Ah, the gaming community. Most gamers are familiar with this concept, at least in theory if not from personal experience. As the gaming industry grew and evolved, finding ways to connect gamers with other gamers became the norm. In fact, for as long as games have been around, fans have been congregating together to appreciate their obsessions with like-minded people. That said, as gaming became as mainstream as watching a movie or talking on your phone, the concept of communities evolved as well.
Now if we had to classify video game communities, we could lump them into two basic types:
- The communities that build naturally around a specific game or game series.
- Private communities that are created by the fans (sometimes for a specific game and other times for a variety of games).
Looking at this, let’s talk about gaming communities for a bit. Should you join one? What kind of community is right for you? What do you get from being in a community?
Just like most things in life, there are good points and bad points. Lately it seems we are being bombarded with horror stories of gaming communities and I will admit my own experiences have been less than favorable in many cases. But it’s not all bad. I really believe a community is what you make it.
What Culture once said, “most gaming communities are about as friendly as The Hulk on a bad day” and I hate to say it but I have to agree. In their list of top worst gaming communities are Minecraft and Call of Duty, and while I love Minecraft, I tend to agree with their assessment. Campers, trolls, cheaters/hackers, bullies, dictators and more fill many of these communities and they ruin the enjoyment of the game for others.
Then if we take a look at private communities, I am reminded of why I long had a rule about not joining clans or communities for any of my Steam games. MMORPGs often have perks/benefits to joining clans/guilds but on my Steam account, I had little reason to want to do this. For a number of years, I acted as admin in a popular TF2 community but this was an unofficial “community” in that we were just a set of servers you could play on. Nothing more, nothing less. No tags to wear. No ranking structure. No duties to perform. Nothing to micro-manage. I just kept the servers clean and enjoyed playing with like-minded people. This, I believe, is what a gaming community should really be about.
Sure, I like structure and order but some communities become so focused on this, they lose sight of the big picture – bringing gamers together for fun and sense of community.
Fast-forward a bit from there and I broke my own rule about joining a community and learned the hard way that I really should listen to my own advice. I am not the kind of person who does anything half-way. I dove head-first into this community and it wasn’t the best way for me to spend my time. When I realized this, I made a clean break. I had an emotional connection to the community and friends within it that made this difficult but it was in my own best interest to do so.
Once free of the obligations and expectations of this community, I went back to enjoying games my way once again and it was great!
For some people, communities work. For others, going solo is preferred. The bottom line is only you can determine what is best for you.
Let’s be real here: no one can force you to do anything you don’t want to do.
If you join a community or choose to participate in an online gaming community, you are doing so voluntarily. No one can force you to do anything but there could be benefits to your participation levels. In many communities, there is a get-what-you-give attitude. And if you’re doing all the giving and you don’t like what you’re getting, it’s your choice to end the relationship.
Still, some communities are corrupt or underdeveloped or facing a slew of problems that could take ages to sort out. If you’re not willing to volunteer time to this, then don’t feel obligated to do so. Know when to walk away. Remember that your game time shouldn’t feel like a chore and your membership in a community shouldn’t feel like a second job. If it does, you need to seriously reconsider your priorities and whether or not you want to remain in this community.
A gaming community should be a place to go for friendship and camaraderie, to ask questions or get help, to share fun screenshots and videos, to organize play sessions, and more. Ultimately, it should add to the enjoyment of the game(s), rather than take away from it.
So how do you find friends in games? How do you connect with people who enjoy playing the same things as you? Do you have any stories you want to share (positive or negative) about your own gaming community experiences? We want to hear it in the comments!