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How Does Online Gaming Affect Social Interactions?

How Does Online Gaming Affect Social Interactions?
Humans have rarely been known to do things in moderation, and gaming obsession falls in that very category. As with all addictions, this one too has an impact on the social behavior of such gaming fanatics. Before we go all out and slam online games for creating zombies out of humans, let's not ignore the silver lining.
Renuka Savant
It wouldn't be too wrong to say that the world of computer users is divided in two parts - the regular people and the gamers. Online gaming has whisked up such a frenzy since the past few years, that once you've hopped on the gaming bandwagon, it is next to impossible to disembark.

We've heard stories of people dying of fatigue brought on by marathon gaming sessions, but it would be so unfair to let these overboard-ers be the only ones representing the ever-expanding gaming community.

Let's leave apart those isolated incidents of insanity for a moment, and focus on the larger issue at hand. Is the impact of online games on interpersonal relationships always adverse? Obviously not, and in all probability, a more patient analysis will definitely suggest otherwise. Let the arguments commence.

Recreational Gaming
If all this hoopla surrounding a seemingly innocent pastime has you baffled, count me in. For people who view it as a source of entertainment, or even as a recreational activity, gaming spells out pure pleasure. Some may even wish to classify it as a brain workout. Human callowness is what leads us into making these hasty categories, for all that is pleasurable, is bound to suck our sanity in a whirlpool of addictions.
  • When we speak of any recreational activity, we usually think of sharing, and online gaming is not too different. Gaming communities, at times, happen to be very closely bonded, with some interactions leading to lifelong relationships. Now, there certainly wouldn't be this kind of outrage over youngsters bonding over sessions of football, isn't it?
  • Critics of gaming blame the overdose of violence that forms an integral part of certain games to the unruly behavior in players. But barring a few games, which indeed have a mature rating, the others do qualify as safe indulgences.
  • Online gaming usually involves multiplayer games, and cooperation with partner players becomes an integral part of it. There is a distinct possibility of people bonding across countries and cultures, united by a common passion for gaming.
  • One aspect which simply cannot be ignored is the positive effects of gaming on the player's self-esteem. As the level of the games escalates, it calls for enhanced levels of skills, and surmounting these challenges gives the player a sense of achievement, and leads to confidence building.
  • There are games which are meant to be enjoyed by the family, and when played together, they make for a few hours well-spent, and bring the members of the family closer, just as any other family activity would do.
  • Games are looked at by some to be an outlet for their negative emotions. Pent-up frustration and anger makes way for a calmer mind when people play these games as a form of recreation, which otherwise would have had a negative effect on their relationships. 
Addictive Gaming
So, where does it go wrong for online gaming, and why are they blamed for causing harm to young and old minds alike? The answer lies in the fine line which separates indulgence and overindulgence. It happens to people who blur the demarcation between games and life. When we think of gamers, the first image that comes to our mind is that of a nerd, holed up in a room, hunched up in front of a computer screen with fingers furiously tapping on a keyboard/joystick. These people have no clue whatsoever about what goes on around them; they lose all track of time, forget their hunger and personal hygiene, all for the sake of a mere game.
  • The aftereffects of being excessive are for everyone to see. Since such people are usually isolated for extended periods, their confidence usually deserts them once they are not in the company of a computer. Frequent mood swings and temper issues are not unknown.
  • Family members of such addicts are often heard lamenting about the amount of time these people give to their obsession, which strangely enough, makes them more rebellious.
  • Lack of social interaction also leads to extreme awkwardness when they find themselves in the company of actual people. To say that they suffer from social phobias would not be an overstatement.
  • Getting involved with the wrong kind of people online can inculcate wrong values in a person. They may refuse to respect people or use profanity, which leads them to be ostracized from society. At the very least, it does have some negative impact on their communication skills.
  • As with any addiction, this one too will push players to cross any limit to protect their obsession. Parental interference in preventing this addiction is usually unwelcome, and we have had some disastrous examples of violence as a result of this.
  • Certain games with their prejudiced notions on genders and races actually influence an addicted gamer's mind. They tend to carry these prejudices into their real life, adversely affecting their existing relationships. 
Perhaps the problem with recreational activities is their innate ability to help us relax and make us happy. These qualities drive people to indulge in them with a maniac obsessiveness which, in the end, erases all the original goodness. It is easy for us to blame the individual's lack of control on the addictive nature of games, but as humans, a deep introspection is what will give us the right answer.