For decades now parents across the world have been nagging children to put down the video games and get outside the house to socialize. With the advent of the internet and more social gaming, however, new research is showing that video games may be an integral part of the social lives of today's youth.
A new study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication shows that online social gaming could now be just a part of gamers' social lives. The new research also shows that social gaming is not taking the place of face-to-face contact with other humans.
The study looked at large and small public gaming events throughout Canada and the UK. Through surveys and by observing the behavior of gamers at these events, researchers determined that gaming was only one of the many ways that most gamers interact with each other.
The study's authors also found that gamers' behavior while in-game was not indicative of social behaviors in real life. In other words, gamers who are highly competitive during gameplay sessions were not necessarily so competitive with the people around them.
"We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online," said Nick Taylor, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University. "Gaming didn't eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.
"This was true regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player's behavior in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline."
Another interesting fact discovered by the study is that gamers often don't separate playing and watching games into different categories. For them, interacting with gaming in a variety of ways was viewed as a social activity.
"Gamers aren't the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they're highly social people," said Taylor. "This won't be a surprise to the gaming community, but it's worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm."
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