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Online Gaming: The First True Social Network?

With sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram dominating every aspect of the online world, from communication with friends through to sales and marketing, it's safe to say we are well and truly in the age of social media. But is it really anything new? In this article, I wanted to shine a little light on what is, in my opinion, the first true social media giant, the world of online gaming and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games).

Serving as the next logical step forward from chat rooms and forums, online gaming rose to prevalence in the 90s with the launch of titles such as Neverwinter Nights in 1991 (often considered to be the first true MMORPG, although the term wouldn't be coined until the release of Ultima Online in 1997). These highly graphical, immersive worlds changed the game, quite literally, by allowing players to connect in a more human way due to the interaction between avatars, a concept taken to new heights by avatar-based chat rooms such as Habbo Hotel. This resemblance to real life proved to be a major reason why this form of entertainment took off so dramatically, and why the social aspect continued to grow along with the games.

Fast forward to 2016 and online gaming has taken over. World of Warcraft has proven to be so addictive that people have forgotten to eat or even had their children removed to foster care, to give an extreme example. Even I just can't seem to tear myself away from Star Wars: The Old Republic for too long. Now console games have started to make the switch, dropping local multiplayer options in favour of online servers.

The reason as to why these games have enjoyed such success, and why they continue to dominate, is the combination of fun activities alongside real-time interaction. It's an act Facebook have been trying to get in on for years now with the addition of Flash games but they never achieve quite the same levels of immersion, so people will keep heading back to their favourite online games to get their fix.

These online games offer even more advantages in terms of being a true social network. To use World of Warcraft as my example once more, their subscriber count stood as high as 12 million in Summer 2015, and as all those players have chosen the same pass time as you initially you're more likely to find like-minded individuals on these servers than you are flicking through conventional social networks. Facebook works great for staying in contact with existing friends, but falls short when it comes to making new connections. For that task, I can see no better alternative to a nice full server on your favourite MMO.

So next time you find yourself absent-mindedly flicking through your Facebook news feed, put down your phone and hop into any number of fantastical worlds, make some new connections and cure your boredom, all in one fell swoop. After all, when they don't call this time the age of social media, it's the age of gamification.

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working as Editor of Social Songbird, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @SamAtSMF

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Online Gaming: The First True Social Network? Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, January 05, 2016 Rating: 5

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