“Teenage boys in their parents’ basement.” This is the long-time stereotype of The Gamer. Leaving aside the age and gender limitations of the first part, “in their parents’ basement” is just as limiting. This suggests these gamers, without jobs and clearly not successful, are alone in their endeavors.
They are not.
Gaming has become, through multiplayer mode, party games and the internet, a very social pastime. Yes, these boys and girls, men and women might seem alone, sitting at their computer desks or staring at the television screen. They may even seem so absorbed in what’s happening in those places they appear in another world. Well, they kind of are: the world of group play.
Games are so varied in style, scope and subject matter that nearly anyone can find a game that appeals, as well as other people to whom that game appeals. These people of similar tastes converse first about the game in a variety of ways, in game and out – voice chat, text chat, forums – creating a simple, working bond, like that of co-workers.
But over time, these relationships grow, people become comfortable and the topics of conversation venture outside of the game at hand. These multiplayer acquaintances discuss their jobs, their families, their other friends. And how is this conversation, how is this friendship any different from a friendship carried on by long-distance friends who chat on the phone? Just because those long-distance friends may have at one point shared a geographic closeness allowing the occasional meeting for coffee, does that mean the friendship is somehow more real, more meaningful?
And does not playing a game, adventuring in the same world, testing skills in the same map, passing a plastic guitar back and forth constitute a similar shared experience that feeds the basis of Real Friendship? The landscape of friendships and communities is changing rapidly. These new friendships would never have been formed without games. These support groups would never have been fashioned without group play. And to celebrate these new changes, this week’s issue of The Escapist discusses Group Play. Enjoy!