The Internet has changed gaming in so many ways over the past 15 years. Prior to 1999 the majority of social gaming took place in your house with a bunch of friends on a big screen TV playing games that either allowed everyone to share a portion of the screen real estate ( Yes 4 player split screen games existed back then) or had alternating player options and everyone took turns.
Xbox Live took console players in a whole new realm ( PC players have enjoyed online gaming for decades before) and no longer did you need to pull yourself out of your bedroom/living room to play with your friends. While this has opened up a world of possibilities for game developers to connect gamers through the games they create there has been somewhat of a backlash that has descended upon the console gaming community in recent years.
When I first started gaming during the early Xbox 360/ PS3 era of gaming ( 2006-2009); the ability to talk to other people while playing multiplayer games was a VERY cool thing. This in fact led to me making many new online friends and opening myself up to trying different gaming experiences I wouldn’t normally have allowed. My first experiences with Military shooters was in fact with G.R.A.W on Xbox 360 when that game launched back in 2006 and my enjoyment of the game came mostly out of the ability to communicate with my squad mates and the lobby participants.
I was however not oblivious to the dangers of indulging in an ONLINE ONLY gaming experience and that was what spurred me to open my very own Game Centre here in my home town of Victoria B.C. I wanted to show gamers that SOCIAL gaming was not about connecting in a virtual obby but rather making real connections in the same space and sharing victories ( and losses) with someone sitting beside you. EVO Games was a labour of love for me and was a HUGE success in that I successfully blended traditional Arcade sensibilities in a time when ONLINE gaming was the defacto standard.
I closed EVO Games down in 2012 and while that is a story unto itself I can say that thing I miss most about it is the interactions I had while gaming on a saturday night.
You may be asking ” Whats wrong Dwayne? You can still connect with gamers via Xbox Live !”t I still have all the tools imaginable to connect with friends and others ; heck I can even stream myself for the entire world to watch if I want. Why is it then that on most nights when I pick up the controller and log into Destiny and or my FPS de jour , I am greeted with dead air on the other end of the mic even though we have a full lobby of players ?
I am going to list some pointers on how you can inject some Social into your Gaming the next time you fire up a multiplayer game.
Revisit your Friends List
With current Gen systems we now have the option for a massive friends list ( Who in this world even has 1000-2000 FRIENDS!!!????). The downside to this is that with space no longer a barrier we may be inclined to just add anyone you come across to your friends list. This results in a bloated Friends List and you still log on an start playing a game only to find that no one is playing the game you are and or you cant remember who they where because you added them after a few matches on COD one night and don’t remember why( Scary parallels to meeting a girl at a bar after a long night of drinking/clubbing).
Revisit your friends list and dont be afraid to slim it down and really think hard about who you game with and why they are on your list. This is important for the next step.
Dig out your headset and use it
It still amazes me when I talk to people who are playing online games yet do not use/wear any kind of chatting headset. I am convinced that those gamers are self conscious or either completely oblivious to the level of enjoyment that comes with communicating with another human being when playing video games.
If your console bundle didnt come with a headset I highly recommend you go buy one. Overcome any issues you may have about looking funny with a gaming headset ( My wife made fun of me for years until I went and got a badass pair of Trittons that make me look like a air traffic controler …..what am I saying..she still makes fun of me lol). Just because you have your headset on doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone since you can pretty much mute any player you want during your game.
Take some small steps to becoming Social
Its all starts with a simple ” Hello”. The next game session you have with any game that puts you into a public lobby or match, take the time to say that one word. I usually do it when the match first starts and the teams have been locked. I occasionally get lucky and a player on my team will reply. Barring him being a complete jerk and you immediately move to MUTE him/her you should have a new friend at least for the duration of the match your in. Most of he time you will find that people don’t talk because they themselves are a little shy and aren’t willing to take the first step to connecting with other players. Dont worry; no one is going to shoot you down for saying ” Hello” but just in case make sure you have a good back up pick up line waiting for those rare players who play hard to get! If the game your playing keeps your lobby together as the matches roll on then even better. If you have a enjoyable gaming session with this person maybe consider adding him/her permanently.
Online gaming has such a negative stigma an like I said it now is in the middle of a a backlash from within. Gamers who once where thrilled at the idea of connecting with others via in game chatting now are turning that option off in favour of silence. This is mostly due to a community of immature gamers who spew nothing but threats, racial slurs and creative comments about your mother. Having put up with that for almost a decade of gaming Ill even admit that I am tempted most night to go “Radio Silent” but if the trade off is closing the door on a more ” connected” gaming session; well…I think Ill chance running into a few “Dude Bros” on my journey to put the Social back into my game.
Dwayne “EVO Knight” Morash