Modern digital communities extend beyond neighborhoods, schools, and businesses. Due to the increased use of social media platforms, different categories of groups can interact online and make connections globally. Therefore, contrary to traditional ways of socialization, people do not need to travel or make direct social connections. People use phones and computers to reach new friends and connect with family. Through technology and the internet, online gamers can easily communicate through the online space provided and find like-minded people. From text-based Multi-User Dungeon to open-world Red Dead Online, online games have progressed over time. Two major sorts of online connectivity include browser-based and downloaded games (Kultima & Peltokangas, 2019). Online games include simulation, puzzles, action, racing, and strategy. Real-time multi-player and computer games are available, and therefore, online games now offer multi-player video chat for improved collaboration. Due to their unique features and engaging engagement, online multi-player games dominate gaming. Although gaming may seem like a waste of time and an escape from reality, its community has many benefits that many people fail to recognize. Therefore, this essay will explain why online multi-player games are so popular, including how they affect players’ interaction, self-esteem, and offline relationships. Also, the paper explores possible negative impacts associated with online gaming and ways of mitigating them.
A community is a small social group. Compared to society, community members have significant relationships with many people they do not know. Communities can include people from far distances who share a shared interest. As the internet evolve over the years, it combines communication and technology. Its services enable global communication without travel and thus establish online communities. Therefore, online communities are virtual social spaces within computer networks that allow users to communicate with individuals worldwide anytime. Since the users can identify and interact with people in similar situations, its online presence provides greater emotional comfort than real communities. It gives members freedom by being neutral, and due to its accessibility, people can visit anytime. Everyone is equal here, regardless of status, becoming more attractive and fulfilling to different people. Gamers use the term “Third Place” to refer to their “online gaming space” interactions (Dearborn, 2023). In this informal “hangout,” gamers can discuss various topics and offer emotional support.
Online gaming allows millions of people to play together in real-time. As the name implies, player contact is crucial to the game. According to Ponsford (2016), multi-player games require communication and cooperation, and players form guilds for better gameplay. Guilds increase player contact, improving game socialization. Although small, the guild lets its members connect with the same people every time they check-in. As a result, players will bond over time. It also alerted players of online friends, and therefore, players can chat with pals without checking attendance. Through online gaming, players’ social identity improves through improving communication.
In most cases, most players on online platforms struggle with face-to-face communication, so they choose online games to communicate. Also, Shy and introverted people benefit from the anonymity of the online world since it feels less real and intense than face-to-face engagement. As a result, they may favor online communities. Therefore, though not everyone, it is crucial to consider socially shy people because this interaction would imply they still have a network and can meet others regardless of location. Therefore, gamers have a “real” virtual community, disproving the argument that they shut society out.
Although reports reveal their level of addiction to the game is substantially higher than those who do not spend too much time behind games, gamers who previously had depression or low self-esteem found sanctuary in online games (Kaye et a., 2017). Online peer interactions satisfy social demands. MMORPGs’ highly interactive environments encourage gamers to bond. Teamwork occurs because participants collaborate on missions regularly. Also, since MMORPG missions involve different talents and knowledge, players depend on one another. Its chat and voice channels let participants communicate regardless of location.
Players do not require to reveal their real identity on the platforms. They, therefore, hide behind a computer screen to express themselves without fear of rejection. Players can choose any name and personality to conceal their true selves through the gaming avatar and second “identity.” However, players can choose to reveal them. Each user selects an avatar that involves customizable animated characters. Facial expression, age, race, gender, voice, and clothes are its features (Perez et al., 2015). Players can play anonymously with these Avatars, and they represent anyone.
Players feel relieved when rejected because their identity is hidden. Also, Judges cannot hurt them, so they do not have to feel ashamed or concealed. However, through impression management, one can control their impression. Its beginning discusses how people express themselves in daily life and how they desire to be seen. It hides their identities. However, their backstage self is only known to a few. Avatar, which hides their identity, is their “front” in games. Since they decide what is shown, computer players are “backstage.” Online games provide a secure sanctuary for individuals who want to remain anonymous. They can try out new “identities” they never had here. They could be a backstage follower or a guild leader in the game. Lee et al. (2018) found that virtual online games improve leadership qualities. This online achievement may be transferable to real-life situations. Teamwork allows players to cooperate and learn from each other, which helps them implement leadership abilities in real life. Lee et al. (2018) state that participants’ online leadership skills will boost their self-esteem and identity.
Further, players are more inclined to divulge their genuine identity to trusted online buddies than in person. These players may have stronger online friendships than real-life ones. Some may meet their friends in person. Unlike offline relationships, most internet relationships are opposite-sex, whereas same-sex partnerships are more common throughout life. However, through online platforms, many of these relationships could become romantic as online communication boosts self-confidence, allowing players to pursue love relationships which could lead to real-life partnerships (Ponsford, 2016). Since few people know about internet romances, people are less constrained by relatives and family, perhaps because internet conversations go unnoticed as there is no physical date.
