Benefits of Social Online Play
What are the benefits of mobile gameplay?
Rather than creating generations of anti-social players as some stereotypes would suggest, new research indicates that video games and especially mobile games help to maintain friendships, create new ones, and lead to a greater social and emotional well-being, a stronger sense of identity, and a higher life satisfaction.
It is widely acknowledged that video games are valued sources of play for many children, adolescents, and adults. However, the role that they play in the development of physical, cognitive, social, and emotional skills is less recognized – these games provide unique opportunities for developing, honing, and reinforcing the range of abilities and benefits associated with play.
Mobile games can provide a fun, shared activity that help to strengthen friendships and family bonds. This may seem unsurprising, when you take into account that 82% of players say games introduce new friends and relationships and 76% of parents play video games with their children. In this sense, playing video games together is simply a shared activity that friends and families can enjoy together – much like playing a board game or a team sport. Even better, friends and families can play with other friends and family members across the globe from the comfort of their own home!
The interactive and playful nature of mobile games help promote the creation of friendships that are actually more long-lasting and intimate than those made in other online spaces, such as chat rooms or social networking websites. Furthermore, co-players are often regarded as valued sources of advice and key sources of emotional support.
Playing mobile games with others has been found to be particularly beneficial for individuals who are shy, socially anxious and/or isolated. Visual anonymity (i.e., “you can’t see me and I can’t see you”) can provide an extra level of security, removing obstacles that may hinder socialization and friendship making in traditional contexts. For instance, shyness is associated with social hesitation and excessive monitoring of behaviour. This can make it difficult to make and maintain friendships in “real-time”, face-to-face scenarios. However, through visual anonymity and the use of text-based communication systems (as are often integrated into games), inhibitions are reduced as social obstacles are removed allowing for more effective communication while playing online. This has been supported by research that has found that shy individuals are using online games as a tool to overcome their inhibitions and generate new friendships, as well as strengthen old ones.
Other benefits: identity and life satisfaction
The benefits of mobile games can extend beyond creating and strengthening friendships, particularly for adolescents. Players in this age group, have been linked to increased life satisfaction, perhaps because of the sense of identity they provide (i.e. being part of a group of “gamers”). Remaining social while playing video games has also been linked to reduction in symptoms associated with potential problematic use/addiction.
What does this all mean?
This means that games are not going to destroy our lives or the lives of our children. In fact, if you look at the research as a whole, a more consistent conclusion would be that online social games are simply new places where friends and family can come together, have fun, and meet new people!
How to encourage social play
Want to encourage your friends and family to play more? You can start by suggesting to them that you can play together! Mobile games (i.e., games that can be played on your smartphone) may be a good place to start as they are accessible to anyone with a phone and tend to be so-called “casual” games, which means they do not require any special skills or prolonged amounts of time to enjoy. Your mother, neighbour, and pre-teen should be equally equipped to jump right in and start having fun!
Find a mobile game your friends are enjoying, download it and start playing!
Read game reviews to make sure the game is right for you – there is something for everyone
Explore new games and if you see one you like, encourage your friends to play