Online Gamming - Social interaction, or Social Isolation

This is a question that came up over the weekend with me and my wife. I used to play an online game called Everquest. I played it feverntly for over 3 years. I “met” many people over that time and some of them, even tho I rarely play anymore, I still keep in touch.

Recently an online friend got married and sent me an email about it. I told my wife about it and wanted to send the newly married couple a small gift. My wife contended and said since I had never met them in “real life” how could I call them friends and want to send them something? Needless to say our ‘discussion’ on this went for some time and branched to many areas! lol

So the debate here…is online gamming truly social interaction, or since there is no face to face contact is it maybe just social isolation? Are people hidding behind the keyboard, or just branching out? Would you consider someone you never met face to face over an online game a friend? Does online gamming help shy people get outta of their shell? or make it stronger?

I trust you see the irony in asking advice about internet communities on a message board.

Of course it’s social interaction. You coomunicate with them, they communicate with you, that’s interaction. Compare it to a pen pal in a far off country. You may never have physically met them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or cannot be your friend.

Now if your “friend” was really just a script you were running on your computer to simulate conversations with yourself,* then you’re just stroking your pathetic excuse for a social life. You’re a sad, sad man, and your wife was right to think differently.

*I once knew someone who did this. He was a sad, sad man too.

Well, it’s always possible to spot people more socially maladjusted than yourself. Like this time I was playing America’s Army and this little puke was cheating (nobody but a cheater can fire an M-16 on full auto and hit every shot) and when we called him on it, he just “LOL”-ed and he had evidently found some loophole that kept him from being votekicked, so I got tired of it and switched teams for the express purpose of putting a sniper round in the back of his head, which got me kicked from the game, but it was worth it because I laughed when he crumpled to the dirt.

I know it’s not relevant to the OP, but I like telling that story.

As for gamers being socially isolated… nah.

haha…I do. But I was asking more about online games, than just online communities like SDMB.

I don’t see it as very socially different than a pickup basketball game at a local park. It does allow for people to learn teamwork and competition, nobody gets hurt, and everyone has fun. Like any activity, obsessions can be unhealthy. Playing online (or real world) games for hours on end to the point of damaging your real world life is bad.

I absolutly refuse to play Everquest or any of the other online games out there. Mostly because a couple of my buddies used to play for litterally days on end and it was a pain in the ass to drag them away from it. When we would go out, I would show up at his apt. I’d have to kick his ass to get dressed. Even in the car, the two of them would still be talking about the game. I’m like “you jerkoffs start talking about #2 broadswords and enchanted dildos in the line for the club and we aren’t getting in, so knock it off!”

I used to be addicted to Age of Empires II online. Fortunately, unlike Everquest, the battles have an end so you eventually stop. I would also generally play during “me” time - early weekend mornings or later in the evenings during the week - times when I tend not to be out. I think that it’s probably better than playing videogames by yourself but it does get to be like video-crack. At least there is someone else who you are communicating with.

To sum up - it’s fine as long as you don’t neglect real world people and relationships. I would rather go to a real club any day over an hour of The Sim’s.

I’ve been playing Star Wars Galaxies for the last couple weeks. I haven’t become a recluse, but a couple times I’ve had to exert a bit of will to shut the game off and go out with my girlfriend.

Here’s the thing: it’s a very limited sort of social interaction. It’s pure conversation in a virtual world. On the one hand, this can lead to a fairly deep and intimate (in the non-sexual sense) relationship fairly quickly, since all you’re doing together is communicating. On the other hand, you don’t have to deal with the other person’s reality very much–what they’re wearing, how they smell, annoying habits they might have, their reaction to your annoying habits…

In other words, a real relationship is broad-spectrum; online gaming relationships are very narrow. They can be just as deep, but fundamentally, something is missing. It’s not crazy to send your friends a small gift, which is a nice gesture. But I wouldn’t try to borrow money from them, and wife-swapping is probably right out.

I play quite a bit of online games and I would have to say it is not isolationist. Certainly not as isolating as just sitting up in your room and playing the games all by yourself all day. I have MET some really cool individuals, and I think something that I find more intriguing than meeting folks in person, is that you get to know someone strictly by their actions and words, and never from physical attributes. There is something pure about that, maybe it is just simply less complicated.

It’s both.

Online gaming increases your social interaction with people far away, but apparently isolates you from people in real life.

The link says that at least two different studies have proven that the more time you spend online, the less time you spend with the people you live with, and the more likely you are to be depressed.

Wasn’t there a theme in Asimovs Robot series where people who lived on some sparsely populated planet were very comfortable interacting with each other over a kind of videophone network but were extremely distressed interacting face to face?

The Naked Sun. That was an interesting book, and does have some weird echoes in internet socializing and fears about it. Asimov seemed to feel sex would still be necessary for reproduction however and that made a strange exception.

Anyway, I do wonder about possible excess with online games. Disclosure: My husband plays Earth and Beyond but doesn’t really use it as a socialization outlet. (I on the other hand have a big problem with using the internet for socialization but it doesn’t involve games).

I do believe having friends in online games is real social interaction, but even I can see a problem if someone doesn’t want to leave the house and meet people face-to-face. Guess I’m just repearing what other people said here. Anyway I agree what the OP describes sounds fun and normal.

It’s more social isolation, and it applies to most online things. People project a persona, a mix of all the good things about them. They don’t have to show exactly who or what they are in real life. You get a lesser understanding of normal human interaction, as you become more immersed with the ‘perfect’ people in the game and online.

That more applies to the people who are intelligent enough to pull it off but end up getting sucked into the internet and the game life, no matter what their intelligence is.

Yes, it is social interaction, but nothing like the real thing. It’s isolation from the real people around you, the real emotions.

(As mentioned, this mainly applies to the hardcore, addicted ones, but to a lesser degree the causual and above causual gamer)