Social Gaming

Your ears are ringing because he won’t shut up. He’s shouting at his TV, at his friends. He seems like he’s having a good time…sometimes. A curse word, a shout of joy…no, we’re not talking about your spouse during football season (or maybe we are?). This is your gamer. This is your gamer on Fortnite (or any other social video game).

Yeah, I’m coining a new term here: the social video game. A social video game is one you play with other people, cooperatively. For a moment, ignore the violence. Ignore the bad language. Ignore the hours spent in front of the screen. Appreciate that your gamer is learning how to cooperate and socially interact with other humans his/her age. They are learning how to share resources in Fortnite (“give me some bandages, dude!”). They are learning how to take turns (“this is your ammo box, you need it more”). They are learning leadership and followership (“I’ll go first since I have more health–you sit back and cover me”). Research has shown that playing violent video games COOPERATIVELY decreases physiological arousal and violent cognition and increases prosocial behaviors (like the ones mentioned above) OUTSIDE OF THE GAME CONTEXT.

Fortnite, Overwatch, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Rainbow Six: Siege and many other games thrive on players working together to compete against other players. Around the world, millions are playing these games. You can watch some of these games on TV, even ESPN! They’re calling them e-sports for a reason. But you know, sports are about healthy competition, sportsmanship. Your gamer can learn these values from playing video games, and it may be up to you to help teach them.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Monitor the dialogue during these games. You might require your gamer to play without a headset, playing the sound through speakers so you can hear what is being said by other players and what your gamer is saying. Maybe you don’t want your gamer playing with vulgar bullies. Or maybe…you’re proud of your gamer for confronting that vulgar bully (who happens to be his friend) by telling him to simmer down, control his tongue, and play nice. There’s something about being your authentic self online AND offline (Parents, we are all guilty of this when we only post our most beautiful, perfect selves on Facebook). Teaching our gamers that language they use online should be as clean and appropriate as the language they use offline is important. Same goes for the kindness they show offline– can they reveal the same side of themselves online? There’s research suggesting that there is carry-over from gaming, that altruism shown in games can translate to real-life. So life can affect the gameplay AND gameplay can affect life.
  2. Use our Gaming World Map. Identify the genre, games your gamer plays the most. Does your gamer need to play some more time-limited games? Is your gamer playing too many solo games? Maybe there are some genres or games you might be interested in co-playing with your gamer. Many of the games on the map have both solo and co-op game modes. Ask your gamer if they’d be willing to play with you (and prepare yourself to be yelled, you’re not going to be as good as your gamer wants you to be). This website is one of my favorite for finding co-op games to play.
  3. Model positive communication. I know, this feels like a no-brainer. But in your house, how often is someone yelling or cursing when a football is intercepted or a shot missed? Or does this badgering/bullying happen at pickup basketball game, or on the sidelines of sporting events? Or maybe it’s just yelling between an angry mom and dad? I don’t think our gamers should blame us for their behavior, but deep down, we must believe that we bear some responsibility if we’re not modeling this healthy, positive communication at home while we watch TV, at sporting events, on our social media accounts. My sister-in-law is a positive psychologist and an expert on this issue. I’m going to shamelessly plug her book, Broadcasting Happiness, because it’s all about the ways that we can communicate to increase others’ happiness and success. So maybe the more encouraging we are of our gamer in all of his/her pursuits (academics, arts, gaming, sports), the more our gamer will be encouraging of others WHEN gaming and beyond.