Whenever a video game gets popular, a gaming community will inevitably form around it. Since the creation of the internet, it's even easier to join up with your fellow gamers to appreciate your favorite video games. So, let's talk about online gaming communities and all the remarkable, controversial, complex ways that they help fans connect.
What is a Gaming Community?
A gaming community is a group of people that rally around a specific game they like. They can help one another with tips and tricks, commiserate about their favorite plot twists, or debate the best characters. Also, when the game is a multiplayer game, they can talk about the ebbs and flows of the newest patches, characters, maps, etc.
You can often find a gaming community of your own IRL or in-game. You can look for sects of your gaming community on Reddit, Discord, Steam forums, and so many other places (they're all around the internet).
Your gaming community could be your friends, or it could be a group of Redditors who love discussing how to speed-run Super Mario Odyssey.
Early Gaming Communities
Before the internet dominated gaming communities, most gamers built their culture, relationships, and communities in garages coding video games or in arcades playing Pac-Man and Galaga. Whether it was two friends playing Pong or an early party of DnD, gaming communities used to be very small-scale and simple. At best, a nerd community back in the day could hope for a somewhat popular 'zine to share and enjoy with peers.
Until the grand reveal of the internet, gaming communities were far more local. The second dial-up joined the mix, though, gaming communities boomed. Since then, they've grown from niche forums to dedicated sites for gaming, streaming, and much more.
Best Online Gaming Communities
Gaming communities have an unfortunate history of toxicity, smallness, or of having a big burst of fans, just for the community to fall apart when the game stops being "hot". So what are some of the best gaming communities to join?
The largest communities tend to coincide with the largest (often multi[layer) games. A handful of the top multiplayer games with consistent, involved communities are: PUBG, Minecraft, Fortnite, LoL, Among Us, Runescape, Candy Crush, GTA 5, WoW, Apex Legends, Roblox, and Hearthstone.
Largest doesn't inherently mean best, though. Sometimes having a friendly, open community is much more important than having a lot of people to talk to. The friendliest communities include: TF2, Battlefield, Total War Series, Rocket League, Little Big Planet, Left 4 Dead 2, and Dark Souls (yes, the 'git gud" people).
But the games where people have the most in-game interaction tend to be MMOs (massively multiplayer online games). So, if you don't want to go to other sites to connect with people, and instead want to create in-game clans and groups, check out games like World of Warcraft, FFXV, and Genshin Impact.
The Ways Online Gaming Communities Communicate
So many people play games alone, preferring to go silent with their communication, even in heavy multiplayer games. However, social media and in-game tools have been vital in giving interested gamers the option to talk and make friends with the people they're playing with. So let's talk about the tools that make these communities thrive.
Discord is one of the top places for gamers to congregate, hands-down. Whether you're creating a chat for your closest friends or the top mi'qote fans of FFXV, it was made for gamers and works best for gamers. You can use it as a place to do forum chats as well as voice chat, which can work for hanging out or executing perfect communication in a Summoner's Rift five-stack. You can also live-stream your screen and games to friends, for some oh-so-fun backseat gaming in Resident Evil 8 or watching Godzilla together.
Discord allows gamers to create the community they want, but it is restricted to people you can get your discord link to, so sometimes it can be a little challenging to get a large community together.
On Twitter, you can get the latest quick news about games and share your thoughts on them. Twitter may not always be the best place for a community, but it's still a way to connect with fellow gamers on a larger scale. And maybe you'll find a community of your own there.
If you want to create your own gaming community and enjoy entertaining people, Twitch might be for you. Twitch is a fantastic way to stream your favorite games and enjoy them your way while building a community of people around you with similar interests and perspectives about gaming. Twitch can get toxic at times, especially for female streamers, but it can be an excellent opportunity for community-building. And if you don't want to stream yourself, find streamers you like and enjoy. Their stream community might be perfect for you.
From memes to information to fun facts to patch notes, Reddit is a very catch-all place to get new information while still being part of a gaming community. It's also a perfect place to lurk if you're one of the people that enjoy gaming communities but aren't precisely confident or interested to comment yourself.
Many games have in-game communication tools, from voice chat, all-chat, and even emotes/pings, to help you communicate with your teammates in as many ways as possible.
Designing Online Gaming Communities
Anonymity, unfortunately, does encourage people to be nastier on the internet than they'd ever be in person. Ergo, developers always have an exciting task to design a welcoming community of gamers that encourage their games to grow, but not so sanitized that people get tired of the situation and quit the game.
For example, many people initially praised Fall Guys for its lack of chats and even emotes, but the lack of interaction also was a big critique from other sources. While communication is hardly the only reason the game's popularity has dipped, every video game creator or community tools developer has to think about these kinds of concerns.
Gaming Community Controversies
Over the years, gaming communities have had some serious problems with being gatekeeping and toxic. The toxicity is from the anonymity of online gaming, and also the gaming community has been pretty hard on women in gaming.
How to Make Gaming Communities More Friendly
As the problems with gaming communities tend to be a cultural issue, no one thing will fix everything wrong there. However, there are some things that leaders and creators in the community can do to try to improve things. Devs, streamers, and other community leaders can make a point to be inclusive and support other diverse creators. Also, condemning extreme toxicity helps discourage gatekeeping, etc., that can make these online communities better going forward.
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