What comes to mind when you think of the word Gamer? For many years the connotation of the word has conjured images of 15-30 year old men alone in their parents’ basement drinking Mountain Dew and eating Doritos. With the growth of the gaming industry this perception is quickly becoming a relic of the past.
Competitive gaming in particular is leading the charge to shift the mainstream paradigm of what gaming is, a legitimate form of competition, entertainment, and interaction. Many of the misconceptions about gaming and the people who play it are formed through inexperience by people disconnected from the community. If you are one of those people, we are here to help you understand that gaming is more than just entertainment.
What is a Community?
What is one community you are a part of? It could be a church, fanbase, the neighborhood you live in, or the country you were born in. What connects you to this community? Why do you feel attached to it? How does being a part of this community make you feel? Really think about your answers and why you value this community.
Human beings are naturally social beings, and we’ve evolved from tribal ancestors whose survival was dependent on being a part of groups. As a result we search for connections, and become parts of communities.
The communities we are a part of are different in an innumerous ways, but they all share one common trait. They make us feel connected to other people, and something bigger than ourselves.
How is Gaming a Community?
Gaming began as a social event. The first games were found in arcades, where friends would huddled together to see who could achieve the high score. Today multiplayer games have risen to become the most popular form of games on the market, and their popularity is directly related to human’s innate desire for connection. Multiplayer games foster communities in several ways.
The first way games create communities is through cooperative gameplay. Any team based multiplayer game has this element. In Fortnite for example team based game modes like duos, trios, and squads, require multiple players to work together in order to succeed. Players talk to and interact with each other in a virtual environment, but all of the cooperation and teamwork is just as real as two basketball players performing a pick and roll.
Another way games create communities is through common struggles. Destiny is a perfect example of this. Destiny is a looter-shooter where players must complete missions in order to find special loot such as guns and ammo. The quest to find the best guns in the game or complete the most difficult missions allows players to sympathize with each other and form bonds.
The final core method for fostering a community is competition. While it sounds counter-intuitive some of the closest communities are also the most competitive. Michael Jordan beat Charles Barkley in the NBA finals, and yet to this day they are great friends. Competitive ESports allow players to share knowledge, train together, and form long lasting friendships.
Can Real Connections be Formed Online?
The short resounding answer to this question is … YES! Without a doubt friendships that are formed through video games can be just as, if not more strong than connections formed in real life.
The evidence for the strength of online connections can be found in real life. Events like Twitch Con, E3, and the Fortnite World Cup draw massive crowds, and often online friends are able to meet each other in person for the first time.
Gamers spend 7 hours a week on average playing video games. This means online friends are spending a lot of time each week talking and interacting with each other. Some of my closest friends I can only see or talk to every few weeks or months, do it’s easy to see how a strong bond can be formed when there is this much interaction on a regular basis.
What is the Value to Businesses?
Discord has over 150 million monthly active users, and was recently valued at $10 billion. These stats show that gamers are actively seeking communities, and companies are recognizing their value.
Communities have long led to valuable businesses. Fostering passionate communities leads to brand loyalty, and much higher life time value for customers. The biggest advantage of fostering a community is in the value brought to the customer.
Think of the Philadelphia Eagles as an example, one of the most passionate fan bases in the world. A fan of the Eagles will buy merchandise, attend games, watch games on television, and market the Eagles brand to their friends at no charge to the Eagles organization. Why? Because the customer places a gargantuan value on being a part of the Eagles community. They feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and as a result they are willing to do anything to continue being a part of that community. (If you want to see this in action, search YouTube for videos of Philadelphia free the Eagles won the Super Bowl)
When it comes to gaming, this same concept applies. Gaming companies, ESports organizations, accessory companies, and LAN organizers can all foster communities to create immense value to both themselves and the consumer.
What comes to mind when you think of the word gamer? Hopefully this article has helped wash the classic stereotype out of your head, and helped you realize that gamers are just like any other person.
Gamers are people who want to find a community and be a part of something bigger than themselves, and gaming provides them with that community.