How gaming platforms are driving social connection

by Antonio Miller, research lead, Activision Blizzard Media

Gaming has always been a social activity. It is an experience made to be shared — whether through multiplayer gameplay, watching others or discussing strategies and achievements. 

As audiences increasingly look for authentic connections, gaming’s role as a social connector has been supercharged. For the more than 3 billion people who game globally, this hobby is one of the primary ways they connect, interact and socialize. In years past, brick-and-mortar gaming arcades served as the meeting places for gaming fans, but today much of it takes place virtually, both within the game and outside of it. 

Gaming’s ability to build and enhance bonds between friends, family and strangers is one of the things that makes it unique as an entertainment platform. It puts the audience first, giving them individual control over their playing experience while uniting those who play through shared interactions, passions and accomplishments.

How gaming is fostering community and brand engagement

How these bonds form and the role that gaming plays in driving social connection was the focus of new research from Activision Blizzard Media, which surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults. The survey found that 66% of those who play video games do so with others — either online or in-person. In addition, when they play with family and friends, the gaming experience and feelings around it, including positivity and healthy escapism, are heightened.

Gaming is one of the most popular social activities people undertake, and it’s one of the primary means through which audiences socialize, coming second only to dining out. It sits ahead of other common occurrences such as sports viewership, going to the movies and seeing live music.

The social aspects of gaming are apparent even when compared to other media and entertainment typically viewed as social. More than half of players say gaming helps them develop stronger bonds with friends and family than social media and video chat. Many people have developed bonds with family through gaming — often throughout their lives while growing up together – while also finding new ways to use games to stay connected to their social network. 

While much of the social interaction in gaming occurs during gameplay, it is not the only place where discourse takes place. Gaming has moved beyond the first-hand playing experience and evolved into a spectacle, with over a third of players watching esports and live streams online at least once a month. 

Types of games players choose to play and their impact on social connection

The types of games players gravitate toward can significantly impact their social experiences. Puzzle games, action-adventure games and role-playing games are more conducive to solo-player experiences, while music/dance games, party games and racing games are staples for playing in person with friends and family. Battle royale and world-building games like Minecraft enable online multiplayer experiences with friends/family or strangers. 

Gaming platform choice also defines the player experience. Mobile is the most popular gaming platform due largely to its accessibility — 84% of gamers play mobile titles at least once a week, with 61% playing on consoles and 42% playing on PCs.

The conversation driven by gaming continues on platforms and online communities specifically made with players in mind. 66% of all players engage with online gaming communities, which allow people to be themselves and connect with like-minded people about their favorite activity, creating further bonds through gaming. Players can use these communities to create and consume content to improve their gameplay and industry knowledge, further instilling their emotional connection to gaming. 

This is also true for those who prefer to play solo. These players still find connection and enjoyment as part of the gaming ecosystem by building their communities and social circles around titles they go to for personal moments of fun and relaxation. In these instances, gaming provides them with social connections by bonding over a shared passion and activity, even if the experience happens independently.

The importance of communal gaming platforms for marketers

Marketers are leaning toward communal gaming platforms to share their brand messages with audiences in engaging, authentic ways. The multitude of gaming environments provides players with a social outlet, creating a space for brands powered by interaction and engagement. 

By understanding gaming’s role as a social connector and its impact on those who play, marketers will be better equipped to utilize its value and reach an audience that is sharing, conversing and building a sense of community. 

Sponsored by: Activision Blizzard Media

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