Video games are fast shedding their reputation of being a solitary activity that isolates people from the real world. They’ve become much more than mere entertainment and can be a powerful tool for social connection.
It’s a way for people to deal with frustration (because pummeling a tree in Minecraft can feel so good!). People who have to endure dull-as-ditchwater real lives can escape into a world where people revere their skills. Players who live in remote locations can connect with people in large population centers. Digital play is seeing increased uptake as a socialization aid for autism.
Minecraft is one of the games that show how video games can help players communicate, collaborate, create, empathize, and befriend others. But even innocuous games can have drawbacks that should be addressed by players themselves or by their parents or guardians. For example, using a Minecraft VPN helps gamers to protect themselves without detracting from the game.
Some of the confirmed social benefits of gaming
● Develops communication skills: Gaming communities are multinational. They include people from every imaginable culture, background, religion, and social standing. Players on global servers may be thrust into situations where they need diplomacy, tact, and an engaging communication style to survive.
● Compliance with expected behavioral standards: Players show various online behavior. Some are super-aggressive and competitive. Others are far more compassionate. For that reason, players tend to move around in-game, sometimes changing servers until they find an environment where they fit in.
● Encourages empathy and acceptance: Players encounter people with first-hand experience of real-world issues such as environmental issues or social justice. Empathy fosters respect and understanding, which is important in today’s global remote working environment.
● Friendship, belonging, and support: Players can choose to play with their real-life friends, but they also make new friends online. Friendships provide indisputable emotional and mental benefits.
● A platform for the socialization process: Socialization is the process of internalizing the norms and ideologies of society. It’s how society attains social and cultural continuity. Physically isolated (because they live in remote areas) or socially isolated (like bullied teenagers) individuals can find a new purpose in online communities. They can build new social identities and find redemption online. At the same time, the benefits of online socialization can prove valuable in real-life situations.
● Sense of community: Gamers come from all age groups and generations, especially in games that have been around for as long as Minecraft has. Sometimes, parents introduce their kids to gaming or vice versa. It’s not unusual for players from different generations to join up for special team forays.
● Teamwork and collaborative skills: Gaming provides opportunities for players or teams to work together to build structures, explore new areas, or complete challenges. Collaboration and teamwork skills are necessary for anyone venturing into the global labor market.
● Fosters creativity: Players can express themselves by building anything from farms, houses, businesses, empires, or spaceships. They can also reinvent their appearance, use mods to boost their unique identity, or use new features to create individual mini-games. Creativity boosts self-confidence in real-life.
Some of the risks of video gaming
Despite the long benefits, video games also have some potential risks. Some of them are simply due to the technology used to connect people worldwide.
● Technological or cyber-risks: Players must connect to the internet, join gaming servers, and communicate via in-game chat or external platforms like Discord or Skype. But no one should ever connect to the internet without taking basic precautions against cyber risks. Even innocuous games like Minecraft harbor people with sinister intentions, and players should use a Minecraft VPN to protect against hacking and malware.
● Video games can be addictive: Players who spend too much time immersed in games may show a deterioration in physical and mental health, real-life relationships, and academic performance.
● Cyberbullying: Just as video games can provide an escape platform for vulnerable people, they can also be a source of cyberbullying or harassment. Gamers may encounter abusive language, threats, and insults and can experience stress, anxiety, or depression.
● Privacy: Gamers build close relationships with strangers, some of whom may have criminal intentions. It’s best to limit sharing of personal information online because privacy breaches can lead to imposter scams, identity theft, fraud, or blackmail.
The social benefits of games outweigh most of the risks
The social benefits of online gaming are numerous and usually outweigh the risks. Gamers who limit their gaming time and balance it with other hobbies and interests find it easy to translate their online communication skills to enhance real-life situations.
But vulnerable players should be aware of the possibility that they may encounter cyberbullying and should seek help from trusted adults or peers. And all players should take basic precautions against cybercrime and loss of privacy. Always protect personal information and data by using strong passwords, privacy settings, a VPN, and antivirus software.