Making the Human Connection
Over the years gaming has gone from arcades, to living rooms, to virtually everywhere. Making the Human Connection has become easier over the last few years with video, livestreaming, social media, and voice communication services like Mumble, GameVox, Teamspeak, and Ventrilo. Not to long ago we came out of a generation where you had no other means of communication than chat text.
It's sometimes easy to overlook the fact that each of the players in a game, has a life like our own. Filled with memories both painful and joyful. Filled with stories of strife and perseverance. Each player has their own backstory and the intersection of these backstories often times makes for some fun times and conversations.
In my years of leading Gaiscioch, I've made friends with some pretty amazing people. While I never imagined myself becoming so attached to a person I met in a game, I've felt a profound connection to a few players who I've come to know. It was these connections that inspired this issue.
What is a Human Connection
This may seem obvious to some, but some this might be a foreign concept. In games we play behind a veil, this veil is commonly known as the internet. Voice and now video can pass through the internet to reveal who your talking to. Like an interactive penpal of old, but our messages no longer take weeks to arrive and conversations no longer take months and years. The internet puts communication at our fingertips and a world at our door.
The Human Connection happens when we least expect it. Suddenly we find that our relationship with others is no longer bound a game, but it transcends the game into real life. We began caring about one another and supporting one another in our personal battles. In my days of being a Gaiscioch this has happened countless times. From joining a prayer chain when a member was diagnosed with a terrible illness, to helping a new member crowdfund a new computer, my commitment to the people I game with far exceeds that limited to a game.
Going Beyond Borders
Our gaming universe today is also no longer limited to local players. We now have no borders. Players from the far reaches of the world play with one another not as Russian, German, or American, but as players from one gaming universe. People search for a united world, yet the only place you can find this is online.
The Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community for example has players from 74 different countries. Everywhere from the US and Canada to Argentina, South Africa, Afghanistan, Germany, Spain, and Russia. The world of politics would tell us we're supposed to be mortal enemies, however in the gaming space we are allies who go into battle with one another. Some of my closest friends have been from countries who in history did not get along.
Having the world at your fingertips brings new challenges and new advantages. For example, when the story in the Ukraine broke, we were able to hear it from Ukrainians who were living the situation. Having this view of the world events allows us to see the truth and see how the media is turning misinformation into fear propaganda. We have the world's knowledge at our fingertips. We no longer have to rely on hearing one side of the story.
The beauty of online communities is that we share knowledge from every country in the world in one giant resource pool. No matter what your dilemma is, someone most likely knows how to help. Have a computer problem? There are several IT guys in the community. Have car trouble, there are several mechanics? Feeling a bit off, cloudy and ill? There are nurses and doctors. In my days on the internet I've socialized with everyone from teachers, to politicians, to soldiers, and lawyers. Every single profession is converging on the internet and whatever your problem is, the knowledge is there, just for the asking.
Dealing with Cultural Differences
Culture is a curious thing. For some of us like myself it's the reason I game. I love people, lifestyles, and cultures. I love to hear about the world from the perspectives of people who live there. Once you begin hearing it first hand, the news becomes rather comical.
The key to running a successful global community is in building a foundation of understanding and acceptance. The global gaming scene is no place for assumption and preconceived notions. Often times what we have been told by our news, our countries leaders, and our local politicians is far from the reality we see every day.
Keeping an open mind and listening to other’s perspectives is often times the best approach to understanding how the world actually works. Separating fact from fiction. Additionally, you have to go into it knowing that the truth you know might be different from the reality someone else has survived. We are all unique, with different backgrounds and different ways of life. Together we form a truly wonderful spectrum of human beings that melts borders and limitations, and allows people from the far sides of the globe know and love one another.
The Hard Truth
As we forge bonds with people from around the globe one of the hardest things to deal with is tragedy. It strikes without warning and often times we never even realize it has happened. From a friend that disappears from the gaming sphere one day to an event leader who just stops showing up. Sometimes we may never know the whole story. It's like a friend from school just disappears one day.
In some cases the worst case scenario makes itself apparent. Finding out that one of your friends, who you have forged a friendship through adventures and comradery has passed on is never easy. Some players bottle it up, others try to remember them in any way they can.
Several gaming companies like ArenaNet, Trion, and Blizzard have even gone as far as to create in game monuments to these fallen friends. There is no doubt that the relationships we forge in game go far beyond the borders of one's screen and into our hearts and lives.
In one example I have experienced, my friend and co-commander Roger "Oldroar" Rall suddenly passed. The sense of loss was profound. I have lost friends in real life as well but Roger's loss was far worse. For a little over 2 years Roger had been like a digital father figure for many of us. He gave us sage advice, always had some funny remark to get you to laugh when you were trying your hardest not to. He pulled so many of us up with his vibrant personality. Together we shared countless victories and even formed what we called the Trinity with Roger, Prissy, and I, where we lead 3 raids as a single offensive force dividing up territories as needed. It was widely successful and the bonds we shared would leave a lasting mark on all of our lives.
Over the years I have known many who have passed on. Roger (Oldroar), Joanne (Jexia), Steve (Zudrot), and Trisha (Tinkerhell) all left us too soon. I can tell you first hand, it never gets any easier to deal with the loss of a friend. Remembering a friend is how we can grant them immortality. To pass a little piece of them onto others. Whether it's mimicking their kindness, taking on one of their traditions, lighting a candle, or sporting pink every October. We make sure that memories never fade and honor their lives as best as we can. It is apparent in these moments that it's not just pixels and avatars. It's a real human connection. Real feelings, real tears, real laughs, real joys. We may be scattered to the far corners of the world but our bonds are very close and personal.
The Inevitable Truth
The moment you log into game for the first time, you will be exposed to other people from around the globe. There will be kind people who make the gaming world a better place and there will be those who use the cloak of anonymity to let their inner demon show. You will begin building bonds with people who are both near and far and someday you might even cross paths offline. As someone who organizes out of game meetups I can tell you that in person meetings are wonderful. They validate your feeling in game and you begin to realize just how deep of a connection you've shared with others. It's easy to forget behind the avatar is a real person but the moment you meet them in person you'll never see their avatar the same way. You'll see the person behind the avatar.
About the Author
Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley
Benjamin founded the Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community in 2001 and has since been the founder & activities director for this well known community. His role has gone beyond just running the Gaming Community and now includes running the Athletics Program in Portland, Oregon, as well as acting as the Managing Editor of the Gaiscioch Magazine, and is the Lead Producer on the Gaiscioch Livestream Productions. Additionally he networks with game developers to form relationships between Gaiscioch and development studios.
His experience in publishing dates back to helping his Grandparents who operated a printing press for over 40 years. In high school and college Benjamin excelled in journalism and played an active part in the school newspaper. Benjamin currently works full time as the director of technology for a franchise trade publication & education company.