As communities are urged to follow social distancing guidelines and spend more time at home, social isolation and loneliness have become common. To help with this, some individuals are turning to video games in order to keep in contact with old friends and even make some new friends.
Playing video games with others can actually show a number of social and psychological benefits to players. Those who typically play multiplayer games report a stronger sense of social identity, higher self-esteem and lower levels of loneliness, according to a study done in 2017. According to Iowa State students, games are positive on a personal level and a social level.
“Me and all my hometown friends split off to different places so we stay connected through video games,” said Thane Storley, senior in computer engineering and vice president of the Esports Club.
The Esports Club hosts multiple titles, some of which include: Apex Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, Overwatch, Rainbow 6: Siege, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros and Valorant. Storley said the club typically holds game nights once a week, but the club is meeting more virtually this year to compensate for the lack of in-person events.
In March, the World Health Organization and many major gaming companies launched #PlayApartTogether, a campaign that encourages social distancing by bringing special events, exclusives and rewards to some of the most popular games.
Patrick McCann, junior in animal ecology, took it upon himself to create his own gaming community.
McCann published an announcement on Reddit asking individuals to partake in a video game hangout he organized. The community quickly had individuals interested and the group was based on the popular voice, text and video chat application Discord.
“The video game hangout was something I just did on a whim," McCann said. "I made a few e-posters in my free time and posted them to Reddit over a couple week period. All in all 75 people signed up. Originally, it was just free party games like Among Us, but once everyone joined and paired up, they played what they wanted to with different people.”
McCann said he does not think video games are a cure to social isolation, but they are a tool. He also said he primarily used video games to make new friends over the pandemic, such as the video game hangout.
Individuals interested in the Iowa State Esports Club can join by visiting the recreation services website and joining the club’s Discord server.
“I wouldn't choose video games over in-person interactions, but those aren't available right now, so online it is,” McCann said.