The Talk of the (Virtual) Town


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For some, virtual games and video gaming is a time of solitude. It’s a time to unwind and block out the needs and demands of others and give themselves some ‘me’ time. Or it can be a welcoming space to connect with other like-minded people. From banter to collaboration and small talk to supporting one another through hard life transitions, video gaming doesn’t have to be an isolating hobby. Let’s dive a little deeper into what this may look like.

Building social connections

Playing games can be a time to disconnect from the busy world, a moment to retreat from the outside world and enter their own world. But for other players, virtual gaming is a way to connect. To build bridges, to have meaningful conversations, to create friendships, or to spend time with like-minded people after a day of the world feeling like it’s against you. Whichever your motivator is when you turn on your gaming console, there are ways that social interactions during virtual gaming can actually support your mental and emotional health.

There are many social aspects to gaming online, whether you prefer table games online, simulation games, or any other. If you are new to virtual gaming, you may be surprised to find out that there are social aspects to some types of video games. From bantering with opponents in game lobbies to collaborating with others on a map or at a table, you can practice social gameplay from the comfort of your home in dozens of ways.

The people you are playing with — or against — enjoy a hobby similar to you (playing video games) and are potentially even looking for the same retreat and/or social outlet that you are. Throw a few comments into the chat rooms, speak up on your microphone, or dish out some banter. You will notice that playing video games with social skills will enhance your gaming experience instead of sitting in silence and avoiding interaction. Believe us; it’s worth it.

Refining your social skills

Playing video games can be a safe area to build social confidence for people who experience social anxiety in large groups or tend to feel shy when sharing stories or banter in person. There’s something about having casual conversations while doing a task together that takes away some of the heat of social anxiety that a sit-down conversation can create.

Video Gamer Seen From Behind In Front of Game Playing Esports
Image: Maksim Chernyshev / Scopio

Playing video games and conversing with other players virtually may be the “practice” that introverts need to feel more confident in sharing their voice and talking to others about things that matter to them. With more naturally flowing conversation and a lower-stress environment, virtual gaming removes some of the social stresses that in-person interactions may involve. The distraction of playing the game also provides some relief from social anxiety, putting less stress on the players.

Supporting mental health

Because of how intricately wired individuals are, not everyone functions under the same routines or has the same outlets to promote mental health. While some may prefer running, going to the gym, or talking to a therapist, others may prefer to unwind after a long day by plugging in their headphones and playing a few games online to help them relax.

There are benefits that virtual games may provide players. It could be some time to sit in silence after a day of demands or the opportunity to talk to a real-life stranger while playing a virtual game online. There’s comfort in talking to people outside of the situations you encounter daily; talking to people online may be the perfect outlet to support your mental health journey. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know personally about problems or worries you may have.

Back to reality

As with everything, moderation is key. Video games in and of themselves are neither bad for people nor the same as people being anti-social or lazy. Playing video games can help people become healthier versions of themselves, but too much of a good thing can become an unhealthy imbalance. So it’s worth keeping an eye on how much time you spend in front of a screen — remember to get some fresh air.

As you pursue mental health as a part of your whole self, you need other activities or hobbies to help you become more well-rounded. Whether it’s hitting the gym or playing cards with friends over pizza once per week, engaging in other activities stimulates other parts of your brain and encourages different types of social development.

Photo credit: The photos (1, 2) shown are symbolic and have been done by Maksim Chernyshev.

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