Video Games have been a consistency amongst our culture for a long time now. Their potential is limitless in what they can do for people. For some, they prove to be a welcome escape from work or school. After a tiring day, it’s a reward to jump into another world, be it 1900s outlaw country in Red Dead Redemption II, or fantastical experiences like the Assassin’s Creed Series. Some others use it to connect with their friends and have a good time. These games come in great variety, like the PC MOBA game League of Legends, or the tactical shooter Rainbow Six: Siege. It is this connection that is quite incredible, and an often-unrealized aspect of video games that makes gaming sometimes an unforgettable experience. Some people enter a game and find friends for life, sometimes, love. Others enter into a single-player narrative and come out wholly different, better men or women. Stories like the ones that are below show proof that gaming can really bring us all together, sometimes in completely unexpected ways.
Adventures in Warcraft, and eventually, romance
It comes as no surprise that the biggest connections in gaming stem from MMO’s like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, or EVE Online. The acronym massively multiplayer online is placed onto these games for a reason. These games encourage interaction and communication, and often times make friends out of completely random situations.
That was the case of Brittany, or “Brittmunch”. She’d been a gamer since she was young, starting off with the NES and Sega Genesis. As she dealt with anxiety since birth, video games have always been a safe place for her to unwind and relax. Being able to communicate and interact with people while being in the safety of her own home has done wonders for her. She admits that sometimes, “I feel more at home behind a screen than in person.” As she grew older, she joined with the growing fads of the time, and in 2006, it was the current gaming sensation, World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft was and still is one of the most famous games of all time. Created by Blizzard Entertainment, Warcraft popularized the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) genre in the western world. The game itself is synonymous with high fantasy games and has set many standards for RPG’s that many other games have strived to reach in the future. The game itself used to occupy so much space in the MMORPG world that it occupied a staggering 62 percent of the MMO market during its heyday. Ask any person who has played, or currently plays video games, and they will have either played, or know someone who’s played. In Brittany’s case, it was her friend who got her into Warcraft. She’d made an account already and urged Brittany to take a chance. It was then she logged in, made a human warlock, and “never looked back.”
Moving forward several years, and Brittany is already knee-deep into the world of Azeroth. Part of WoW is finding a guild (it’s quite a big deal, as it helps players group up for activities), and while she and her friend were looking for a while, they had no luck. So, they did the next best thing and created one. Naming their guild “Of the Shire” to reflect their love of Lord of The Rings, they patiently waited for fresh recruits to fill their ranks. For a couple of weeks, however, no one joined. That was fine for Brittany and her friend, who were content with the three of them (Her friend’s SO was also part of the guild). Late one night, however, Brittany’s friend squealed with delight, telling Brittany the good news.
“Brittany! Someone actually signed up to join our clan!”
It was a level 90 Druid with the username Neanderthal. Both were excited at seeing that a max-leveled player had decided to join their guild. In order to get to know each other, the guild spent several hours running dungeons. When questioned about why he joined their clan, the Druid replied saying that he loved the movies. His name was Chad, and he was going to change Brittany’s life for the better.
Warcraft gave her an activity that she could do with her new-found friend. They talked about music, life, and everything in between while they slew monsters and went on quests together. Brittany’s friend could tell something was going on and let the two people grow closer and closer. Her curiosity got the better of her, and she stalked this mysterious druid on Facebook. Her first thoughts were immediately one of disappointment. It wasn’t that he didn’t look good. It was that he looked too good.
Brittany states that the moment she saw him, her immediate thoughts were, “He’s out of my league.”
She didn’t think that someone like him would ever be interested. However, she knew that she liked this man, and she had a sneaking suspicion that he liked her too, and Brittany decided to take a leap of faith. As it turns out, he was not in fact, out of her league.
Within two months of them becoming Facebook friends, the two were meeting up in real life. She was incredibly nervous. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. He could have been different in real life, they may not have meshed as well, there were a host of problems and anxieties that were racing through Brittany’s head. However, as she finally met him (closely followed by his young sister, who also played WoW with them), her fears melted away. They moved in a month later, and as the saying goes, lived happily ever after. Just several weeks ago, they celebrated their 4-year anniversary.
