A game is an activity that is carried out within certain rules with the aim of solving a challenge, mostly for enjoyment. Video games are electronic games involving interaction between players and user interfaces to generate visual feed backs on video devices (Rabin). In recent times, video games have become highly popular and are played on computers such are the PCs, dedicated video game consoles and even on mobile phones. Online games are games played over a computer network, mostly the internet. These games ranges from text based simple games to the ones involving complicated graphics as well as virtual worlds hosting a number of players simultaneously. Several online games have online communities associated with them which has made online gamming a sort of a social activity. This paper seeks to investigate the importance of interactions within online gamming communities.
History of video games
According to Rabin, the earliest video game was by Thomas T.Goldsmith Jr. in 1947 which was an analogue amusement device in form of a cathode ray tube. Other examples of video games include: OXO by Alexander S. Dauglas in 1952, Tennis for two by William Higinbotham in 1958 and Spacewar by Graetz, Wiitanen and Russell in 1961. Amongst the first commercially sold video games were; Computer space by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1971 and Magnavox Odeysey by Ralph H. Baer in 1972.
According to Hand, 65per cent of US households play video games. Out of these, 40 per cent are females. 25 per cent of the players are below the age of 18 while 26 percent are aged above 50. 49 percent of video gamers fall between the age of 18 and 49. On average, gamers spent 18 hours per week playing video games.
Benefits of playing video games
Rudon argues that playing video games has the following benefits:
Online gamming communities are formed based on participation on massively multiplayer online games (MMOG)
According to gameogre.com, the following are some of the top 10 online games based on review scores: Tales Runner, Halo 2, Wheel of Time MUD, Star Craft, Splash Fighters, Guild Wars, Nightfall, Ether saga, Dragon Oath, Albertross 18 and Fiesta. But when it comes to gaming communities, the five most popular gaming communities according to Ure are:
Counter Strike, RuneScape, World of Warcraft, the Sims and Halo. According to Hand, as at July 2010, the world of warcraft had an online community of over 9million members.
According to a study by the University of Jyvaskyla, multi player online games encourage high level of interaction between players within a community. Players may need to collaborate with other players as a prerequisite for progressing in a game. Players may also need to compete amongst other players in a community. The study revealed social interaction as a motive in playing multiplayer games. This interaction was seen to sometimes end up in social relationships which were long lasting. There is communication between two players in a community or even between the whole groups. This is supported using sound, image and text tools. In addition community members interact through email, phone or even face to face. The social networks and relationships which are the basis of these gamming communities survive even after a community is disbanded.
The University of Twente, Netherlands, revealed in a study that virtual interactions has an opportunity of gathering like minded and also dissimilar people who would not meet in real world. This opens up endless possibilities for collaboration, creativity and learning. (inderscience). Multiplayer games encourage team work amongst players in a community. Taking up tasks and roles such as that of offering protection to colleagues and repairing of damages caused by enemies in an online game, encourages working together as well as teaching teamwork skills.
World of Date craft is a website for Gamers of world of war craft to meet and date singles online. The site that serves the world of warcraft gammers community has 9million players and fans of the game looking for a date. Many of these people meet go on a date and end up in meaningful relationships (Anton).
A study carried out by the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology revealed that members identify with online communities as much as they identify with their offline hobby groups or neighborhood groups. The survey was carried out based on 4299 respondents drawn from UK, Japan and Spain. The results yielded by all these three nationalities were similar. According to the study, online gaming peer groups are fundamental for adolescent's identity and values development. The online groups stand in for traditional peer groups that are weakening in developed countries. Online gaming groups act as steadfast psychological anchoring points for the benefit of the members. Social networking sites, games and the other online hangouts are important for youths' socialization and identification experiences. The study also revealed that in information societies which are relatively young such as Spain, online communities more often consist of virtual communities mostly consisting of relative strangers. However, in mature information societies like in the case of Japan, online communities were also more keen with keeping in constant touch with friends and family. This was seen to influence the experiences received by youths from virtual groups in different countries.
In a study, the University of Illinois showed that online games promote new world views and sociability. The massively multiplayer online videogames functions as virtual coffee joints and not as solitary dungeon units as it is generally assumed. Online gaming communities provide social interaction opportunities and relations else where than home and the workplace. These communities function just like a hangout for the old. 'Third places' is a term used to refer to a physical place beyond home and the workplace. Online spaces like the ones that exist in massively multiplayer online gaming communities, acts as third places where informal sociability takes place. Through self-created digital avatars, online gaming communities interact with the game software as well as with the other players in the community therefore establishing 'status solidarity' relationships. The players are engaged in multiple conversations in real-time with other players via voice and text. Therefore, MMOs game play is not just about solitary interaction of a person with the game but is rather a platform where long useful relationships can be found. Participating in these virtual third places enables people from all economic-social classes to freely interact, something that would be difficult to forge in real world.
Video games have been played since 1947 and have developed overtime both in complexity and following. The development of video games Is closely related to technological development especially in the area of internet. Massively multiplayer online games such as the World of Warcraft and Halo have online gaming communities associated with them. These communities interact amongst themselves as they play. This interaction has formed a basis through which useful skills and strong relationships have been developed between members. These skills include team work and interpersonal skills.
Arguing that massively multiplayer online game play is an isolated and passive consumption of media taking the place of informal socialization engagements ignores the fact about the interactions that actually take place within gaming communities. Strong relationships can actually be formed behind computer screens. However, online spaces are not a one-size-fit-all feature that can be termed as simply 'bad' or 'good'. Heavy online game play may not be good in the short term for those who are after strong connections because it could occupy the place of tight offline relationships. However, the bottom line is that online gaming communities impact the lives of the members by enabling them gain invaluable skills and social engagements.