The Isolation of the Gamer: A Piedmont student’s opinion

by Chase Weaver, contributing writer

A flickering screen dimly illuminates the darkness of late night. In the pale glow sits a figure, eyes transfixed on the lights. The screen places the gazer’s consciousness into a fabricated reality free from the constraints of the physical body. The gazer cannot experience physical contact or actual companionship beyond messages exchanged through the screen.

Such a scene sounds like a dystopic setting from Orwell’s “1984.” Of course, I may have taken some liberties with my diction in that paragraph, but nevertheless the image is a typical one for the average online gamer.

Playing video games with other people has been the driving force in the industry since its creation.

In the early decades of the arcade generation, games like “Pong,” “Gauntlet” and “Mortal Kombat” thrived on friendly competition between players.

Machines displayed lists of the highest scores, proclaiming the initials of the most skilled players in blinking lights.

The atmosphere of the arcade alone was a social experience. Just like diners in coming-of-age movies, these gaming venues would act as hang out spots for local youngsters and enthusiasts who would bond over the electronic contests.

Then video games moved to the home console, which allowed players to enjoy a game in the comfort of their own homes alone or to host a game night with a small selection of friends.

The console became a party experience. People gathered in private groups to play as a celebration or as a closer bonding experience.

Game owners acted as hosts, and all involved played games like “Mario Party” and “Marvel vs. Capcom” on the same screen.

Games such as these featured several mini-games or rounds of games with little to no plot, so that players would not have to commit to a long-term gaming session.

Now, with split-screen multiplayer disappearing in favor of online multiplayer, players can compete or cooperate in intense, extended sessions without ever having to see or even speak with each other.

Each user plays with their own television, console and personal copy of the game all while connected to the others through the Internet—a requirement unavailable to many gamers. Players can speak over a headset, but no interpersonal contact is needed.

The social interaction which was once the cornerstone of the gaming world has now become an extension of the single player experience.