Video games are very popular and have been that way for some time. Since the days of video arcades and home game consoles, players have been choosing this activity as a pastime and as a form of entertainment. With the introduction of the internet, video games and its appeal has reached new audiences and have become extremely popular and almost a way of life. Insafe website states that in recent years, online gaming has become big business and many games have a huge following (Insafe).
With so many video game communities and many games to choose from, it is important to identify the type of communities available on these sites. Players can choose from single player games, to massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) and massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPGs). The number of users available at any time can vary, but users would be able to play at any time of the day and in any group they choose.
In the video gaming world there are several ‘gaming’ communities, where individuals can play a variety of games. To give some examples, Insafe states that Farmville – a popular social game on Facebook, claimed 11.5 million active users within two months of launch and today has 37 million likes. Likewise, World of Warcraft (WoW) – one of the best-known MMORPGs – has around 10 million subscribers” (Insafe). These numbers show the popularity of online video games, however what makes these games even more popular with its users, are the video game communities and interaction between the users.
These communities allow the users to participate in online competitions, matches and interact with a variety of others across the country, to share a game they love. Many individuals enjoy playing in online video game communities because they feel empowered and they can reach a large number of people. According to Stuart “game communities are empowering. For lonely kids growing up in big schools crammed with sports stars and bullies, they are a means of making friends and becoming a part of something exciting and fulfilling” (Stuart). These online gaming communities offer much more than just games, to some they offer a way to form friendships and transform players from the real world into a fantasy world.
Videogame communities also allow users to become whoever they want online. They can take their passion for their favorite game and transcend that to either play with multiple players or play by themselves, or against the computer. Stuart states that “online games remove our physical identity, and all the traumas and inhibitions that come with it; everybody starts equal, everyone is judged on their contribution” (Stuart). Everyone is equal online and users therefore feel a sense of empowerment.
The number of online video gaming sites is overwhelming. However, some of the more popular communities include websites like: Games.com, All Games.com, Second Life, Gathering of Gamers and Fragged Nation. These websites offer many games for users and a variety of gaming community perks. Some of the websites and its online communities are reviewed below.
Games.com is by far the most popular of all of the online video gaming communities. This site offers several games including online poker, puzzles, board games, racing games and warfare/battlefield games. The website offers free online games as well as paid games. They offer tips and articles for their users after a short registration process. Users can enjoy competing with players from all around the world and playing just about every game they can think of on this site.
AllGames.com has a vast amount of games available for online playing. The community tab is extensive as well. Players can register for access and also sign up for group and single tournaments. The community offers a user forum for players to leave feedback, attend live podcasts and to offer gaming tips.
The Second Life community boasts that a realistic 3D world where the entire world has been created by its users. The sight has a large global community where users can connect with others, trade ideas and offer advice on what should be included in the virtual world. This site is very popular with people who like virtual fantasy and like to create and build new things.
Gathering of Gamers is a website dedicated to its users as opposed to just providing video games. It is dedicated entirely to its community of users and wants their users to feel safe. The site states that they want to dispel the unfair stereotypes of video gamers and give their users a place to come and have fun. They also offer users “the opportunity to share [their] experiences with a dedicated gaming community of people around the world or around the block” (Gathering of Gamers). The website allows users to feel more like a family, instead of random game players. They allow users to share photos, videos, and personal stories on their community page.
Fragged Nation lets players come together in a controlled community environment regardless of skill level or ability. They pride themselves on being a cheat free site and stress their online community rules to their users. The site boasts over 170,000 gamers and is vying for the top spot for online video gaming. The community support for this website is vast and there are many categories for users. They can ask questions, suggest site edits, show off their graphic skills and compete in an unprecedented amount of gaming activities.
According to Stuart, “the history of the games industry is, ironically, not about industry in a lot of ways – it is about community. It was the culture that grew up around arcades in the early 80s that cemented the sense of electronic gaming as a pastime (Stuart). The arcade has now been replaced by the video game and they are very popular indeed. People who consider themselves “gamers” or people who enjoy playing video games are usually tied into their online personas and communities. They enjoy interacting with other gamers and like the challenge of playing against people all over the country.
Many players enjoy online gaming communities and take on the personas of the games that they are playing. According to Suddaby “a person's behavior, online or off, is directly influenced by their surroundings. This concept can be applied to gamers in online communities” (Suddaby). The games can directly influences positive or negative behaviors and therefore should be played in moderation.
It is essential to recognize that there are some risks associated with video game communities. Some of these issues include age appropriate content, privacy issues, addictions concerns and overall health and wellness. Age appropriateness is a major concern for many video game communities due to the content on the site. Some websites rate their game content based on age, however it is easy for children and teens to change their birthdate to appear older in order to access age prohibited content. Some of the questionable content might include harsh language, cyber bullying and sexually or graphic related images. Parents must be careful to monitor their children and teens internet usage on these online video game sites.
With any online websites privacy is always a concern for users. Insafe suggests users to “keep their personal information private, play using a nickname and avatar rather than their real name or photograph and keep their passwords secure” (Insafe). It is very easy for video game users to become excited about the games they are playing and the sense of community and friendships online, and reveal too much information about themselves. User must be sure to use their instinct and not share or compromise their information. Revealing too much information in online communities could result in identify theft or profile
It is important for gamers to maintain a sense of reality and not to become too distracted or attached to their online video games. Insafe states that “there are concerns that online gaming may have addictive tendencies, with players being distracted from regular every-day activities” (Insafe) in place of their online activities. Users might become involved with getting to the next level of a game or beating a high score, and begin to let activities in their real lives become lax. Users could be overwhelmed with the vast amount of games available, and begin to spend countless hours online and forego real life physical relationships for their online friendships created in these videogame communities. There is also an overall health and wellness concern; as users may develop insomnia, migraines from constant hours at the computer screen or experience a feeling of defeat if they are unable to advance to the next level.
Video game communities are definitely a great form of entertainment and a good way to make friends. There are countless websites that provides popular games and user forums. The video game community enjoys their independence and the ability to role play and step outside of every reality; into a world of fantasy, excitement and anonymity. It is important however to take precautions when using these online systems and enjoy the games accordingly. Stuart confirms that “online games provide a playful space, unmediated by the social rules that clutter bars and clubs (Stuart), and for some people that is the appeal. The video game community prides itself on being fair and open; they allow anyone to play on the site and welcome gamers all across the country, regardless of age, race or social status.
"About the Gathering of Gamers." Gathering of Gamers. Jet Set Studio. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
"Online Gaming." Insafe. The European Union. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
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Suddaby, Paul. "Why Some Games Have Positive Online Communities and Others Don't - Tuts
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