Video games used to be thought of as a solo activity; terms like “mana” and “critical hit” used to conjure up images of a lone gamer sitting in front of a glowing screen on a Saturday night. Not that I haven’t spent a few Saturday nights this way…it’s just not a typical night for me, or for many gamers I know. But nowadays it’s clear to see that gaming is becoming an increasingly social activity – Xbox Live, Battle.net, and Steam are just a few integrated social networking tools that allow gamers to interact with each other and socialize by sending messages or playing games together in a party system.
I personally have made many friends using these sorts of tools as well as gaming websites and forums. Most of these friendships are maintained in a strictly online sense; but last weekend I had the great fortune of being able to attend a meetup with a group of 10 other friends I had never met in person before, for the sole purpose of hanging out and gaming the whole weekend.
And what an amazing weekend it was.
This meetup had been in the works for months, and no one really knew what to expect – after all, we had all been talking online, but it’s difficult to get a true feel for someone’s personality via text. And to my delight, we all instantly connected. The only one thing we knew beforehand was that we were all pretty heavy gamers, and it turned out that this aspect of our lives was enough to bond over. For the eleven of us, who spent the weekend calling each other by our gamertags rather than our real names, gaming is more than just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle, an industry, a potential career, and a pastime. In short, a subculture. Video games have inspired music, art, clothing, books, movies, and speaking patterns, just to name a few.
In a society obsessed with stamping a label on everything, I used to be sort of a drifter. I didn’t identify with any one subculture or clique in high school – unless “playing Magic: The Gathering at lunch with your friends” is a clique. It wasn’t when I was in high school at least. And while I do disagree with the principle of slapping a label on groups of people for purposes of classification – after all, we’re human beings, not canned goods – there is a sense of unity to be found in this emerging subculture. There are even entire clothing companies marketed at gamers, and conventions and LANs held for the enjoyment and appreciation of video games.
So, gamers: don’t feel like you need to hide your hobby. Embrace the community because like anything in life, you can put as much or as little into it as you want, but you never know when you’ll stumble upon a really amazing opportunity.