However, although Online gaming has become popular due to its many interactive and social features, it has some drawbacks. For instance, online gaming can lead to too much screen time and a sedentary lifestyle. A person who spends hours playing online multi-player games may need to pay attention to fitness, socializing, and personal duties. Sedentary lifestyles can cause obesity, bad posture, and cardiovascular disease. Also, online gaming can increase social isolation and decrease real-life interactions. Spending less time in virtual worlds can reduce interest in real-world socializing. For instance, a teen hooked on an online role-playing game may spend less time with friends, extracurriculars, and family (Sadeghnia et al., 2022). Isolation can cause loneliness, social discomfort, and a lack of interpersonal skills needed for offline connections. Online Players are attached to the “safety” of online gaming, making it hard to leave. Players contented with their existing circumstances and social contact through online games do not want to leave their comfort zone because they believe online interactions are equivalent to offline interactions. Therefore, they will make more pals online but feel more lonely offline. When they stop playing, players will feel it. Also, Gamers are typically seen as lazy and unproductive because they sit and play instead of working or socializing. They are antisocial and dislike socializing. Some become junkies instead of socializing. This leads people to judge gamers as closing themselves off from society and real life.
There is also the risk of addiction and mental health issues. Online gaming, especially MMOs and competitive esports, can lead to addiction and mental health issues (Kaye et al., 2017). Online games are immersive and encourage achievement and social recognition, which can lead to compulsive gaming. For instance, people may spend hours leveling up in an MMO or mastering a competitive game, neglecting other areas of their life, and having withdrawal symptoms when they cannot play. This can cause insomnia, poor hygiene, academic or occupational decline, and anxiety or depression. Still, as gamers compete to win and protect their reputation, online gaming can cause tension and frustration. Toxic behaviors, cyberbullying, and gaming community disagreements can harm mental health.
However, online gamers can balance gaming and other elements of life. Thus, these drawbacks are common. It is vital for individuals to adopt particular tactics and for parents and guardians to actively guide their children’s gaming behaviors to minimize online gaming’s downsides. Moderation and game time limitations are important as they promote self-discipline. By setting gaming times and sticking to them, people can limit screen time and maintain a healthy balance between gaming and other activities. For instance, they can restrict gaming to a set number of hours per day or week to avoid interfering with their other activities. Another way to combat internet gaming’s sedentary character is exercise. Sedentary behavior is known to harm health. Therefore, gamers should exercise regularly. They can spare some time for sports, training, and outdoor recreation. Also, walking or doing a physically active pastime between gaming sessions can help people stay healthy (Jing & Mingming, 2021). Still, maintaining real-life friendships is as vital as online gaming. Offline social activities, family and friend time, and face-to-face talks are essential for well-being. Therefore, gamers can avoid social isolation and maintain a balanced social life by establishing virtual and real-world social ties. A person who regularly attends social meetings, participates in community events, or pursues other hobbies and interests can offset the detrimental impacts of excessive online gaming on their social connections. Gaming can cause tension, worry, and addiction, negatively impacting an individual’s health; therefore, players must monitor their emotions and take breaks while gaming. Relaxation, support, and non-gaming mental health activities are essential for a good balance. Reading, listening to music, and practicing mindfulness are all relaxing pastimes.
Parents and guardians also play a great role in helping their children avoid online gaming risks. For instance, they should supervise and advise their kids’ games by enforcing age-appropriate time limits (Warsah et al.,2021). Parents can set gaming session length and frequency based on their child’s age and demands. They can enforce these limits through parental controls on gaming platforms or devices. Parents help their children acquire responsibility and a healthy gaming-life balance by doing so. Promoting a balanced lifestyle is also crucial. Parents should encourage their kids to play other games. For instance, sports, hobbies, arts, and academics can help reduce the risks of excessive gaming by encouraging a well-rounded lifestyle.
In conclusion, community fulfills social requirements and is essential to daily living. Online game communities allow those with a low social confidence to meet others with similar interests. Online games enable users to meet people of different genders, ages, races, and nations. As a result, gamers have numerous companions they can connect with better than those they do not. Anonymous conversation lets gamers express themselves without fear of rejection, and as they get closer, some may meet in person and establish lasting relationships.
On the other hand, online gaming can harm emotional, physical, and social well-being. Therefore, moderation, time limitations, physical activity, real-life social relationships, and mental wellness are needed to counteract the harmful effects of online gaming. Parents can also help by monitoring and regulating their children’s gaming habits, setting age-appropriate time restrictions, supporting a healthy mix of activities, fostering open communication, and leading by example.
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Jing, F., & Mingming, T. (2021, May). Discussion on the improvement of online learning ability of higher vocational college students by online games and the existing problems. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 1915, No. 4, p. 042054). IOP Publishing.
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Kultima, A., & Peltokangas, J. (2019). The Praised, The Loved, The Deplored, The Forgotten: A View into the Wide History of Finnish Games. Tampereen kaupunki. https://trepo.tuni.fi/handle/10024/120127
Lee, Y., Ying-Che Hsieh, Chan, H., & Chen-Hsiang, L. (2018). From virtual worlds to reality. Information Technology & People, 31(2), 557-577.
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Sadeghnia Salakgani, Z., Maleki Pirbazari, M., & Ashournejad, F. (2022). Predicting self-efficacy, Creativity, and Social Skills based on the Components of Online Games Addiction. Journal of Modern Psychology, 1(4), 30-43.
Warsah, I., Uyun, M., Daheri, M., Sutarto, S., Nashori, F., & Morganna, R. (2021). Parenting Styles in Dealing with Children’s Online Gaming Routines. Ilkogretim Online-Elementary Education Online, 20(2), 44-53.