#Asia How gaming is increasingly fertile ground for online dating


Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) may be the new social frontier for an increasingly alienated digitalized generation

video game FINAL 2

Getting ready for a hot date? Don’t worry about putting on your most fancy outfit and spending hours on your hair. Pick up your smartphone and get ready for battle.

Gamers are often stereotyped as ‘asocial’ or ‘loners,’ but recent studies found 75 per cent of players made ‘good friends’ in the game environment and a considerable amount found themselves attracted to another player.

Whether due to spending more time on social media, not having disposable income for socializing, or simply because they work from home and do not have a social network of colleagues, nowadays, the traditional methods of meeting new people are becoming less accessible for many.

Mobile gaming has opened the door to millions of gamers around the world who otherwise would not engage with gaming on consoles or handheld devices. Aside from multiplayer gameplay, users are also using the platform to socialize and even form relationships online. But why are people struggling to meet new people in the real world? And how is the gaming universe offering an environment where they feel they can show their true colors?

Since the invention of meetup apps like Tinder, Bumble and Happn, it is now easier than ever to meet new people. However dating apps, and social media platforms like Facebook, are very image-oriented and require sharing personal information and photos which more introverted and private people find intimidating. And it’s not just middle aged people who are uncomfortable sharing selfies and beach bikini pics; the Cassandra Report about over-sharing online found that 55 per cent of post-Millennial respondents said they’d rather be anonymous than vocal on the internet.

The same social media networks that are supposed to help us be more social are becoming a hindrance for many. According to the UCLA’s annual national survey of incoming college freshmen in 2015, today’s youth spend more time on computers and less time hanging out with friends than previous generations.

For past generations, people generally met their partners through friends, at work, at a social club or gym, or while out socializing in a bar or at an event. Nowadays working demographics and tight wallets due to the recession are making this unfeasible for many. A recent study of British Millennials by the Guardian found that most youngsters no longer spend time in nightclubs and bars because they are too expensive, and because they prefer to meet people via social media and dating apps.

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For many, it is work commitments that inhibit their social interactions. In the U.S and elsewhere, it is becoming increasingly common for people to work from home. A Forbes expert suggests that by 2020, more than 50 per cent of the U.S workforce will be freelance. A recent Guardian article explains people under 40 in Japan appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Japanese youth are increasingly career driven, and especially for women, being in a couple – nevermind married or with children – is considered professional suicide.

Why MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) gaming and socializing go hand in hand

While stereotypes depict gamers as predominantly solitary beings, many of the new generation of mobile games and MMORPG are designed to be played in teams or against other players in multiplayer scenarios. Leading games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Minecraft and MapleStory involve setting up guilds or clans with other players from around the world. While most games can be played alone, games like Clash of Clans market primarily themselves as multiplayers. In a recent advertising campaign featuring actor Liam Neeson, the competitive nature of playing against other online players is highlighted.

Clan leaders are responsible for recruiting new members and within each clan people have their own roles. As a result, people naturally bond with and learn about other players in their teams, and discuss anything from online strategies to real life chatter. As players are often in different time zones, it is up to ‘team leaders’ to organize ‘playdates’ at times when all of their clan are available. ‘Playdates’ can consist of guild meetings, group dungeon crawling, raids and other in-game social events.

Within the gameplay, there are chat functions and people can choose to ‘add friends’ to their groups and chat lists. Players can talk during the game play via chat, and many games such as DC Universe, EverQuest, Lord of the Rings Online and Dragons and Dungeons Online all feature ‘voice chat’ functions allowing users to chat in real time with other players in their team, and who they encounter during their online adventuring.

Why gaming is more inclusive for ‘socially marginalized’ players

Gaming expert Nick Yee collected quantitative and qualitative data from over 35,000 MMORPG players through online surveys and highlighted some interesting trends in terms of gamer demographics.

While traditionally gamers were painted as ‘nerdy layabouts’ with a tendency to reside in their parents’ basements, more than half of all MMORPG players work full-time, and 34 per cent are students. The average age of MMORPG players was 27, and contrary to stereotypes, only around 25 per cent of MMORPG players are teenagers.

Yee states, “MMORPGs are a very unique environment, in that you would almost never, in real life, find high school students, housewives, retirees and early adult professionals together in any sort of collaborative decision-making task.”

According to research conducted by the University of Vienna, MMORPG users show more depressive tendencies and lower self-esteem compared to users playing other online games. Aside from offering an environment where anyone can play regardless of their gender, age, or background, MMORPGs stand apart from other ways of socializing because they are anonymous.

Facebook has controversially rolled out a ‘real name policy’ and apps like Tinder require users to link to a live social network account, however in games players get to choose an avatar to represent them instead of a photo. They can also create any user name or alias, putting less pressure on ‘self conscious’ people who want to participate.

Finding love online

Brandon Gordon is a 24-year-old Oshawa man who’s on the new online dating site Bernie’s Singles, for like-minded supporters of U.S. democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders. Photo credit: Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images Israel
Who we find attractive is based on a huge range of factors that are different for every person, but psychologists agree that sharing interests and doing activities together is a great way of creating bonds.

A study from experts from Nottingham Trent University found that 42 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men who play online games find themselves attracted to another player and more than 40 per cent said they would discuss sensitive issues with their online gaming friends, issues they wouldn’t discuss in the real world.

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There are gamers in all corners of the earth, and many users find themselves striking up long-distance friendships and romantic relationships after meeting during gameplay. According to user testimonies from happy gamer couples, voice chats or Skype sessions about tactics during ‘playdates’ often blossom into much more. However, for gamers in the same time zone, 15.7 per cent of male players and 5 per cent of female players reported physically dating someone they had met in an MMOG.

The phenomenon has led to the creation of groups such as MMO Couples, where users can share online romance stories, and there has been a lot of conversation on platforms such as Reddit about looking to MMORPGs for a potential match.

For many, gaming might not be the obvious choice for finding a new partner. However, for people who value privacy, enjoy anonymity and most importantly love playing games, MMORPGs offer a means of showing their true characters and meeting new people in a manner in which they feel safe and comfortable. So if selfies and Snapchat just aren’t your thing, why not pick up your phone or open your laptop and see who battles their way into your heart?

The article How gaming is increasingly fertile ground for online dating first appeared on Geektime.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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