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reality is broken

Gaming Social and Hierarchy

With the current trend of MMO games there are millions of people all playing online together in order to achieve their own individual goals as well as compete against one another. The idea one playing “alone together” was created which was the idea that in this vast social environment that most players preferred to participate in solo activities as opposed to playing directly with other players.  This trend was found to exist in World of Warcraft where the majority of players spend 70% of their time without interacting with others after an eight month survey that McGonigal talked about.  She then mentioned a blog of a WoW player that said that they preferred to have others around although they were not directly participating directly with these players.  She stated that from time to time she would help someone but for the most part she just enjoyed watching them interacting from spectator’s stand point.  Game researchers have dubbed this action as Ambient Sociability which means that the player is within a social environment without interacting directly in it.  A real world example could be someone who goes to the local coffee shop to read or study.  They would like to be around others but are not looking to directly interact with anyone in particular.

A game researcher Nicole Lazzaro researched this precise phenomenon as well as other social gaming issues.  Using McGonigal’s definitions of introverts and extroverts, introverts being ones who are more sensitive to social interactions (external stimulus) and can quickly become burnt out when placed in a social situation and extroverts who are more responsive to social interaction therefore thrive in social environments.  She states that these ambient social gaming situations can actually help introverts to slowly become more acclimated to this kind of stimulus.  They also can find these kinds of situations more rewarding and can lead to a more social outlook with this new heightened confidence.  Since extroverts are considered to be happier due to them being more social and more willing to interact with others this theory of gaming allowing introverts an opportunity to build up a taste for social interaction would make introverts happier.

One potential issue that has not been covered yet is the fact that gaming communities can create a world where a player can succeed where that may not be true in their real life.  It can be viewed in popular shows and movies where a gamer is rejected at school or at home but once they start playing they become someone that others admire and adore.  They are the king of the hill within the game community but have failed to succeed so far in other social situations leaving them to pull away from real life and delve deeper into gaming life.  I am sure that the player who is ranked first in any of the modern games COD or Halo is in some ways admired by their peers where this may not be true in the other parts of their lives.  Conversely do the people ranked in the millions and adored by no other gamers have great social lives outside of the games?  Also can the top ranked player get a false sense of self-worth and are shocked to not be respected outside of gaming circles, or do they apply this tenacity and skill to all of their ventures?

I try to take the policy of “everything in moderation” and play for the enjoyment of it as well as to get better than my friends.  “There can be only one Highlander”



5 thoughts on “Gaming Social and Hierarchy

  1. I think you ask an interesting question in seeking the connection between success as a video game player and success elsewhere. Certainly our cultural conceit is that expert game players live in the mom’s basements and are failures both socially and professionally. Is this stereotype accurate? That’s a question to research, I’d say. McGonigal suggests that playing videogames one hour a day improves mental health and makes one more productive, but that’s very different from devoting the time it takes to become truly expert.

    There are two questions here as I see it. 1) Are the skills or talents that drive success at video games also the basis of success in other walks fo life? 2) Does one develop metacognitive abilities (i.e. cognitive abilities that can be generalized to other tasks) through game play? To some extent the answers might depend on the games that are played.

    Posted by Alex Reid | May 23, 2013, 9:24 am
  2. While I certainly feel I maintain a sense of bias towards gamers, seeing many of them as loners or playing in very small groups of friends also categorized as loners, I think it is important to consider gaming as a hobby, like any other hobby (playing guitar, working out, cooking, etc). Using this lens for reading “Reality is Broken” complicates the question of who video gamers really are and what their social life is really like. Why do we consider gamers to be loners, but dancers are revered for their talents/hobby? While knitting may be seen as a ‘grandma’ activity, I do not think most people think of knitters as loners, isolated in their basements. So, I have to ask, what makes gamers different? Why does the word ‘gamer’ have such a negative connotation in mass culture/media, while ‘musician’ does not? Most hobbies are in some way very isolating as they require significant time, energy, and emotion. Doing a hobby takes time away from, perhaps, more social activities. I am unsure of the answer, but I feel that it might have something to do with the virtual, or ‘strange’ (made of strangers) community of gaming. It is isolation from ‘real world’ communities, but immersion in virtual ones. I think this is an interesting topic to consider, and it may affect the success or failure of McGonigal’s proposition. I mean, stereotypes do start from a grain of truth.

    Posted by emmajani | May 23, 2013, 11:15 am
    • thanks for the great comment and your insight into the way gamers are viewed as compared to other hobbies.

      I think this may be due to the separation in the generations that exist now. The group that had grown up with video games and technology and those who have not. As the years pass it will turn into which generation of tech someone grew up with but until then many of the older generations look at people who play these greatly emersive games as someone who is trying to escape reality. This may be where the idea of gaming being viewed as a negative hobby as opposed to activities that are more tangible and have been around for centuries such as playing music and knitting. Also musicians and most other practiced hobbies can be observed by others with awe and for entertainment where most would not watch someone play a game and be amazed without being a gamer themselves.

      Posted by diomazurek | May 25, 2013, 10:57 am
  3. I really like the reference you make to Ambient Sociability, as well as the explanation you give and the real world example you use: that “the player is within a social environment without interacting directly in it”– very interesting notion. I’ve always wondered what our fascination was with “people-watching.” I can really see how the idea of being part of a social world without actually interacting directly in it can play into video games, or especially social media games. Nice insight.

    Posted by jowz24 | May 23, 2013, 8:52 pm
    • Thank you for the compliment.

      yeah, people watching is pretty great but this can only be due to the great variation in humanity that a global transportation system and communication has developed.

      Posted by diomazurek | May 25, 2013, 11:05 am

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