Social Interaction: in-game vs. real-world

Some months ago the cyberbullying topic was very present in my mind because a Japanese female wrestler, Hanna Kimura, committed suicide after being attacked on social networks for her behavior in the Japanese reality show Terrace House. My husband and I had started watching said reality show on Netflix as a way of discovering more about Japanese culture, which I like a lot. We were watching the very same season that featured Hanna and were only some episodes behind when the news struck. We were very shocked about it and it felt really sad and bad to have been part of the “fan base” that created this toxic environment for someone reaching to that point where people wished her to be death an such…

Cyberbullying is something we as individuals know exists although sometimes it even surprises us when you encounter very aggressive people on Twitter or Facebook. However, we have never been the target of such hatred and have never been part of a community that actively practices it. That’s why it was such a shock to inadvertently being part of a community of viewers that created this kind of damage for someone we saw on tv a couple of weeks prior.

Communities as a mirror of games’ values

This abuse and aggressive behavior is, of course, very common among gaming communities. Part of the main reasons that the authors of this article mention as an interesting reason to create cozier games is the fact that “better” communities emerge from them. People are more considerate and nice with each other as they tend to extrapolate the main values the game requires to their online relationship with others.

Game Revolution – ”I Was Relentlessly Nice to Overwatch’s ‘Toxic’ Community and Here’s What Happened”

This, as everything in life, has exceptions and some well-known cozy games representatives sometimes have rotten apples. I’ve seen this with Animal Crossing. Being a new player in the franchise I haven’t experienced the other games and I also haven’t been part of the communities around them. Now I follow many Animal Crossing related twitter accounts and it has surprised me to see how there are some practices that really defeat the purpose of the game’s social aspect and go against every principle of a cozy community. Things such as: people visiting other islands just to destroy someone else’s “property”, scammers on twitter offering fake things or just attracting attention to insult AC players and, finally, the “experienced” players that know the franchise very deeply and constantly complain against how boring the events are, how Nintendo didn’t release “a complete game” delivering updates the players “deserved earlier” and many other things.

This just comes to show that the coziest of games can also attract toxic players. However, in my opinion, it’s always worth it to go the extra mile and make an effort to build a nicer community instead of just encouraging everyone to be jerks against each other.

I’m also part of a Death Stranding group on Facebook where the topic of toxic communities and highly competitive users has been mentioned more than once. People on that group are always amazed by the supportive and nice community the game generates and how everyone is there rooting for each other, never competing or bragging. As I mentioned, this is other of the key aspects about Cozy games according to the literature I’ve read and it’s another point to the Death Stranding as a cozy experience “crazy” theory.

Every game is a social game

Finally, for me, games have always been a source of social interaction even when they are single player completely offline. And this is because I’ve always shared the gaming experience with my family. First, it was my sister who has always liked to sit next to me, watch as I play and help with strategies and plans to solve puzzles and such. At some point my father and mother were also involved, as the jokes and experiences we live in games have always trascended to the rest of our life and those who are close to us cannot ignore that fact. Right now my mom is part of the key audience together with my sister. I normally play story-heavy RPG or ARPG games that are completely suitable to be shared as a movie. My mom and sister would sit next to me and we would comment the events in the game as if it were a very long and interactive (for me) movie. During quarantine, this became a streaming where Death Stranding is the star and we get amazed together by the surprising plot twists and exciting events that occur (even if it’s with a little delay or lag).

Characters and specially main characters always become part of our family, we joke about them in different moments of life, love some more than others, sometimes someone even loves the villains or hates one of the main party characters. Now, my husband is also part of the jokes and the events that occur in each game are always part of the daily conversation equivalent to the “how was your day” dynamic.

This way of sharing games is just another instance of the more common statement about a game only being fun when played with friends or online. In the end it’s not always about the literal social interaction in games, but how you perceive it or generate it outside of them.

MMORPGs use this to their advantage a lot. Just to quote an example, I remember how Maple Story had a very notorious social aspect where people would go online only to sit on a chair in the middle of a city and talk to their friends or meet new people. Leveling up or completing quests was completely irrelevant to them.

All that meta gaming has always been part of the experience for me where memorable in-game events always become a strong experience that me and my family share. This is another aspect in which games become a social and sometimes even bonding experiences depending of the type of player you are.

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