Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Why text or call if you can “get on the game”? The gaming industry has skyrocketed in popularity and advanced over the past decade, with the value of gaming companies now surpassing some entertainment companies. Not only are games more stimulating and engaging than ever before, but there are also new and advanced ways for players to communicate while gaming.
Social gaming is now a part of almost every gamer’s world. We’re moving past the unilateral, one-dimensional days of sole-purpose gaming into a more exciting and interactive market. As gaming has grown in importance and sophistication, a new multidimensional, multifunctional social gaming world has emerged.
To better understand this trend, I’d like to focus on what brand leaders can take away from the evolution of gaming culture. I have been on the internet since 1991 — pre-Netscape (the first-ever internet browser). I have seen over a dozen types of messaging services over the years come and go. To communicate in the 1990s, we used IRC (internet relay chat) to chat. It was a text messaging application via a web browser.
In gaming and gaming commentary, I began to notice that gaming chat slowly became very popular for one real reason: It’s easier to chat on the game than text or call. It’s simple, and the gaming companies know it and have gamified the communication tools.
One of YouTube’s largest genres is now gaming. People watching other people’s games is what is driving the YouTube watch time for this genre. The Super Chat feature essentially allows viewers to pay to pin a comment on livestreams. We’re seeing some very smart monetization of live communications come out of the gaming world.
The industry has figured out the value of analytics, live streaming, recording and archiving the gamer’s game. Gaming companies are a perfect target in the M&A world and as a result, M&A activity could continue to intensify in the gaming industry in 2022. Overall, social gaming has evolved rapidly, leading to greater opportunities for connection.
In terms of practice, social gaming is an interesting mix of art (soft skills such as social engagement and an ability to read other players) and science (quantifiable and analytical). Gamers’ analytical side needs to be able to create and justify strategy while their social side needs to be able to read the gaming situation, anticipate other gamers’ needs and interact and communicate all at the same time. Many people find social gaming to be rewarding — they get to interact directly with each other.
Social gaming is no longer solely about the mechanics of the game. Now, it’s not only what you’re playing, but who you are playing with and what you are saying to each other. When you hear gamers say “get on the game,” it is used to encourage users, friends and newcomers to play and communicate on a specific platform.
Game chat is text- or voice-based, meaning players can transmit their voices or send messages to other players. Gaming players don’t need to know each other in real life — people can meet and talk with other online gamers using game chat. For instance, you could play with someone across the country or even the world, and you can still chat with them while interacting with each other through the game. Gamers can also choose either to have game chat on or off, seeing how some players might not want to always talk to other players. Game chat isn’t always used to solely socialize about the game; gamers use the chat to talk about anything that they want to talk about.
On the competitive side of video games, game chat is an extremely helpful way for gamers to quickly coordinate with their teammates about strategic moves to make during the game. Many online games have game chat in competitive tournaments, like Fortnite, League of Legends, Overwatch, FIFA and so many more. In many multiplayer games, you can “solo queue,” meaning you enter the game alone. When you enter the game, game chat becomes available for you to talk to your fellow teammates.
The main reason game chat is important is because players can use it to communicate with other players about strategy when they have only just met each other, which is crucial in order to win the game. The true power of game chat is that gamers could be placed in a match with someone they’ve never met and can talk and message with them to plan on how to win the game. Most co-op and competitive multiplayer video games have game chat so that there’s a way for players to competitively or casually win the game. Although, games that have single-player mode may not have game chat since there is only one active player.
The only way you used to be able to play games with people from around the world was if you knew them in real life. Now you can join a game and communicate with people from all parts of the world, just with a simple tap of a button. Gaming has evolved to become immensely social, where you can easily catch yourself playing for way too long — probably because you were communicating with your friends (whether for strategy or trash-talking your opponents). To people who don’t game, gaming might just look like people running around and defeating each other, but to gamers playing the game is a whole different experience.
Industry leaders must strive to understand social gaming and what it means today. Platforms have gamified the experience to keep players on the platform, encouraging communication via the community engagement tools. The TOS (time of site) has become a litmus test for how effectively the game engages viewers. The longer someone is on the game, the more likely they are to revisit the platform — and some gamers game for hours on end.