Gamers have known for a long time something that everyone else is starting to figure out: there’s community connection on the other side of a screen. “Our entire lives have led up to this,” my friends joked with me in mid-March.
I was sitting in my tiny New York City apartment, panicky and coming to terms with the reality that I’d be trapped inside for weeks, potentially months. But my friends reassured me that as lifelong video game enthusiasts, the prospect of sitting on a sofa in front of a TV for an interminable stretch would be a cakewalk. After all, gamers like me do already spend plenty of time in front of our screens all on our own.
But even sitting alone for hours, gamers aren’t necessarily isolated. In many cases, far from it. With the rise of social media, gamers – particularly in Gen Z – have perfected the art of building communities in and around video games. Gamers don’t just compete with strangers on the internet, but forge genuine, enduring friendships.
In this age of long-haul social distancing and mental-health strains, gamers have long had a tool that’s now bringing some relief to those who’ve never picked up a controller before. The explosive growth of gaming during the pandemic has shown that many have found a new outlet for much-needed connection in isolation.
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