I often find myself wondering why people spend time watching others stream video games when they could be playing the games themselves. Here is a little insight into the psyche of a Gamer from a mental health professional who plays video games.
For many people, socializing comes easy but there are plenty of others in the world that experience significant anxiety when interacting with their peers, family and strangers. Symptoms of anxiety are the most prevalent of all mental health symptoms and yet most people are at a loss in regards to how to manage them. So we come up with ways to cope, whether we are conscious of it or not. One way people cope with social anxiety in this technological era is to have communication through a media source rather than in-person. Whether that be texting, Reddit threads, Instagram or in this case video games; technology is pushing us spatially apart while bringing us visually together.
Game developers have changed their approach to game design. While couch co-op never used to be a cool addition to a game, it was the gold standard. Now that we can play online we have gotten away from spending time with others in our presence to being able to play with nearly anyone in the world. While I believe this promotes IRL (in real life) anxiety it also fosters socialization for those who would avoid it if there was not a screen between them and the other players. Having this buffer not only decreases anxiety but it also helps people break out of their comfort zone and be more of who they truly are as a person in an online social situation.
There are three ways in which we experience the world. We participate ourselves, we watch others during an activity and we read about them. Sites that offer video game information are great ways to absorb the experience of a game, such as a game review article. Others enjoy going hands-on with a game to experience it for themselves. A third way is to watch a stream. This option not only allows you to see a game played that you didn't think you'd enjoy or maybe didn't have the money to spend to purchase it for yourself, but it also allows you to interact with others while they play. I have so many fond memories of playing Silent Hill while my brother and uncle watched in suspense. Or passing off the controller when my turn was up to watch my friends attempt to run through a Mario Bros. level. Streaming provides that type of interaction when playing with people in-person is not an option.
Sometimes we find certain types of games too challenging and will never beat the final boss or achieve a very high score or meet whatever benchmark is set for great players. Watching streamed games allows us to be a part of that action and live as though we were the ones playing it. Often times people feel a sense of accomplishment just from being part of the gaming experience of another player. We do the same with sports and other types of entertainment. I loved watching Kobe Bryant and the Lakers dominate the Blazers every post season and felt a sense of accomplishment each time they won, merely from being a fan. Streaming has the same possibility for followers of popular streamers. Whether you follow streamers like MrFruit or Stupendous (look him up on Mixer), watching them have fun and play well is rewarding as their fans.
People want to have a sense of belonging to a group. This is a natural instinct within us to help promote survival as there is strength in numbers. Even though most people do not need to literally provide safety for themselves as part of a group, overtime this has transitioned from needing protection/safety to feelings of belonging and community. Whether you game with friends online or participate in streamed video games, you are fulfilling this need for belonging. This is no secret in the gaming industry. Ever wonder why games these days provide so many multiplayer options? It is because the industry knows that people want to play together and creating single player, story driven games do not typically sell as well or have the replayability of a great co-op or multiplayer game.
Being part of streamed games provides a real time sense of community with people all over the world. Bringing individuals together who would not have any likelihood of meeting due to geographic distance is a remarkable feat that millions of people participate in everyday. Whether you are the type of person who finds it hard to meet new people in person or have great social skills, having access to various communities online through streamed gaming is a fantastic way to improve your social contact with people who have an obvious shared interest of gaming.
If you are reading this article there is a small chance that you just stumbled upon this site. What most of you may already know is that the XONEBROS have started a “positive gaming community” which involves Discord chat, weekly podcasts, daily streamed gaming, community plays and blog articles written by members of that very community. I am certainly the type of individual who is content with a few close friends and yet I have loved being a part of the XONEBROS community. Listening to the podcasts each week and getting a question I submitted answered feels great. Having chats during the week with members on Discord is socially fulfilling and writing blog posts is exceptionally rewarding. What I hope all readers take away from this post is that no matter what type of social gamer you are, there are communities out there that will meet your social needs no matter how big or small. While the XONEBROS community is still growing, it has done so rather rapidly. Please join us in the fun daily activities and discussions. Maybe this will also inspire some of you to join the creative team here to put your own thoughts out on the web for the world to see.
I love gaming! I love being a Dad to two young children! I love being a husband! What's great about my life is I've got kids who are interested in gaming and a wife who understands my need to game. I grew up in the 80's playing Nintendo classics and dabbled a bit with PlayStation before seeing "the light" that is Xbox. I love everything about it and am looking forward to sharing my experiences through the lens of a gamer, dad/husband and as a gamer with a Master's Degree in Psychology. Let the analyzing begin!