to interact, neglecting skills relating to offline community interaction can negatively impact a young persons development. While living in a highly structure routine of school and home balance, the effects may not appear too impactful but if the importance of building life skills outside of online communities isn’t fully communicated, many young people may become too reliant on online communities, hindering their ability to express themselves in an offline community which could cause lasting affects. While there are both negatives and positives to the discussion of online communities and their perceived importance, I believe that as a whole, their benefits greatly outweighs the negatives people would experience.

    I love the developments in the online gaming communities and being able to see how far it has come from when I was in primary school and there were only a select few people playing games to now, even someone I would’ve considered as the opposite of a “gamer” now probably has a more powerful gaming set up than I do. I enjoyed reading this paper and hope that you are able to take the time to read my paper too!

  7. Hi Bethani,

    Well done on your paper. I really enjoyed learning more about online gaming communities. As I am not an active gamer, it was interesting to look at the formation of an online community through the lens of gamers.

    When you spoke about the motivation of the community in terms of their collaboration and communication being motivating factors, I thought it had a striking similarity to the motivation of the online television audiences viewing audience. Bruschow (2014) notes that tweeting during the program is motivated by two desires; interacting with the community and/or engaging with the program”.

    I think you did an excellent job of outlining how social media is a crucial element of this gaming community. Your paper also highlighted that online communities are formed regardless of time, space and distance, which has undoubtedly meant that these communities are far more accessible. It does raise a broader discussion that an interesting side note of accessibility is how quickly the discourse in these communities can move and if this creates barriers for lurkers or news members to engage within the community.

    Well done on your paper.

  8. Hi Bethani,

    I really enjoyed your paper; it was extremely well written!
    I agree with your argument that community itself has been redefined to a certain extent. While long ago it related mainly to social interactions in the offline world, now communities are more and more online.

    This part ” Mobility and easy access of the internet has had a positive effect in the online community as the number of participants increases. “, reminds me of Henry Jenkins’s paper named: confronting the challenges of participatory culture. In his paper, he describes participatory culture as “a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civil engagement”

    Thanks for bringing my attention to your paper

    1. Hi Bethani,
      Regarding my comment, I just noticed that there is no reference in my post so I will rewrite it again

      according to Jenkins (2006), participatory culture is
      “a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement….” (p. 3).
      anyway, have you heard of this definition before?
      Jenkins actually thought me too much about how technology and media can foster and facilitate online culture and knowledge communities.

      I hope you find my intervention useful
      here is the reference of his paper if you have time take a look

      Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. An occasional paper on digital media and learning. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


      1. Hi Marwah,

        I too enjoy reading Henry Jenkins, he has made great contribution to this area of study. I have yet to come across this phrase, however, after reading the article you’ve linked I can say that I totally agree with it. Participatory culture is one which promote and increases online activities, that has greatly benefitted the gaming industry and community. Gaming is a prime example of an artistic expression that has seen success in result of this growing participatory culture.

        Despite the increasing popularity of video games in the early years of online games, negative stigmas continued to be attached to the community and consumers. Often seen as a ‘waste of time’ by the public and ’embarrassing’ by gamers themselves. Participation culture has transformed the ways in which people and gamers perceive video games and the communities. Demonstrating that it’s more than the negative viewpoints associated with their community – through creating and sharing content across all social media.

        Thank you for reading my paper and expanding my knowledge on participatory culture.

  9. Hi Bethani!

    I enjoyed reading your paper. Your topic is something that interests me, and I strongly agree that social media has played—and will continue playing—an important role in forming and growing communities. You used Discord as an example in your paper, which I think is very appropriate. I believe that Discord has changed how we create community and participate in it. For example, there are a lot of Discord servers centred around particular games, and Discord servers are also used for out-of-game communication within guilds in MMORPGs. The interaction in these servers can also result in offline interaction, as you pointed out in your paper. What do you think about other forms of social media, such as Twitter? Can we observe the same sort of phenomenon? I feel that Twitter doesn’t really offer one ‘central’ location, thus making it harder to form and engage in community.

    Interesting in hearing your thoughts!

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for taking your time to read my paper, I really appreciate it. Twitter plays a large role for the gaming community, it’s one of the social media platform where people go to engage with influential members of the community. It has shown that users can spark conversation through short and concise words. A study on Twitter in relation to gaming community and user participation demonstrate that Twitter is the goto platform to share and voice suggestions – by 49% than other social media, (Twitter Marketing, N.d.).

      Words and hashtags used in tweets can be used to identity which community a user belongs to, (Bryden et al., 2013). Gamers and anyone who wishes to engage and be part of a particular gaming community can link themselves by words/hashtags widely used by other members. Even though it may seem that Twitter doesn’t offer one central location for users… it doesn’t hinder the creation or engagement with a community. I believe that tools provided by Twitter makes it easier for people to integrate their presence to a community.

      Here’s a news article which details how language used on Twitter can form communities,

  10. Great essay! A very detailed explanation as to how social media has become a third space for online gamers to participate. 🙂

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