Social Gaming: A Teen Perspective
This summer, the Department of Innovative Media, Research and Extension was pleased to welcome three high school interns from Doña Ana County. Here, they write about their experiences growing up with video gaming.
Intern 1: Since I was young, video games have always been a part of my life. Me and my brothers grew up playing them; whether it be against my dad or against each other, it always brought us together. We would joke and laugh, and now we reminisce on those fond memories. We would play games like Wii Sports, MLB the Show, NBA 2K, and Madden. As far as I can remember, video games have influenced my life.
As I grew older, I started playing more video games online. I started to meet and engage with more people. Through this I started to foster relationships, some that I still have to this day. I met people who helped me not only get better at the games we were playing but who also helped me through tough times in my life.
Some nights, even though it may not have been good for us, we would stay up way too late just talking about what was going on in our live and supporting each other. We would check on each other if we were offline for a long time, shoot texts at each other and ask how each other's days were going. I’ve met some of my best friends through video games.
Throughout the pandemic, when I was stripped of a social connection from most of my real life friends, I was able to reconnect with them through video games. Being able to have that kind of connection during a time like that was essential. Though we were going through such a devastating time, those were some of my favorite memories. I enjoyed every second of it. Video games gave me something to do, something to look forward to, and they gave me everlasting memories.
I would also engage with gaming communities in apps like Discord. These groups gave me an opportunity and experiences with people who I felt I could relate to, not only with video games but also through our personal lives. I always felt like I had a group of friends I could rely on – even when I was going through rough times.
Video games provide teens like me with great memories, great relationships, and just something we can lean on when we aren’t feeling 100%.
Intern 2: Video games are not only meant for fun, they also give a way for introverts to express themselves and make friends. In high school, you feel pressure to only have fun in certain ways. Going out, loud and busy places, anything that can be captured in a picture and uploaded onto social media as an idealistic life. You’re made to feel ostracized for enjoying intimate and comforting spaces, since it’s not a lifestyle that can make others feel excluded. Video games to me symbolize a way to truly be myself and have fun with other teens.
Even though I do enjoy my own company, I also like social interaction. However, the thought of walking up to someone and inviting them to hang out paralyzes me. Even if I do go out with friends, it seems like the priority is to make it look like we’re having fun, posing, and fake smiles for cameras every few seconds instead of genuinely having fun together and enjoying the moment. Fun shouldn’t be wishing I could just go home.
That’s where video games come in. Suddenly, like magic, all the pressure of being a perfect version of myself melts away. Gaming with friends lets people bond closer without the stress and awkwardness of face-to-face interactions. The focus is teamwork and conversation, compared to artificial moments and superficial judgments. Unlike with small talk and forced interest, we shared a common interest through the game, no matter how different our lives are.
Video games also helped me connect with my siblings. Minecraft, one of the most popular games, changed my relationship with my brothers. Even when we weren’t the ones playing the game, watching other people on the internet, huddled together around the family computer, is one of my favorite childhood memories. Then, as we grew older, we created a world of our own. Every day after school, I would race my big brother to the Xbox and enter a place that we had built. Whenever I needed help, I would ask him and he was always there to fight the monsters for me. To this day, I still go to him to fix things.
Gaming has redefined many friendships in my life. Even if the relationship ended, the memories of playing video games with them remain with me. It still amazes me the connections I was able to have in the comfort of my own home and without the anxiety of in-person conversation, all because of video games.
Intern 3: When I was in kindergarten I had a best friend, like most people. However, like most friends, we ended going to different schools later, but he did give me his Xbox username. Now, though I had never used an Xbox at this point, my older brother had one, so I thought I might try it out. What I ended up finding was a way to connect with friends and have timeless moments.
If gaming hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t be able to contact my childhood friend, I wouldn’t have a guaranteed way to relax. Gaming overall has been a stress reliever for me. In my household we are allowed to play video games on non-school nights, so after a long week of school it is a good feeling to cool down from the stress.
Gaming is also a big part of pop culture, so it is really cool to see what new games people are talking about or what is popular.
Not to forget, video games are overall just fun! Wether it’s looking at the artstyle, enjoying the gameplay or figuring out how to beat a boss, It’s an overall fun experience. Video games definitely aren’t productive, but they are a go-to to debrief and I am thankful that they exist today. As for taste in video games, I personally like very difficult games. I see these games as a puzzle, because most of the time you won’t get it on your first time. After trial and error, eventually you’ll get it, and it is rewarding to complete something after failing for awhile.
Written by JC Orta, Student Intern, Amelia Vescovo, Student Intern, and Bradley Vescovo, Student Intern