Don’t Judge Online Gaming Too Quickly

Video games — entertainment that is connected to us dearly as we all seem to have played a video game in our childhood at some point in time. I still remember vividly the long hours that I spent playing ‘Heroes of Might and Magic’ with my brother on the old Dell computer. My brother and I, but video game is the only language that my brother and I communicated with each other and it is the only topic that I can talk about in social interactions. My typical schedule now would be some quality time with my brother playing ‘Genshin Impact’ as he is now studying abroad in Australia, which is approximately 5,170km from Viet Nam.

Nonetheless, my life changed since I was introduced to online gaming, I felt like I had a grand entrance to society. Video games have evolved with the incorporated with the connect ability of the internet of which allows the users to play with other people. It might seem like such a simple idea, but it was a major impact on a gaming enthusiast like me as I was finally able to talk to other people with the same interest. This one game called ‘Sky Garden’ made by a local developer was a popular subject when I was in 5th grade and everyone was playing that game. The game is essentially about growing your own garden with magical plants by visiting it once every day to water the plant. The idea is that you could be a solo player in the game, but it is better to cooperate as some events or flowers can only be grown by having your ‘neighbor’ or friends visiting your garden and water your plants. The game also allows other players to compete with each other by having higher tiers or rare flowers.

Online gaming such as ‘Sky Garden’ has created a new meaning to entertainment and multiplayer. The shift from offline gaming to the internet has bridged the distance between friends and improve the youth’s communication skills in an interactive way. I was really shy and doesn’t really know to communicate so it was extremely difficult for me to make friends and having strict parents who prevent you from taking to strangers limits my option of how to make new friends. My main interest was reading romance novels especially Chinese ones of which is a subject that is considered very boring in my age group and my appearance back then was not up to society’s standard at that time. I was teased, called humiliating names by most of my peers so I developed anxiety and avoid interaction with people in public.

It was a normal computer class in school, and I was bored so I sneakily opened the game to play instead of doing my assignment and to my surprise, my partner, whom I never talk to before, next to me have the same idea. We started to talk about the game in class, during recess, and after school as well. She helped me achieved the highest ranks in ‘Sky Garden’ and we are the top 2 on the server board. In a weird coincidence, we also discovered that we have a mutual interest in reading Chinese romance novel as well while we were having a casual conversation about a plant in the game have the same name as our favorite author. She was my first real friend and I always cherish that memory even though we don’t talk to each other anymore.

My obsession right now is ‘Genshin Impact’, a free-to-play online game on multiple platforms. One of the most noticeable features in the game is that you can visit each other worlds and help each other farm artifacts or defeat bosses. Conversation topics generated from the game can last a long time as there are new things to discuss as the games continue to develop and have more updates. The online communities that are centered around the game are also in abundance and most of them have met each other in real life at some point in time.

Although there is some debate about video games cause people to isolate themselves from society and is damaging to relationships in life, my experience was the contrary. I was able to connect with my old high school friend through the game, we used to barely talk in class but now we’re good friends and usually hang out when we not playing games. This happen on a regular Saturday night when I was just scrolling on Facebook to pass time and then I came across a post that caught my attention. It was my friend’s post about how she got a five-star character that I have always wanted. I commented on her post raging about how awesome that character is, and she replied by asking more advice on how to build that character. After that, we talk regularly through Discord and spent a lot of time playing together. We even joke about creating a Twitch stream account to get famous!

Online gaming help built a person’s social identity. I used to be a shy little girl who spent all her time either reading books or studying but since the introduction of gaming into my life, I have become more active and talkative, one reason is that I was inspired by the gamers online with their explosive energy and I also discover my personal sense of humor.

Despite the benefits that online gaming has proven to have, there are still stigmas about it being destructive and have harmful effects such as tendencies to violence and separation from social interaction. Dr. Rachel Kowert from ‘Take This’, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on reducing the stigma and increasing support for mental health in games, stated that there is a reduction in depression and loneliness when people started to play games. I can testify this with my own experience as I mentioned earlier that my only friend was my brother and I had depressive behaviors. However, when I started playing video games especially ‘Genshin Impact’, I have been happier, and it made my life more enjoyable.

I have mild depression when I was in middle school as I have to face tremendous pressure from my parents to be the ‘Straight As’ student and being bullied at school for my appearance of which is also the reason why I don’t have that many friends. Since I started to play video games, I can escape into my own virtual world where I enjoy some fun time by myself or with my brother.

There is also a study conducted by Cigdem Uz and Kursat Cagiltay of whom research in Computer Education and Instructional Technology from Middle East Technical University, Turkey that proves that people tend to make more friends in the game environment while still capable of maintaining their personal relationships with friends and family. This is relatable to many households as family tends to spend their weekends playing Wii together or friends playing with each other even if they are miles apart. There was a time when I was invited to my friend’s Thanksgiving dinner party, I was very uncomfortable as I’m not used to meeting new people, but a tournament of Wii tennis seems to have connected me with the host’s family more.

One of the downsides of online gaming is that I sometimes struggle in finding a way to balance my time between my family, work, school, and time for myself as there are times, I just want to play my games alone. The key to this problem is learning how to prioritize each activity, I know that gaming is an important factor in maintaining my mental health but quality time for family and friends is also very important. Nonetheless, in most cases, online gaming is a positive addition to life that could provide the users to have the opportunity to gain more friends, relax, and be amazed by creativity. Online interaction can be incorporated into face-to-face relationships in a harmonious way and beneficial to a person’s social life.

The victor in the debate whether online gaming is good or bad remains to be undecidable as each person has their own opinions on the matter. In my experience, online gaming is the most wonderful technology innovation since the light bulb and electricity in which does it not only does it assist me in maintaining my relationship with my brother even if we are one continent away from each other, it also introduces me to a shared community with new friends. This does not mean that online gaming can replace physical interaction in our social life, but it is a useful tool provided by the internet for leisure and open up new possibilities.