Brittany hasn’t stopped playing video games since meeting Chad either. They’ve delved into various other markets, like Guild Wars 2, Diablo, Hearthstone¸ and a plethora of console games. She’s met more friends on Warcraft and is aiming to meet them in a couple of months as well. The one constant in her life, however, is Chad. They continue to take on problems in the game and in life together.
When Brittany first entered into video games, she could never have imagined meeting a great friend, let alone the love of her life while playing. She and Chad show that for all the unfortunate incidents that are popularized by the media, there are really positive stories out there. Without WoW, she may have never found him, and Brittany affirmatively states that “I don’t dare to consider where I would be right now if he hadn’t found me.”
Friendship, across Land and Sea
Our next story features Justin, a 20-year-old from Hong Kong, currently studying in the United States. He’s a veritable veteran of the gaming and loves everything from single-player experiences like the recently released Red Dead Redemption 2 to multiplayer focused games like the Call of Duty series. He’s been playing games since he was a child, surfing around on free browser game sites before graduating to Metal Slug 3, one of the original shoot-em-up games. Afterwards, he moved on to consoles like the XBOX 360, then finally settling on computers and his current game, League of Legends. However, the reason he loves League isn’t because of the normal reasons (although he likes it for the simple reasons too!). Rather, he loves it because it has given him some incredible memories, along with allowing him to remain connected to his friends back home.
For some context, League of Legends is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game that has been one of the most popular titles in history. (See a retrospective here) As of 2016, the game boasts over 100 million active players worldwide. Their recent world championship, seen by many as the most exciting and unpredictable worlds competition ever drew more viewership than the super bowl. Since it’s release, League has dominated the PC player base, and it continues to stand strong among gaming giants. For Justin however, League of Legends proved to be more than just a game.
When Justin first arrived in the States for college, it wasn’t easy for him to make friends. Coming from another continent, the cultural differences and barriers proved to be quite an obstacle to overcome. However, League remained a place where he could relax, and make friends without worrying about those barriers. Eventually, he made some friends while playing, and it turned into cathartic sessions for him.
Justin was able to talk to people about his loneliness, and the issues that were currently plaguing him. His friends did the same, and it was liberating. No strings attached to actually meeting anyone, none of the judgement calls that people make when they see each other. Just friends without baggage. Justin began to open up, and his confidence grew and allowed him to help others who were as nervous and scared as he was when he first came to the US.
One memory he shared was a time a friend he’d met on League came to him with the troubling news that she’d been laid off. Justin took his time to console her, being there emotionally to ensure that she was going to be all right.
“I felt strange, because I’d never actually met her in person. Yet I could be there for her as if I was right there. It felt really good to be there for a friend, even if I wasn’t actually present.”
He’s cited League and other games as factors behind why he was able to remain close to his friends back home in Hong Kong. After he finished high school, his best friends scattered across the world, from New Zealand to the United Kingdom. Yet they are all able to communicate, at least once or twice a week. League has been a great tool for him to keep in touch with them, and Justin stays as close as ever to his friends.
He says, “The memories that I’ve made while playing games with my friends from back home equally as memorable and important to me as the ones I’ve made with friends in real life.” From playing Left 4 Dead 2 custom maps and surviving to making the grind on the ranked ladder on League of Legends, he has, and always will cherish the memories that he has received.
Justin’s story is integral for many people who don’t understand the value of gaming. For him, gaming let him stay grounded to his friends back home, ensuring that those valuable relationships that he had made with the people in Hong Kong remained strong, and a pillar of strength during his time in college. Gaming’s also allowed him to break out of his shell and become a confident man, helping him be that mediator and helper for those who are in need. It’s changed his life for the better, and even through his continued passage through life, he always makes time for a quick game of League with his friends.
