Nobody enters a video game community expecting to make lifelong friends, and yet so often that is what ends up happening. Many of us have stories of forging strong bonds with players from around the world while battling alongside or against each other in an online video game. Sometimes these relationships even extend out into the real world. It may seem silly to some that most of one’s memories of a close online friend are through text or voice chat, but these can end up being some of the most genuine and vulnerable times we may ever experience with another. That’s why this week we’re asking:
A week ago, I discovered a new mobile game called the Ultimate Movia Trivia Schmoedown. Essentially, it’s a movie trivia game where you can compete with other players around the world. It’s a game that’s better than a lot of similar trivia games out there simply because of the variety and depth of questions and the mere randomness of the game, which prevents opponents from simply memorizing answers. But truly the standout feature is the users of the app. Most who have downloaded the app come from a small(ish) online film community centered around a particular daily film talk show from Collider News. The result is that I pretty much had a common ground with a lot of my opponents and as a result, we could engage in pleasant conversation (after the matches) just about movies, the show itself, and the functionality of the app without ever stooping to name-calling or other insults. In short, though the community itself is small and may not have the numbers to sustain the multiplayer functionality of the game for years to come, it is simply one of the nicest game communities I’ve been a part of, and I intend to stay a part of it as long as I can.
Back in middle school, I was an active member of a Kirby fan forum, Kirby’s Rainbow Resort. I used to log onto that form after school and strike up conversations with other members, whether it’s about Kirby, other video games or random banters. It was during a time where I didn’t log onto a computer every day, so having a use for the PC sitting at my desk enticed me to participate. I would spend hours customizing my forum signature (which I got into trouble numerous times for making it too large) and my profile picture. However, what made me go back to it was the community; everyone was polite and respectable. Whenever someone new joins, we would all greet them with a friendly post. When it was someone’s birthday, we would create a surprise for them. When we were bored, we would start up forum mini-games, which could go on and on. Essentially, that forum was like Facebook before Facebook became a thing. Although the forum itself is still around today, many of its members stopped logging onto it, including myself. While I can’t see myself being an active forum user anytime soon (I blame college), I still reminisce about those days.
About a month ago, I started playing Echo Arena on Oculus Rift. It is a team-based Virtual Reality zero gravity Ultimate Frisbee game where you join a team of up to two other players. I like the fact that it is in zero gravity so you can fly through the air and grab other objects around you in order to move quickly.
Although I noticed I was getting motion sickness after playing it for more than 2 hours, I still couldn’t stop playing because I met so many fun and nice people in this game. Besides its awesome graphics and art style, the community is what makes the game really shine. Because it is a virtual reality game, it really feels like you are meeting people in real life. Instead of typing, you have to speak in order to communicate in this game, which makes the socializing aspect of this game really enjoyable. From what I’ve experienced so far, most players don’t play this game competitively but play to meet new friends. In the game, there is a lobby where players can congregate before and after matches. I had tons of good moments and experiences just by talking to random strangers in the lobby. Also, since this game was launched in this July, it has a fairly small community. Hence, there are hardly any toxic players and the community is really welcoming any new players.
One of the hallmarks of Team Fortress 2 which has been a large factor in its decade long lifespan is its unique and tight-knit community. Thanks to the freedom offered to content creators, the community has a lot of freedom to shape the game the way they want, and so Valve’s official version of the game is really only the tip of the iceberg. Want to be a tryhard competitive player grinding the ESEA ladder and matching up against people who know your name and skill? You can do that. Want to be a content creator with dozens of lookalike impostors that copy your exact item and cosmetic loadouts to take into pubs? You can do that. Want to be a map or item designer, and see your work actually get put into the game? You can do that. Want to be an item trade, and build a virtual trading empire where you can make a profit in real money simply by owning and trading rare items in the game? You can do that.
TF2 lends itself so well to doing whatever you really want. It’s a sandbox experience that you simply don’t get in newer games, and the community that backs it is equally varied and interesting. Even down to simple gameplay in a pub, there’s always so many different types of people all playing on one server, and often player interactions, even across teams are more important than mindless fragging. TF2 has a very distinct culture behind its community that has kept it alive for more than ten years, with all the rich history and variety that entails.
To be honest, I’ve been a solo player for the last eight or so years, and when I do play online, my party members are usually family or friends. I’ve avoided interacting with other players because I just preferred being by myself, so I didn’t really invest much time in online communities. There was a time when I was five that I was super involved in Disney’s Toontown. Since I was usually being babysat, I stayed out of my caretaker’s hair by playing Toontown. When other kids were playing outside, I couldn’t join them because my babysitter took “stranger danger” quite seriously, so I spent the day customizing my character and her home, playing mini-games, and throwing pies at Cogs, and then I would visit my friends’ houses. Maybe I’ll rope my college buddies into playing a game of Toontown Rewritten if we’re feeling particularly nostalgic.
One gaming community that I am really fond of is the speedrunning community. Now to an insider this community is broken down into smaller communities for each game, but as a whole, it’s a really powerful large group of people that are able to do the unimaginable. I started watching speedruns in high school when Twitch released and got really into watching runs of Donkey Kong 64. It was crazy to see this childhood game of mine broken and manipulated in fascinating ways. The speedrunning community is extremely inclusive and is able to raise millions of dollars each year for charities. Everybody should check out Awesome Games Done Quick this January if you haven’t watched it before.
When Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out for the Wii, I searched through online forums for worth competitors. This is how I stumbled across the site All is Brawl, RIP, the most diverse community of Smash players and Nintendo fans I have ever seen. Each user could build a Myspace-like profile with forward facing comments and private messages. We could also earn badges for participating in the online ladder, groups, art contests, and more. I was a moderator for a couple of years and also wrote content on the site’s editorial team. In fact, I will gladly attribute many of my job skills to volunteering at All is Brawl. I don’t think there would be a Top Shelf Gaming without it. While the site no longer exists, I made several lifelong friends that I keep in contact with ten years later. Those will always be some of my fondest memories.
What about you? Tell us about your favorite gaming communities in the comments below.