Gaming and Community – It’s a very bloggy holiday season!

It’s kind of ironic that a blog about gaming and community is late due to a communication snafu on my part, but here we are. Apologies to everyone, and especially Syl, because I really hate being late. This is me, when I’m late:

Crazy Twilight Sparkle

You can imagine how I felt when I realized I was today, and instead of having done it I was at work and couldn’t. I highly appreciate Syl’s patience. The blogging community sure is great!

Bloggy Xmas Title

I’ve been gaming for pretty much as long as I can remember, which is a very long time. How long? My first console was an Atari 2600. I played Colecovision, Tandy, and all the fun stuff from the past. I remember games on tape. I don’t miss that.

Back then, the community was a bunch of isolated community. Gaming was localized to an area, and the gamers tended to know each other because there simply wasn’t many people to game with yet. The adults didn’t take it seriously for the most part, it was a “kids thing”. That persisted through high school, although the size of the community grew with BBSes, the Internet, and a table in school dedicated to Battletech and Magic: The Gathering.

Today? I don’t think gaming as a community works.

Gaming Is A World

Today, gaming is more like a world. It’s pervasive. Thanks to the original kid gamers growing up and sticking with it, to mobile spreading it everywhere, these days virtually everyone is a gamer. If “D&D is satanism” was the start of a culture war, that war is over. We won. We won so completely that the majority are now with us, even if they don’t use the “gamer” label.

What was the result of that? Gamers mostly argue amongst themselves now. (See: GamerGate.) The interesting thing about that to me is that the same thing happened in the Brony community, at a much faster speed. In the first year of it’s existence, we were mostly figuring out what we were about, and defending ourselves from the outside world going “WTF?” The sense of community in that period was real and strong, because nothing strengthens a community like a common cause and the feeling of an outside force attacking you. Then the world got used to us, and the outside pressure vanished. Come season 3, there was a lot more infighting than in the past, simply because without the outside pressure forcing everyone to band together, the different community groups inside the greater Brony world became less willing to put up with the stuff they didn’t like about the other communities. This covered a bunch of issues, with one of the biggest ones being over what to do about adult fanfiction (known as “clop”), and how that community could coexist with the community who saw it as something to enjoy with their kids and thus a space where such things were intolerable. That’s not one community, that’s two communities trying to peacefully coexist in the same world.

Which is what the gamer world really is – a lot of communities that get along with varying degrees of success. The bad thing is that we get ugly fights that really serve no purpose. The good news is that it’s exactly what happens when anything goes mainstream. There’s nothing particularly wrong with “gamers” just because of that stuff. It’s what humans do when a bunch of communities are all interacting.

Those Communities Are Awesome

If you find the communities that suit your interests, they are awesome. They’re all people out to have fun, or beat a challenge, or unite to kill a raid boss, or win a tournament. They write detailed walkthroughs to help others get through games. They play games and record it to show others how the game works (then get lampooned on South Park). They drop out of the air to lend a hand because they see you got attacked by a bunch of Murloc adds and are in trouble. They hang around a Q&A site answering questions about obscure D&D variant rules. And yes, they even forgive you for a late blog post. 😉

Most of them are open and accepting of pretty much anybody who shares the same interests and fits the culture. If one group doesn’t suit you, there is almost certainly another one that does. This is a hobby that came of age in the Internet era and thrives on sharing, even when the community is for a single player game. Playing alone doesn’t mean you’re actually alone when you’re a gamer. If you have something to share, you have an outlet. If you want to see the creativity of others, you have places to look. If you want to lend a hand to those in need, gamers have spawned some incredible charity efforts. I’m looking at you, Humble Bundle. When that happens, gaming as a community reaches out to the real world community, and it’s awesome.

My Own Gamer Community

If I look around my life, I see an awful lot that I owe to the gaming communities:

  • I met my wife at a LARP, which itself is a pretty funny story of me both saving the town and being entirely oblivious.
  • I met my best friend in World of Warcraft, on Argent Dawn, in a tavern in Stormwind City. A decade later and we’ve reached the point where we play together more often than alone, and coop is a major selling feature on any game.
  • Seemingly half my friends are either met during games, or joined in games and became closer. I run a D&D campaign at my house, and that includes friends, friends of friends (who are now friends), and a coworker (who is now a friend). It’s amazing how all those different groups come together over dice at the table, united in a common cause of trying to foil whatever plot I want to inflict on them this week. We’re over two years and still going.
  • At the library games day or a convention, people who don’t know each other and have nothing else in common all get together to play new games and learn from each other. I love participating in those, especially when kids are welcome and I can help them discover games they like.

With all that it’s given me, I’m pretty proud to be a member of some part of the gamer community.

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