Do you know the feeling? You have found a game that gets your blood pumping, a game that is just right for you. The one you want to play every single spare moment in the day. The one that you are thinking about during the day doing your normal daily things, just longing for the moment that all must-do’s are done and you can finally sit down with your want-to activity: playing your game. It’s a glorious feeling, a feeling that you just can’t get enough of the game and there’s one thing that can even make it better: when you can share it with someone.
Wanting to share gaming fun
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not surrounded with like-minded gamers in real life. For starters, I’m a woman that’s not exactly a spring chicken anymore and though my niece and daughter play the occasional video-game, I don’t have friends or other family members who really understand why playing video-games makes me happy. Secondly, I’m in a profession where creativity and imagination isn’t exactly encouraged ( I’m a business controller, and let me tell you, most colleagues have never even tried Candy Crush). I fear that when I tell my co-workers about my “other life”, a lot of eyebrows would be lifted. Or maybe I’m just afraid that my professionalism will be doubted? I do try, you know, as I feel that my friends have a right to see an enthusiastic Yvonne: after all, as my friends they should get to know the whole package. But I’ve seen the result more then once: a momentary surprise on their faces, then alarm as I keep on speaking game-lingo, and shortly after that a resigned look. I know that look, they are willing to listen because they know it means a lot to me, but deep down inside, they really don’t understand. Still, this feeling of wanting to share is still very real. No different then classmates in the schoolyard huddled together enjoying a good battle in Pokémon on their Nintendo DS.
A good thing there’s the Internet! It’s easy to find people who are just as enthusiastic about a game as you are. No matter what game caught your eye, there are always forums and dedicated groups of people who are enjoying the game just as much as you are. In my case the first group (and certainly not the last) I participated in actively was a group of adult women who were besotted about Animal Crossing Wild World. It made the game extra special, being able to visit each other’s town. I don’t know if you know the game; if you do, you’ll know it’s an absolute time sink. Daily chores keep you coming back, as do the chats with your townies. But aside from that, the game gave us a means to socialize as well. You wouldn’t believe the creative things the ladies came up with to spice up the game. We had costume contests, scavenger hunts, Halloween parties, we joined to remodel someone’s town, all bringing our golden axe to chop some trees and helped one another out when someone returned to the game after weeks and found the town overgrown with weeds. What fun we had! After that, with new games came new groups, but never as involved as that one was.
When gaming chat turns into chatting about everyday life
Did you know that a majority of teens nowadays meet new friends online? Social media play a big role of course, but video-games as well. It’s just easier to find like-minded people, even if you’re a bit shy. And although most friendships stay in digital space, one in five actually meet their online friends. I am reminded of how I met several ladies in the Animal Crossing group that went from digital friends to real life friends. Like I mentioned, the group was about the game at the start, but pretty soon real life crept in. Maybe it’s mainly a woman thing, but we got to talking about our children, about our pets and challenges in everyday life too. That created a bond, and a safe place to share our lives.
This was 2007, a time when a lot of people still felt very unsure about whether or not they wanted to share anything at all on the Internet. I remember how we made a file online to share our home addresses for a Christmas Card exchange, and eventually people started adding their pictures to the addresses. Not everyone did, some were more shy or more careful then others. But it was such fun to see the faces behind the avatars we used. And what started as exchanging our home addresses to send a Christmas card, turned into chatting through email with a couple of the ladies. As is always the case, you feel more of a connection with some people and this is how I became friends with Les and Sarah, both on the other side of the world.
From online friends to good friends in real-life
Although we met through Animal Crossing, both ladies had a very long history of playing video-games, a much longer history then I had. When they raced each other on Mario Kart, I really didn’t want to be around. Such competitiveness, such fervor! And I learned early on not to get them going about what Zelda game was favorite in the series. Heated discussions, as is often the case when it’s about Zelda Windwaker or a Link to the Past! What it meant to me, is that I learned that it’s fun to play with a group of like-minded gamers, but that it’s even better to play with real friends. They understood me when I chatted game-lingo, they didn’t evade my talks about what game I was favoring at a given time. They welcomed it, and I enjoyed my daily email sessions with them for years.
Five years ago I got the chance to meet Sarah and her family in person, as we made a road trip through the east of America. That was such fun, somehow she didn’t feel like a stranger at all from the moment we embraced each other. We hardly even talked about games, and still the conversation flowed without pause. We had so much in common, we always joked that we were sisters from a different mother. The days we spent together were a glorious couple of days that we still remember fondly.
We are still in touch now, at times chatting on FaceTime every week, at times only through messages. But always keeping in touch, as we have been for some 10 years now!
When fate intervenes
Les on the other hand, was very different from me. She was 20 years my senior, and I was surprised at first to find someone even older then me in gaming. Aside from that we hardly had anything in common. Our beliefs were totally opposite, I lived in the city and she lived very remote. I had my working career, and Les had her animals to take care off. She hated everything to do with social media, while I was always happy to be out there and meet new friends. Looking back it was a miracle that we even connected in the way we did. Still, our connection in gaming was strong, we could jabber on and on about games, till the cows came home. Everything from Nintendo games to mobile games and back. Nothing better than to check on each other’s progress in the morning in one of the mobile games we had going, or give each other tips about our DS adventures. By that time we both had Apple devices, so that meant keeping in touch through iMessage, chatting every day. Plans were made to meet in real life, but sadly, fate intervened. My friend suddenly passed away a couple of months ago, only 70 years old. I still miss her, sadly not even gaming could keep her young.
Friends found in gaming can turn into very good friends.
Now, I’m not telling you this story to make you sad, but to make a point: friends found in gaming can turn into good friends in real life. With the means available at the moment, like the various message services, or Skype and FaceTime, it’s so easy to get to know each other. Now I know you have to be careful about online contacts, you can never know who is actually on the other side. I recently read and article about the way people nowadays are online all the time, and one phrase stuck in my mind:”people are constantly connected to everyone in their life, but they are also constantly lonely”. I can honestly say that all the friends I connected with all in the course of gaming, have only enriched my life. True, some friendships are more fleetingly, there are some women I never talk to anymore, but I’ve found new people to chat gaming with in their stead. And I’ve found good friends online too, people that have changed my life just by being there on the other side of the Internet.