The interactive and social nature of online games is the primary reason gaming has become so popular. Those who want to reach out to others and expand their friend base can find virtual friends waiting to play games with them online. Those who are stuck in their homes most of the time and just want someone else to talk to really enjoy the time they spend communicating with others while playing online games. In many cases, friends are formed across international boundaries, because physical location does not matter in the world of online gaming.
Those who have not personally experienced gaming online may wonder how communication is possible over the Internet. How can someone in Oklahoma possibly play a game and chat through the night with someone from India? There are even people on opposite ends of the country and the world who fall in love online. How is this possible?
The most basic form of communication in the online social gaming world is the simple instant chat platform. Many gaming sites allow players to enter private “rooms” with other players, and there is a chat box where they can type messages back and forth. These rooms are really just separate screens that pop up on the computer screens for all players in the game. They can communicate through the chat box throughout their game, while thousands of others have private conversations in other virtual rooms (screens).
That type of communication in a game's world is much like texting someone on a cell phone, except they type on the keyboard of their computer. There are also more complex ways for communication to take place during online games. Some games allow players to connect through web cams and microphones. This allows all players to see one another and put real faces to the online screen names.
This more personal form of online gaming communication is appealing to some, but not to others. Some people do not want their real faces and lives to be revealed in the online gaming world. For them, games that allow players to create avatars to represent their character online are far preferred. These games allow direct communication between players, but every player has their own avatar that is prevented to other players.
An avatar is a cartoon-like image that can be designed differently by each player. This is done by selecting different hair colors and styles, body shapes and sizes, and different facial structures and skin colors. Clothing can often be selected as well.
In games like Second Life, players can actually purchase clothing, homes, cars, and other belongings that show others in the virtual world who they are and what they are like. These avatars and online lives may or may not reflect who the player is in real life apart from the online world.
Online socialization is very rewarding and fulfilling for many people. Those who do not get the acceptance they would like in their real lives are able to find people online who validate them as individuals. In this way, online gaming can be powerful in the lives of gamers.