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Video Game Nation

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What kind of video games do you play: console, computer, handheld? What about phone games? There are many apps for that. If you don’t play any video games, it is never too late to start. The gaming industry is expanding constantly with new technological advancements and it is becoming more accessible to people. I take delight in gaming and have experience with almost every platform and genre. A common belief about gamers is that they are anti-social and only indulge in a solo activity. On the other hand, I perceive it is becoming less possible to play without having the opportunity to connect with another player who shares the same interest. The companies and franchises that create games are pushing towards a new era of networking and group-based play often called multiplayer. In my opinion, video games are becoming more of a social activity. Therefore, this gaming can no longer be dubbed an “anti-social” activity.

The industry of game development can be compared to a nation— a place where all citizens share a common interest. The domain can be further divided into separate states which represent the various genres of video games, such as the states of role-playing games, of adventure, of strategy, of shooter, and of platforming. These states can then be separated into different counties, which signify different consoles. These counties can vary state to state but some of the major counties are Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation. The divisions can go further to where the cities in each county symbolize the different publishers, and the neighborhoods represent the individual games themselves. Thus a neighborhood in Maricopa County could be “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” the action-shooter published by Activision for the Xbox 360. It is important to understand that all players have a sense of common interest no matter what genre or platform they choose. The gamers don’t need to live in the same area or neighborhood to socialize with each other. They can visit a completely different community by simply playing another game with different individuals. They all live in one nation where someone in Australia can interact in the same neighborhood as a person in Alaska. The ease of this interconnectivity promotes social gaming which positively extends and globalizes gaming.
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As I sit in the Dining Hall, the air is thick with the scent of decadent delights. I try to savor the spicy yet flavorful stir-fry over the incessant buzzing of voices that the 6 o'clock rush brings. I set down my cool, metallic fork and turn slowly to my friend Chase exclaiming, “Hey, Chase! Don’t you have a date with justice tonight?” To which Chase replies, “Yah right. It is you who shall receive justice.” (Justice is a term used when referring to winning a game or KOing [Knocking out] someone in the game “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.”) I reply, “We will see who receives justice tonight.” Following the scrumptious meal, Chase and I head back to my dorm and announce to Ben and Chris, “Get in here, it’s time to relax and not do homework!” After setting up the match, we choose our characters and begin to engage in an epic battle between the four of us. The familiar form of the GameCube controller rests in my hands, the motions second nature. A competitive vibe floods the room as everyone's' concentration falls on this one fight. “Ohhhhh, where are you at?” Chase taunts as he spikes me off the ledge. Suddenly, in a split second, Ben smashes him across the map, turning Chase's victory into a bitter sweet moment as he loses a life. Ben returns the taunt with a “Where YOU at?” This carries on for a good hour until Chase complains that he has a physics lab to work on and we proceed to rise off my uncomfortable futon to attend to our work. I have come to realize we are just one house in the entire nation as Chris brings over two new people, Tasha and Jared, the next day to engage in the merrymaking and justice.
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My friends and I all cherish the time spent playing together and connecting through this media. I can also develop social relationships with people I don’t personally know, such as with Tasha and Jared. I, as an experienced gamer, have really enjoyed being a part of this social community. However, my own social experiences beg the question, can other people easily become a part of this nation? Of course. The different companies themselves are pushing to increase this innovative social media. A couple of years ago, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 increased their online party size to eight people, who can all engage in a conversation and talk about what they are currently playing. This innovative feature is progressing social gaming because before there wasn’t party chat in the Xbox Live community. People needed to connect and chat through the game and couldn’t talk to more than one person if they played a single player game. This truly was an innovation that strongly increased the social interactions of the Xbox Live gamers.

There are other social benefits being added currently by Microsoft. Just recently, they announced an update for the console that allows players to use Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter all through the Xbox 360 console. These three websites are among the most popular for online communication and social networking in today’s cyber world. Microsoft even included Netflix on their console so people can watch their favorite shows or movies with their friends if they have a Netflix account. The neighborhoods and communities built inside this nation are not exclusive to online gameplay. It is the combination of all these networking features that makes them ultimately more accessible. My friends and I could be watching a movie on Netflix and, when the movie is over, I can log onto Facebook to quickly update my account. I could then join a party chat with my friends who are living in separate states and talk to them while we all play the same games. This synergy of features shows that Microsoft enables social networking on their console and it can only continue to expand.

Other consoles and companies such as the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3 are geared towards a more family-oriented gameplay. Why not incorporate all ages and people into this nation? The majority of Wii games are aimed towards family audiences and group play. With the Wii-fit and Wii-sports, Nintendo not only encourages multiplayer, but also athletic gameplay. Many companies are taking after this like the Xbox Kinect and the PlayStation Move. Through my experience, when I visit my friend Elena’s house and we all play Dance Central on her Xbox Kinect, I will be sweating when we are finished. Dance Central is a game that the player stands up to play without a controller and mimics a dancer on the screen. Not only are players able to get active, but they can enjoy this activity with friends in group play.

Xbox and Nintendo are not the only companies making drastic changes in multiplayer as there are countless examples of the decisions each gaming company is making towards social gameplay. Some are Bethesda’s Fallout and Elder Scrolls titles. These two game series are some of the best selling, highly rated games in the world and can only be played by one person. But even so, there is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) in development for Fallout. The companies are clearly trying to take a social approach to future games. Even games that are famous for being single player are being geared towards group play. The Mario franchise has been incorporating multiplayer since “Mario Party” and “Mario Kart.” These two games series are exclusively designed to be played with multiple people. If a person is not playing them with real people, a virtual computer will take their place. Video games today are increasing this multiplayer and online connection in their nation.

It can be said that many gamers today are still anti-social and even if they are communicating online, they are not socially interacting in reality. This counterargument makes a valid point as anti-social gamers can still be seen today. However, it has been shown that there is a noticeable shift in the community of gaming towards interconnectivity. As for having online friends, people can communicate with them and have time to be a part of an ever growing cyber society. Every time I join a new lobby or make a new friend, it is a chance to connect with a person without the pre-made judgment of looks or age. I have met many outstanding gamers playing online and am able to keep a social life with both them and my friends in real life. Even though there are anti-social gamers today, it is ultimately up to the individual to choose to be social or not.

The gaming industry is constantly expanding and more states, cities, and counties are being added to this already large and diverse society. From my experience, I can say that the social aspects of gaming are outstanding. Some people will still have their opinions that it is an anti-social activity but players no one is forcing them to play. Regardless, evidence points towards a future where the cyber community will thrive as the companies clearly encourage group play. What community gaming effectively comes down to is the individual’s decision to make the experience social. The next time you get a chance to play a video game, I hope you do it with a community. Be it with someone online or with someone sitting next to you, you're never alone in this vast nation.





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