Being called a “Video Game Nerd” is not an insult, much to the chagrin of the one doing the name-calling. At some point in time, the general public thought gamers were nothing but kids or adult losers who gamed all day in their parent’s basement and lacked a true social life. But games are becoming more and more social, and I’m not just talking about Clash of Clans and Words with Friends.
We live in a different age now. And despite how much the ones who are out of touch with the video game industry like to think otherwise, nearly everything about games is social these days. Just on the basic surface, the gaming networks of PSN (for the PlayStation family of systems) and Xbox Live encourages one to chat with other games, connect, share gaming experiences and achievements, and challenge one another.
Games such as Pokémon, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Super Smash Bros. and others still offer single-player modes, but let’s face it, the online connections are much more fun. Who else can remember racing in Mario Kart Wii (the first online home console Mario Kart title) until late at night against just random opponents? Who else deprived themselves of sleep because of their Call of Duty or SOCOM factions working their way up to legendary status? And I won’t even bring up the addictiveness of League of Legends or battles in Pokémon.Instead of reaching for drugs or alcohol or worse, I reach for a controller or my Nintendo Switch.
Gaming means a lot to someone like me, who suffers from clinically diagnosed depression and everyday social awkwardness. It is tough for me to make friends in real life for a variety of reasons—lack of self-confidence, shyness, etc. When I begin to suffer, I look to gaming as my social pick me up. I can always find someone on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Smash Bros Ultimate to play with, and it takes my mind off of my troubles. Most of the friends I have currently, I met through gaming – either in Facebook groups or gaming gatherings or Streetpass Meetups (remember those days, 3DS owners?) or by random matchmaking. Video games have literally saved me from succumbing to some pretty deep depression at times, and who knows where that could have led to. Instead of reaching for drugs or alcohol or worse, I reach for a controller or my Nintendo Switch. To say that video games mean a lot to me would be an understatement, and that is why I am so passionate about gaming in general. And I can’t be the only one who has similar stories and experiences.
The video game industry gets a lot of unfounded blame—from people wanting a scapegoat after a mass-shooting to being the bad guy of health by keeping kids inside and sedentary as opposed to the great outdoors for exercise. But so many video games are designed to be social experiences. Other mediums such as movies or television can be social activities, but they can also all be done as a solitary experience without any change in result. Gaming’s social activities can deftly change how a game is played and its outcome. And it means a lot to me and has done more to rescue me than anything else that was supposedly more “positive and constructive” according to the naysayers. So for all those people who belittle gaming and the “damaging effects” it has on people, I say Long Live Video Games. With the blockbuster sales of the Nintendo Switch and the next PlayStaton and Xbox systems launching next year, it is an industry that shows no signs of slowing down, and that is something I can truly celebrate.