One Man’s Odyssey
It seems only appropriate to have the final story take place mostly around one person. While the previous two people, Brittany and Justin have had gaming help them make connections in friendship and love, our final example, Benjamin is a great showing of just how gaming can help someone relax, and escape to a different reality, even if he’s doing it completely alone. Ben’s been playing games since he was a young boy, watching his father slot in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 into the XBOX 360. Instead of heading into the multiplayer, duking it out with the millions of players around the world, young Ben found himself enthralled with the single-player, depicting several protagonists as they defended their countries from internal and external threats. So, as he grew older, Ben continued his passion for the single-player genre. Ben’s father was always interested in the military, and it has been a bonding experience for father and son as they went through various games together.
As Ben grew older, and found himself in college, he found the constant hustle and bustle of people sometimes quite overwhelming. For an introvert, it was very difficult for him to constantly attend and talk to people. Games became even more valuable, not only as a way to have fun, but a way for him to regain his energy, and let him become more sociable after spending some time by himself.
“I think that escaping into a different reality is a huge deal for me. Being able to jump into a different world and become a bad-ass Viking, or a legendary special ops soldier is something that games can do really well, and that’s really exciting. It’s sometimes hard for me to just keep going and talking to people, so having that ability of tuning out and just being someone else is so valuable.”
Ben cites video games as a big reason behind how he’s matured as a person. To him, gaming is an experience that teaches, entertains, and informs all at the same time. Moving from the Call of Duty franchise, he’s grown towards more focused single-player games like Skyrim and trying his hand at other franchises like Tom Clancy’s The Division. He’s even tried more existential experiences like the Bioshock series, and Spec Ops: The Line. He particularly enjoyed Spec Ops due to the games different attitude towards traditional military shooters.
This ability that games have to immerse one into a completely different world is unparalleled amongst various other mediums. While movies, art and music can immerse you, games are a mix of all three with a healthy dose of interaction that invests you into whatever situation you find yourself doing. For example, take the massively successful open-world series, Assassin’s Creed. (For a more in-depth look into open-world titles, look here). The titles have brought players to incredible moments in human history, from the Peloponnesian War of Greece, to the Crusades in Jerusalem, the renaissance in Italy, and the Victorian era of London. Each game has been faithfully recreated, bringing players a sense of wonder and awe as they take a look at each building and structure. Unsurprisingly, Ben is a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, purchasing nearly every title, citing its attention to detail and immersive history as a big reason behind why he’s bought the games.
However, even Ben has seen the value of games in connecting to various people. With games like The Division, and Destiny 2, he has found himself making friends and partners-in-crime as they co-operate to achieve various goals that he couldn’t have achieved alone.
“It’s definitely fun to co-operate with people, especially with games like Destiny 2, where there are some things that you simply can’t do yourself. It’s really satisfying to just get through a raid, or a big event with a bunch of people working hard together. There’s really no feeling like it.”
When asked about the value of gaming, Ben was fully for gaming as a fun and enjoyable activity. “I wouldn’t say it’s…peaceful? When I’m playing, I’m not very tranquil, but I’m excited and I’m happy to be in a different world, or a different planet. It’s something that I could never do in real life, and the ability to do that, even for a short while and through a computer screen is something that’s just awesome to me.”
Eye of The Beholder
We’ve gone across land and sea to find three wonderful examples of gamers in our current world. Yet they aren’t totally representative of the gaming industry. There are tens of thousands of other brilliant stories that are out there. Despite many years of stigma and prejudice against it, gaming has come a long way, and it has helped many people, physically and emotionally. Brittany entered World of Warcraft to relax and found herself in love. Justin started playing video games in order to keep from feeling isolated, and blossomed into a confident and kind man, looking to make sure that no one else feels lonely. For Ben, gaming’s evolved from being just a simple activity to a safe haven, a place where he can retreat to regroup, and build up his energy to face whatever the world has to throw at him. Three entirely different people, with three entirely different stories, yet they all understand the incredible value of video games.
Video Games have come a long way from “poisoning kids minds”. They’ve become fun, interactive communities and activities that anybody can participate in. While there have certainly been hiccups, and unfortunate situations that have sometimes marred video games and gamer’s reputations, one must admit that gaming has truly grown into a juggernaut of the industry. With a growing competitive scene, brilliant games, and wonderful people, the future is truly bright for gaming, and it is people like Brittany, Justin, and Ben who will continue to make it shine.