Online gaming can help us maintain relationships while social distancing

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

With the COVID-19 pandemic reaching its heights in recent days, we’ve had to relearn how we communicate with one another.

Before, we’d meet with friends or family in person. Now, people are scheduling meetings over Facetime, or Zoom, or any other number of utilities that allow for not only a voice but a face to go along with it.

Gamers are no exception. Online gaming was a term regulated solely to video games, but it is steadily growing, and more people rely on it to experience their hobbies in new ways. It’s not just video games but also card and board game enthusiasts, too.

Now more than ever, gamers are finding new ways to continue to enjoy their interests with friends. Online gaming used to have a very specific framework: a group of friends working towards a common collective goal or a competitive one. It’s a familiar experience for so many people who’ve played online games since the early days of the internet.

But now this definition is expanding. With social distancing forcing us apart physically, many others turn towards online outlets to continue that sense of community and enjoyment. They seek to not just communicate with one another but to continue to share experiences together.

Video games have historically had the best framework for this engagement. MMOs like World of Warcraft not only require players to meet in-game, but it also has built-in voice chat. Likewise, effective communication is key in games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Even with more casual games like Animal Crossing, friends move to social media to share their islands or to visit one another and see what they’ve made.

On the whole, this was still not fully mainstream. But necessity has bridged out towards the more central need of community, even if by virtual means. Discord, Zoom, Skype, and even Facebook are used to plan online get-togethers and meet all new friends; many of these have built-in options to replicate the tabletop experience – from maps to dice rollers and more.

A new normal

But it doesn’t end there. Now you hear about groups of friends who set up online methods to continue their scheduled tabletop roleplay or board games. Applications like Roll20 have existed for a while and now are seeing greater use than ever before. These offer a respite against the solitude of social distancing, especially for those who live alone.

In a time when we are forced apart in a way none of us could have imagined – let alone experienced – we see an adaptation to continue the familiar. The ways that we are reaching out might have seemed like a novelty before, but they are becoming more relied upon.

Online gaming shows us that the ties of a community can go far beyond what is familiar to us. We can find those who share our interests in the next town, state, and even in other countries. It can show us that the bonds we share can be greater than a few feet, with a few simple clicks. 

Social distancing has certainly kept us apart. However, online gaming has shown that we can still be closer than ever, even at home.

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