A basic human instinct for friendship is driving an explosion in online games with 73 per cent of homes now having internet access, compared to just 61 per cent three years ago, and more than half boasting a games console.
According to Dr Mick Grierson, a computing lecturer at Goldsmiths University in London, online gamers are using the new technology to build relationships and beat the isolation of modern life.
“People need interaction with one another and gaming is an example of that,” said Dr Grierson. “There is a basic human need for communication that comes through gaming – it’s more than just entertainment.
“Multi-play game is far more of a social experience than it is often given credit for.”
Whether it’s World of Warcraft, bingo or something more challenging like word search or crosswords experts claim competing against the clock or each other provides a form of interaction many people miss due to the pressures of modern life.
“A lot of players want something that stretches the mind not just their thumbs,” said Ken Gauld, spokesman for ntrails.com, an online global treasure hunt which provides a variety of skill-based games culminating in a cash prize of between £300 and £1million plus
“Shoot-em up games aren’t for everyone and if they can win some money having fun, even better. Games like word searches, spot-the-difference and jigsaws that provide a chance to relax and offer a few minutes respite from every day life without over taxing the brain or raising adrenaline levels too much are becoming more and more popular.”
“Just by taking part, let alone winning, people are demonstrating to others and themselves a degree of intelligence and skill.”
The UK casual games industry is worth an estimated £35 million a year, compared to £411 million worldwide, and there are now some 23 million players in Britain with many spending over five hours a week online.
“The main driver behind the growth of online games is simply that there is something inherently fun about playing against other people competitively,”
“Even online shooting games are a modern take on an ancient game form. It’s like playing cops and robbers when you’re a kid. It’s just that it’s through the internet rather than running around the woods with sticks.
“It is a really basic drive that’s being satisfied. There is a simple joy in playing together. The other thing is that people love to show off their skills to other people”.
Dr Pinchbeck says the most successful online games bleed into people’s off screen discussions.
“When people know the people they are playing against online, you can bet any money you like, that what happened in last nights game will be a topic of discussion at work or college or whatever,” said Dr Pinchbeck.
According to Paddy O’Donnell, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Glasgow, online gaming fulfills a need for companionship without the need to impress others.
“All games fulfil a need for company while at the same time protecting people from some of the downsides of being sociable, such as feeling that your social status, reputation and so on are on display.
“If you go out with people from work there is always an underlying current of being careful what you say or do in front of others with different work grades, varying income levels and a variety of ages. All of these things can interfere with the social interaction.
“The great thing about games, particularly the online games, is that there is a neutral territory which provides a complete levelling of social rank and age because anybody is acceptable.”
# # #
EasyEditor provides news and features for use in newspapers, magazines, websites, newsletters, e-zines, blogs and social networking pages as well as audio and video headlines for internet broadcasters.
For more details please call 0845 373 0043.