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The 21st century has been characterized by many inventions and novel technological breakthroughs. The entertainment industry has been one sector which has been positively impacted by these technological advances with video games in particular exhibiting exponential growth. These games have in the course of a few decades advanced from their humble origins in the computer lab to a contemporary status as one of the leaders of the multibillion dollar global entertainment industry.
Lin reveals that online games account for more than $10 billion in annual sales making them a lucrative part of the entertainment industry (220). Most of the popular video games have multiplayer modes and can be played online. Online games are increasingly characterized by computer mediated communication between the players.
This communication is regarded as having significance in the international communication process. This paper will set out to argue that online gaming has mostly had a positive impact on the communication process. To reinforce this claim, this paper will discuss the advantages of online gaming as a medium for international communication. The demerits of the medium will also be pointed out so as to provide a balanced view.
Evolution of Online Gaming Communication
Online games have had significant advances which have made them attract a wide selection of players. Griffiths et al. assert that the stereotypical image of the online gamer as a socially withdrawn young male with limited sex role identify is misplaced since game clientele is very much an adult profile (86). The significant changes which have made online gaming an important medium for international communication processes are as follows.
Traditional games were mostly run on a single player mode and it was not possible to interact with other players. The games played did not incorporate features like virtual environments and use of real time. Real time interaction is the defining characteristic of online games. The multiple players participate in real time events and individual players may be located in different geographical regions. Messages sent to other players can therefore be responded to in an instance.
The user interface is an important aspect of the game since it enhances or limits the gaming experience of the player. In the past, user interfaces were simple and did not engage the user. At the present, the interfaces have been improved greatly and they include elaborate graphics effects, sound, 3D technology and high processing speeds.
Choi and Kim reveal that the communication place in modern games has background graphics that provide an overall harmonious atmosphere thus promoting communication (17). Another significant change is the creation of multiple user personalities. In the past, users were confined to using similar characters in their online games. This led to duplicity and users could seldom express their own individuality.
Choi and Kim reveal that communication tools have advanced and now players can differentiate their identity more specifically by use of characters that are designed differently from others in an online game (22). Griffiths and Hussain state that the enhanced social interaction that is utilized in online games has increased the participation in these games (564). This is because social interaction allows the gamers to not only communicate amongst themselves but to form groups.
Advantages of Online Gaming Communication
Griffiths and Hussain state that the anonymity which is afforded by online communication gives confidence to people with low self-confidence in real life (564). The users are therefore able to experiment with positive communication styles such as assertiveness.
Assertiveness is one of the styles of communication that is believed to enhance a person’s effectiveness in the communication process therefore leading to the most desirable outcomes. Bedell and Lennox articulate that assertiveness promotes interpersonal behavior that “attempts to maximize the person’s satisfaction of wants while considering the wants of other people” (23). In addition to this, research by Hussain and Griffiths indicated that online games were used by the players to alleviate negative feelings (752).
These players used the online games to relieve themselves off loneliness and boredom as well as to reduce stress levels as well as annoyances and frustration that they experienced in real life. Video games therefore enable one to diffuse tensions and anger in the online environment where no real damage can be done to other people.
Contemporary media has had accused of having the effect of killing of civic and social life. This is not the case with online gaming which calls for direct involvement and makes people active consumers of entertainment.
Steinkuehler and Williams assert that “”game play is not a single, solitary interaction between an individual and a technology” (1). Rather, it is akin to people playing a game in a social setting such as a local pub and exchanging banter. A prominent feature of communication which occurs through online gaming is that it attracts people from different cultural backgrounds.
This people may have their own unique perspective on life which makes the communication rich. While there may be some interpersonal conflicts as these heterogeneous people converge in the group setting, the communication results in new insights being gained concerning different cultures. Compared to real life, the communication that takes place in an online gaming environment makes people connect in an unusual way.
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Frostling-Henningsson reveals that online gaming makes people connect in unusual ways. People who would in real life never interact are able to do so online (558). In the online environment, physical attribute, gender or even age do not play a significant role in interactions. Instead, personal attributes such as reputations and being a team player are what becomes important. As such, online gaming results in the development of relationships among strangers.
Teamwork and cooperation are some of the most desirable attributes for online gamers (Frostling-Henningsson 559). As such, most communication is geared towards bringing about cooperation as players forge alliances or negotiate truces. Online communication therefore enhances negotiating skills in the players. Negotiation is defined as “communication for the purpose of persuasion (Shamir 34).
The negotiation process is therefore a process by which parties to a dispute discuss possible outcomes to their conflict with each other. Freitas and Griffiths reveal that online games helped students to acquire language skills as their interacted with other players (536). In addition to this online gaming supported the electronic communication skills of the students therefore making them more adept in the electronic communication process (Freitas and Griffiths 536).
Demerits of Online Gaming Communication
Online gaming threatens to break the fabric of effective communication through the excessive use of shorthand and abbreviations. Effective communication is deemed as the corner stone on which any successful relationship, be it business or personal, is built (Adair 22). This habit is commonplace in online gaming so as to save on time. Using the same in the real world setting impedes on effective communication.
Online games also promote the use of offensive language since the virtual world is characterized by a sense of lawlessness. These results in desensitization and people end up using foul language freely even in the real world. An interesting fact with regard to desensitization to using offensive language is that it occurs in subtle and minute quantities and one is seldom aware of its occurrence. In other words, engaging in some online video games may result in an increase in tolerance for offensive language.
Online games result in addictions which can be detrimental to the functioning of an individual. Bach and Jordan document that while most people think that video game addiction is a joke, research indicates that there are pathological players who exhibit addictive behaviors similar to those of gambling addicts (1). The addictive ability of video games is blamed on the brain’s reward system which produces dopamine-induced euphoria.
This gaming addiction may have a negative impact on the life of the gamer as well as the people around him. In a survey of a small community which had arcade machines, it was seen that the teenagers who were addicted to gaming opted to missing meals so that they could engage in gaming as well as engaging in antisocial activities such as stealing so as to finance their game addictions. These habits hurt their relationships with other people in the society.
The world is quickly turning into a global village where the social, educational and entertainment needs of a person can be catered for online. From the above discussions, it can be seen that computer games have experienced significant changes as a result of advances in technology. These changes have made gaming communication feasible and even more widespread. The effects of this communication are felt in the real world.
Lin asserts that individual’s behaviors and personalities have changed substantially as a result of online engagements (225). This underscores the influence that online gaming can have on the life of a person. Research by Griffiths et al further states that 72% of the players engaged in role-play which involved interacting with other players at some point in the game (87). This highlights the importance attached to the social element of online gaming.
This paper set out to argue that the advancement in online video communication has played a positive role in the international communication processes. The paper began by describing some of the significant changes that have occurred in online gaming and how they have impacted communication through the media. It has been noted that social interaction is a major component of online gaming and as a matter of fact, gaming online is not motivated by the wish to be alone; rather, it is socially motivated.
The paper has then proceeded to demonstrate the various advantages that online gaming communication brings to the international communication efforts. It has been stated that online gaming presents a unique medium for interaction and it brings together people from diverse backgrounds. From this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that communication through online gaming has a positive impact on the international communication process.
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