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The Benefits of Online Gaming

Updated on August 18, 2015
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The World of Online Games

The world of online gaming is vast and wonderful, rife with interesting people and new experiences. A place where millions of people can come together to compete or cooperate. A place to discover like minded individuals. Yet for all its wonder, its still a place of great controversy. A world that can be cruel, one where tyrannical bullies seem endemic. Some say online gaming is nothing more than a detriment, providing a dangerous new form of escapism for a generation of apathetic youth. Others, like myself, have a brighter perspective. Seeing online gaming as an opportunity for people of all backgrounds and cultures to interact, an opportunity for us to usher in a more globally conscious era.

Empire in Action

A Brief History of Online Gaming

The phenomenon of online gaming is relatively new, its origins only reaching back into the 1970s. Many believe the first ever networked multi-player game was an arena shooter style game created in 1973 called Empire. The game was simple by modern standards, allowing 8 players to pilot a starship and attempt to destroy one another.

Years later, in 1991 the first ever MMORPG to display graphics was released, a game called Neverwinter Nights. It was advertised as an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons product and ran on the AOL network for a connection fee of $6 an hour. It's said that gamers would brag of monthly fees over $500. Near the end of its life span the game had over 115,000 players and during prime time hours over 2,000 players logged in simultaneously

In 1993 the controversial Doom was released for Microsoft DOS. Many of us remember this as the one game that our parents wouldn't let us touch. Its demonic imagery and graphic violence made it infamous. And when a connection was made between the game and the Columbine massacre in 1999, the game became taboo in many households. Nonetheless the game pioneered the first person shooter genre. Even spawning the term doom-clone, which was used to refer to first person shooters for years after its release, and its death match mode helped to bring online gaming into the mainstream.

World of Warcraft--the modern multiplayer juggernaut--released in 2004. Paving the way for the big budget MMO's of today. Proving that games center around social interaction can be a long lasting and profitable endeavor. The game boasts over 100 million created accounts, and over 7 million active subscribers. Making WoW the highest grossing game of all time. World of Warcraft is and will continue, for the foreseeable future, to be what all MMORPGs aspire to be. And games like it prove that social interaction within a virtual landscape can provide a rewarding and insightful experience unique to the medium.

Former Senator Leland Yee pushes for new gaming legislation in California.
Former Senator Leland Yee pushes for new gaming legislation in California.

The Controversy

Since their inception video games have been the subject of intense public scrutiny. Many criticize games because of their tendency to portray violence, others dislike the prospect of video game "addiction" becoming a detriment to the social welfare of players and some aren't overly fond of the gaming worlds inherent bullies, fearing the damage they do to young psyches. Anti-game activists such as Jack Thompson propose that games with violent themes or over-sexualized characters corrupt consumers. even going as far as to blame them for mass killings. Those on the other side of the the argument would say the exact opposite, claiming that gaming can be a socially advantageous activity. While both sides are more than likely colored by bias, I tend to lean toward the opinion that playing a video game is no more harmful than watching a movie,or reading a book. It's a form of escapism and as with all things it has its advantages and drawbacks.

How Gaming Online can be Beneficial

Many see video gaming as an activity for youth not yet burdened with responsibility, regarding it as little more than a childish form of escapism. I could not disagree more. Gaming, especially multiplayer, can be a fulfilling and mature experience. Most of the time I spend gaming online is in the company of fellow adults, and I'm proud to consider these people good friends. Gaming allows its players to overcome challenges as a community, and connects us with companions we may not have met otherwise. And according to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association adolescents involved in gaming, especially MMORPGs, were more likely to be involved in social movements in their everyday lives. While I agree that gaming is a form of escapism, it's not necessarily negative. Everyone needs an outlet; a way to temporarily break the tedium of day-to-day life, and gaming seems like a relatively innocuous means of doing so.

Beside its social benefits some believe gaming online, in moderation, can have healthy physical effects as well. Gaming,especially shooters(i.e. Halo, Call of Duty), can promote a variety of cognitive skills. Some studies show that that gamers who play shooters on a regular basis have higher spatial reasoning, more accurate attention allocation, and improved mental rotation abilities. The improvement of such skills is comparable to those of someone who has taken high school and in some cases university courses aimed at refining the same abilities.

One of the most important things to remember while gaming online is moderation. Its extremely easy to log into a game and lose yourself in its virtual marvels. And while you may find it difficult to unplug yourself, it is important. Don't neglect your life in favor of simulated experiences.

How to Meet Cool People Online

Meeting new friends online is much the same as meeting them in your everyday; it has to start with you putting yourself out there. If you are playing an MMO it's extremely likely that the creators of the game have implemented some sort of group content. Whether it be dungeons or player-vs-player combat try to find something you enjoy, chances are you will find someone you enjoy doing it with. Eventually you may find another, and another, and so on until you have something of an online community of friends. Friends that you could have never met without the assistance of online gaming.

Most online games have some form of community building system (Guilds, Clans, etc.) I highly recommend finding one that fits your play style. Overcoming challenges, even if simulated, can be highly rewarding and in most cases doing so with a group of friends makes your virtual victories even sweeter.

In Conclusion

Gaming is wonderful, and the feats we can accomplish through it become more miraculous every day. Many dislike video games, but with the industry being as profitable as it is I believe they are here to stay, and for that I'm thankful. I've had more wonderful experiences than I can count, and made many irreplaceable friends, all thanks to these delightful products of modern technology. And for those of you who that share in my passion for gaming, I thank you. Your continued support makes the games we play on a daily basis possible. In conclusion I urge anyone who thinks gaming to be a child's activity or a detriment to human progress to try it for themselves, what you find may surprise you.

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