The unexpected pandemic changed our lives in so many ways. From losing loved ones and work to affecting how we interact with people, it’s safe to say that no one was prepared for how a serious outbreak could impact the world.

One practice that is certainly not new but has skyrocketed during global lockdowns is online gaming, in all its forms. Stuck indoors, people often had no other source of entertainment than various games that are available on the internet. While we are often bombarded with suggestions that gaming can be harmful to both our physical and mental wellbeing, is it true that there are also positive aspects of this hobby?

Absolutely! In addition to improving our spatial awareness and visual analysis skills, online gaming has also changed the way we socialize. So, what aspects of socialization have been affected by gaming over the internet and how is it making our lives better?

Making communication easier

Once lockdowns were put in place, we were confined to our homes with little to no sources of entertainment. After dabbling in various hobbies and exhausting their Netflix to-watch lists, many people started turning to online gaming. Even those that never had any interest in the activity found themselves looking into all sorts of genres that would help them pass the time.

Soon, people discovered that gaming is not just a way to pass the time but also a great opportunity to ‘meet’ new people and stay in touch with loved ones. As games come in a huge array of options, everything from survival games to racing ones was available to make the days easier and more fun.

So, for instance, some people turned to Fortnite and PUBG. While trying to be the last person or team standing, they were also able to meet new people. However, meeting new people through the chat option of a popular game is nothing new. There are studies dating back to 2007 that showed that people opting for multiplayer online role-playing games found the online game environment fun and encouraging. Moreover, as players often have to work together to reach a certain goal, teamwork is also put into the spotlight, which leads people to form stronger friendships and emotional relationships. Players taking part in MMORPGs often report making life-long friendships and even finding a romantic partner through the game.

Then, there are also AR and VR games that can mimic real-life environments and make gaming even more fun and realistic. For example, there is no need to visit a crowded land-based casino when there are online casino games that individuals can play and experience the glitzy casino atmosphere. With the chat option that many top online casinos offer, it’s easy to get in touch with other players and form new friendships while there are also virtual casinos where all the patrons are actual players from across the globe.

On the other hand, there are many games that people can play with friends and family members that don’t live in the same household. From kart racing games to Pictionary and Monopoly, the game choices abound. There is no need to stop family game nights just because the participants are not in the same place.

While this might be a new way of staying in touch with loved ones, many people believe that they will not stop relying on it even after the pandemic ends seeing as how it is a fun way to spend time with friends and family.

Inspiring change worldwide

However, the pandemic is not the only reason why people turned to online gaming. Many individuals agree that gaming can bridge the various gaps that separate us and help build empathy. Through online gaming, players meet people from all walks of life that they might not have met under any other circumstances. While toxicity and hostility in the world of gaming is a much-debated topic, it still provides an outlet for people of all genders, ages, sexualities, nationalities, backgrounds, and abilities.

With that in mind, creators are doing their best to create a safe space for everyone. For example, in 2015, a London-based gamer Jay-Ann Lopez launched a closed Facebook group called Black Girl Gamers. With the goal of providing women with an inclusive space free of racism and sexism, she built a vibrant community that keeps growing.

Another instance of inspiring change is the game, Salaam. A South Sudanese refugee Lual Mayen developed a game where players live like refugees, look for water, avoid bombs, and journey to a peaceful life. His goal was to make a game that would focus on conflict resolution and peace-building. Moreover, all money made from in-game purchases is donated to refugee charity organizations.

Then, there is Games for Change, a non-profit organization with the mindset that gaming can be a powerful driver for social change. They focus on bringing change to health and wellness and civic and social issues.

Lastly, advocacy groups like AbleGamers are putting players with disabilities into the spotlight and fighting to make their gaming experience just as enjoyable. Developers and publishers have taken note and started creating modified technology that will make gaming for people with accessibility issues more approachable.

With current global circumstances, gaming is not only helping us stay in touch with loved ones, but it also has the ability to change our view of the world and make us more empathetic toward each other.