End of Year 2020: More Than Multiplayer: Socializing through Games

2020 was a year where many people’s normal social habits were interrupted by distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Not despite, but rather because of this, games became a way many people connected with each other while staying in their homes. Games offered a social space for us to inhabit. This year also saw a great many people engaging with streaming more, and VTubers (Virtual YouTubers) saw a huge spike in popularity. These are all ways games helped us socialize despite everything. We made new friends and reconnected with old ones.

This thread is dedicated to how games brought us together in 2020. Who were you able to connect with, and how?

[Hub Thread]

So my answer is Hades, a game you cannot socialize with other people in, because it’s the game that got me talking most on Twitter with my mutuals. I’m very socially anxious; I feel annoying if I’m replying to tweets… but something about Hades made it easy for me to start conversations with people about different builds and character relationships. And everyone was playing it, so I talked with a lot of people.

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For me it was smash ultimate. Elaborated in another thread, but even with the iffy online it’s still fun to kick back in an arena with friends. That’s a really great feature (a lobby with up to 8 people where you watch matches when you’re waiting) that wasn’t in earlier games. Created a virtual space where I could “hang out” on a discord call with people I used to see every day in person.

As soon as I started realizing just how long my basement suite was going to be working as a makeshift bunker, the first thing I did gaming-wise was settle into a Final Fantasy XIV subscription.

The world is a lot less lonely when you are running through your 7th Praetorium on story roulette this week and are just messing around with friends.

Big thing for me this year was streaming games over discord with folks.
I ended up getting back into Magic this year, largely due to playing Arena with my siblings. Given only two can play at a time on Arena, we would stream each game so the person not playing could watch along and it ended up being a very fun way to play magic

I’ve not connected with people I actually know via multiplayer computer games since… about 2002 or so; barring the odd split screen game of something like TowerFall [edit: I remembered, hours after posting this, that I did play about 12 games of League of Legends with two people I know, this year. The fact that I forgot this when writing this says how much of a lasting impression that was! Since I remembered it though: no, LoL isn’t going on my list of great experiences here - eventually, despite everything, it confirmed my usual problem with online multiplayer since, well, 2002 - the existence of other people who are douchebags.]. Even when discord channels I’m in have had “gaming sessions” of stuff, I’ve really not joined in, it feels strange and weird in a way I find hard to articulate - sort of like the uncanny valley version of parasocial relationships?

So, this year, as with the others, my “social” experience of video games has mostly been via Twitch streamers playing stuff. I talked to a bunch of people who played, yes, Hades a lot [all of whom far surpassed my own progress in less than a third of the time].

I did play a bunch of Fall Guys - but it quickly palled as soon as it actually started becoming a game about “skill” more than mostly randomness. I’m not sure it actually brought me together with any people on the internet or otherwise [thanks partly to that whole thing where they had to make everyone’s screen names pseudo-anonymous numbers due to a bunch of people picking horrible names for themselves].

As such, the most bonding with actual people I know over games on computers I’ve done has been with internet hosted board-game simulators plus Zoom or Discord. I’ve played a bunch of Yahtzee and 6 nimmt and other games with friends, on scheduled nights.

Plus, for the first time in ages [and first time in vanilla 5th edition D&D], I’ve actually been part of a regular, discord + FoundryVTT hosted RPG game, on Sunday afternoons. It’s been… both positive and negative, but I guess it counts as a social experience involving games and computers…

Animal Crossing definitely helped a lot in the first few months it was out. From there I played a lot of Valorant with fellow Waypointers on the Discord. Not my usual kind of game but it was very fun to play with people I knew weren’t going to be nightmares, and even more than that, were lovely and nice!

I also on occasion just streamed games, often for just a few friends, which was a very nice experience. I also streamed flight sim so my mom could watch.

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I’m not a very social gamer. But I had the privilege to be apart of the Waypoint Mafia game some months ago, which was incredible. I didn’t do well, but enjoyed it throughout. Thank you again, to all who participated and organized it.

In the latter part of the year, unable to meet with friends and family in real life, I feel like I’ve increased my watching of streams. In particular I want to give a big thumbs up to the many charity streams that have popped up. There’s been an incredible amount of grassroots action throughout this truly miserable year. It’s been amazing to see.

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I played some of my favorite games of all time for the first time this year, but something that I still think is one of my favorite gaming related experiences of this year was watching Nina Freeman play through Chulip on Twitch. Chulip, for the uninitiated, is like an adventure game/life-sim kind of game all about kissing people.

I had always been interested in it since I was introduced to it years ago, but being able to see it in its (relative) entirety was delightful. I had no idea how clever, funny, and unique that game really was, and it really ends up going some special places. It also was a great prelude to playing moon: Remix RPG Adventure later on in the year! It very immediately kickstarted a fascination with the Love-De-Lic lineage of games, with my oft-plugged list and slow work through the backlog. It really is something special.

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I managed to fall into a discord of guilty gear newbies dedicated to playing Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 and getting into guilty gear and becoming friends with them has been like, life changing. It completely altered my understanding of how to be a beginner at everything, and the community has been nothing but understanding and encouraging. I’m happier, more likely to try new things, feel more confident about asking questions, and it’s all Guilty Gear.

Honorable mention: Among Us has also been a great experience to play with the same group of people. Neuroatypical and have trouble with my bullshit detector so being able to practice that in a friendly setting where getting it wrong just means I lost a 10-15 minute game has also been a positive experience.

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Animal Crossing was the big one for me. Loved to improve my island and then invite people over. The online infrastructure could be better but the experience was great.

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#PlayGuiltyGear

Oh my god, how could I forget?

SAVEPOINT! SAVEPOINT 2020!

The community came together to raised over $100,000 for National Bail Out, a Black-led collective for bail reform and abolition. I was truly amazed to see how much our community was able to support this cause. Previously, I had been able to enjoy Savepoint as an audience member, but it was absolutely incredible to be able to support behind the scenes, too. It was truly a thing of beauty.

And also? The streams were fun as fuck! The Valorant and Among Us segments were some of the funniest streams I had seen all year. I learned a fuckton about Charmed, saw a lecture on Touhou followed by biochemistry, and… I may have murdered someone by way of words.

And you can still donate to NBO!:

A better world is possible.

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I gotta shout out Roblox here, a game (platform?) that was essential in keeping in contact with my family while I’ve been stuck out of the country for a full year. Roblox was the perfect thing to drop into while chatting with my nieces and brother. I think the variety of stuff on there is key to us sticking with it all year, we tried Animal Crossing, Minecraft, and Stardew as well but bounced off them fairly quickly, whereas with Roblox whatever game style we’re feeling that day we can find.
It’s also probably the biggest blind spot in games discourse right now for better of worse, it’s a game you’re going to see people citing over the ten / twenty years as as major influence, and honestly there’s some wild stuff in here that I can’t wait to see the influence of in future games. I don’t think everyone could or should give it a try, but if you’re far from family it can be a great platform to hang out on.

Edit: I wanted to add that what appeals to me about Roblox, and what makes it so fun to explore, is its encouragement of unbridled beginners creativity. I’ve always been a fan of beginner or ‘amateur’ work both because of how limitless and creative it feels, and because of the community it fosters, the games in Roblox remind me of cheap handicam films and improve plays you might make when just starting out in a field and are just totally fearless. It’s joyfully and surprising and unapologetic in its roughness.

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