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Gamer's Piece: Gaming's social revolution

By Joe O'Leary
On February 5, 2013


During the month of September in 2011, my roommate and I would habitually end each day with a two-player game of "Madden 12." The quality of the game itself was questionable, but the quality of our gameplay was spectacular. Well, sort of. Every night, his team would inevitably force a fumble, or get a pick-six, or nail a 60-yard Hail Mary, putting his team on his back and mine on the skids. It took a full month of trying for me to finally beat him. That moment was glorious.

So why did I spend a full month of my life playing a game when the odds of winning were so low? Was it so important for me to win? No, the chance to play a game every night with one of my best friends, a social experience littered with in-jokes, trash talk and the occasional drinking game, was the draw, just like it was every time I pulled the trigger on Amazon to pick up another two- or four-player game.

For all the stereotypes of gamers being introverted, nerdy shut-ins with less social skills than Donald Trump, there's no denying the hobby's popularity; a Pew study released in July said seventy percent of college-aged kids reported playing video games at least "once in a while." And though there are plenty of wide-ranging single-player games in today's market, including new "Legend of Zelda" and "Elder Scrolls" games, the past ten years' technological advances, specifically concerning online interactivity, have made games more accessible to multiple players. Just look at the Wii, built off social experiences and active movement.

Without anyone really noticing, video games have turned the corner in the past decade in modern society. They've become much more of a cultural standpoint, especially with the coming of the Internet expanding the spread of information about games both big and small across the world. "Call of Duty" and "Halo" games are grossing more at Gamestop than all but the biggest blockbusters do at the box office. "Angry Birds" and "Just Dance" are social hotbeds that are hitting quadrants not normally into games. And almost all of it is thanks to multiplayer, or at least the medium's shift from a passive, solitary activity to a social, active one.

Gaming's new place in modern culture is sealed, and despite any detractors it's going to continue to grow. With the Kinect, the Wii, the Move and skyrocketing budgets turning every triple-A game into an interactive movie, gaming has become an experience much bigger than picking up a controller. Whether someone's pounding their way through a game with a room full of friends cheering them on, a couple (or couple of friends) are playing cooperative Mario, or four people are waging an all-out "Mario Party" war, there's no doubt that more is better when it comes to gaming. 

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