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Does Social Gaming Have a Place in Youth’s Development?

Can social gaming actually improve your life? This is an age-old dilemma. As long as we have had video games, there have been concerns and often-unsubstantiated claims regarding the mental health impact that they have on players. Proponents of these statements often point to outdated and early-stage studies that suggest people who sit alone in a dark room playing video games alone for several hours each day are more prone to isolation, depression and even violence. While I am not here to refute those claims, I am here to challenge the notion that this image is representative of the typical gamer.

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The gaming world of 2019 is a far cry from what it looked like in 1972, when the first video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, was released. In fact, the gaming industry has changed dramatically every decade or less, quickly transforming into the socially-based machine we see today. Every single console available these days is connected to the internet (obviously), and has its own social gaming network. Adding your buddies’ gamertags is a quick and convenient way to follow which games are popular among your friends (which allows you to discover them for yourself) and acts as a single-button method to join your friends in a game you both own. The focus that is given to these social platforms within gaming consoles and applications (PC’s Steam, for example) offers a stark contrast to the ‘lone gamer’ portrayal often propagated by those who see gaming as a vice rather than a tool.

Just as sitting down at a poker table in a casino forces you to interact with other people (check out this mohegan sun casino review if those are more your style!) and in fact rewards those who are more-socially adept with advantages in reading body language, getting into the head of your opponents and possibly even throwing them off their own game, logging into a competitive, online video game forces you to interact and co-operate with total strangers whose only commonality is the shared goal of victory.

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Applications like Discord enable players to communicate in real-time through voice and text with their friends while gaming.

This may seem like a trivial comparison, but in fact there have been many studies showing the benefits of interacting with social gaming. It is important to note that any type of communication that becomes abusive will be counter-productive and should be both avoided and taken seriously. We should not make the mistake, however, of thinking this type of behaviour is limited to gaming, as bullying and verbal abuse have been present in society long before the internet.

A study from 2018 found that even now, roughly two-thirds of children play video games face-to-face with friends, versus 25% who play solely with their friends online. This suggest that kids are actually using video games as a channel to create social interaction, rather than hide from it. It is understandable to see reluctance and confusion from previous generations who did now grow up with this as an option, as from the outside it can be a counter-intuitive process. While it is still crucial for parents to monitor their kids’ online presence it is just as important to allow them to have one, as denying them this interaction can actually hinder their social circles and cause the very problems that parents are aiming to prevent.

 

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