Video Games Get Social

These contests crush the genre's solitary stereotype

Since the dawn of the Internet, social experiences have changed dramatically. Many people long for the days when kids rode their bikes to friends’ houses without a parental motorcade, families gathered to watch Saturday morning cartoons together, and friends got together to actually interact with each other.

Today, we “connect” through carefully edited vacation photos, Candy Crush invites and political Facebook posts. Technology too often makes us less social. With that said, one medium often uses technology to create lasting bonds. That medium is video games.

For all the derision these games receive for their violent content and unfair “in-the-parent’s-basement” stereotype, they often bring people together, both online and in person. Here are three prime examples.

Disney Infinity
The Disney universe is populated by characters that children know and love. The strong connection that Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang have with their audience speaks to the success of the Disney empire. The recent acquisition of the “Star Wars” franchise opened the eyes of parents who now have a trilogy of familiar characters they can enjoy with their children.

This creates a bonding experience in the store before the television set turns on.

Enter Disney Infinity, a toys-to-life game that brings parents and kids back together for an almost Saturday morning cartoon-like experience. Families can pick up not just the game itself but also the figurines that can be changed out to bring different characters into play. This creates a bonding experience in the store before the television set even turns on. While the little ones are picking out Mickey or Elsa, parents generally stare wide-eyed at the selection of Marvel characters and, coming this fall, “Star Wars” heroes.

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Disney Infinity encourages you to connect with the characters on screen and those around you while you relive childhood moments.

Rock Band
Harmonix, the creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, simply get the connections that people feel with music. Rock Band takes the shared passion of music and connects the long-forgotten social experience of friends getting together to create. While many parents and grandparents can remember calling those creations “noise,” they were intrinsically tied to the experience of making friends that lasted for life.

Rock Band, a phenomenon returning to game consoles this fall, gives players the tools to live out their rock ‘n’ roll fantasies without going to 11. With more than 2,000 songs to choose from, the game offers something for everyone. Rock Band is a staple of conventions and other gatherings, where strangers pick up an instrument to create not only awesome music but, more importantly, also create lasting memories and maybe even friendships.

Daniel Sussman, product manager at Harmonix, says the social experience has been integral to Rock Band’s growth and will be to its future. “We’ve seen this as we’ve hosted thousands of Rock Band nights across the world and watched people revel in the social bonds forged as a byproduct of a fantastic musical game.”

With the arrival of Rock Band 4, he expects those bonds to grow. “We want to emphasize the social dynamics inherent in the experience and give people more tools to enjoy music together.”

If there is one franchise that shows how games can connect people all over the world, it is Minecraft. The game is centered on creating different structures out of textured cubes. While that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that would unite strangers, the game’s infinite possibilities have achieved it.

Minecraft has inspired in-game marriage proposals while fueling some of the most-viewed YouTube and Twitch channels

The 2015 Minecon event set the Guinness World Record for the largest convention held for a single video game. That’s only part of the story. Minecraft has inspired in-game marriage proposals while fueling some of the most-viewed YouTube and Twitch channels. Minecraft is the Internet-ready gaming experience that forges global bonds.

The lucrative nature of these connections was not lost on Microsoft, which purchased the Minecraft IP in 2014 for $2.5 billion and has worked to integrate the title into a major force for its upcoming augmented reality unit, the HoloLens.

Simply put, the video game industry has it covered when it comes to connecting people in the flesh and online. The medium’s constant evolution allows it to pivot to create experiences, and friendships, that last.

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