I was recently listening to a podcast by WoWCrendor, and one of the things that I found very interesting was his comment on how video games like WoW are often seen as being ‘unsociable’ behaviour, when activities like movies are seen as a social event even though you don’t interact at all. It’s certainly true that someone sitting alone playing a singleplayer game is not socialising, but I was surprised to hear that social games are tarred with the same brush. Perhaps I’ve never run into this because in my family, video games are almost always played socially. Not just the multiplayer games like Mario Kart, but also singleplayer games; one person will play, while everyone else sits around and watches, giving advice and support (as well as celebration) when relevant. It’s always been a big part of what we do.
Does this not count as socialising? I suppose you could argue that although we’re interacting with each other, we’re interacting around the game – reacting to what’s going on in the story, what the player is doing, and so on. So perhaps not as deep a social interaction as having a normal conversation would be, since then we would be engaging with each other more. But it’s still a great way to have fun together.
Whist most people don’t play singleplayer games socially, there is a massive market for multiplayer games. Of course, multiplayer games don’t necessarily have a lot of social elements; I wouldn’t consider PVPing someone to be socialising with them, and a lot of multiplayer games are based around more individual PVP gameplay, without having a lot of conversation or even communication with team-mates. So that could arguably be unsociable behaviour.
What about games that can have more social elements? WoW is the obvious one to use here, not only because of its size but also because it’s the one that I happen to play. And from my experience, playing individually isn’t exactly sociable – while you’re often surrounded by other players, no-one talks to each other. But playing in a team or with friends is very social, which is why guilds are emphasised so much. I’m currently playing with a friend of mine, and it’s a great way to hang out. Admittedly in dungeons our conversation tends to degrade to something like “Popping cooldown.” “I’ve been knocked back, getting back up…” “I’ve got red! I’ve got red!” (My way of saying I’ve accidently pulled threat, if you’re wandering.) But outside of dungeons, on our way to the next instance, we just chat about stuff. It’s basically hanging out, with additional goals and some teamwork thrown in.
In conclusion, yes, video games can be unsocial, just like nearly every behaviour – but they don’t have to be, and playing almost any game with friends can make it more fun. What do you think? Do you play games socially, or on your own?