In the age of the internet, making a connection is easier than ever. People can talk to each other and play games together online. Communities have sprung up, and people have grown to become truly invested in them.
In the past decade, careers surrounding video games and internet fandoms have developed, with people hosting lore-based web series, playing games for live audiences and even coaching others on how to excel at their favorite games.
Fandoms, which are subcommunities of video game and entertainment enthusiasts, allow the people who participate in them to maintain connections they could otherwise lose.
“Over the summer, my friend and I played Borderlands 2 together, and that was cool because we made plans to do that with Borderlands 3 this year,” freshman Alexander Furash said. “So even though he’s still in Phoenix and I’m still up here, we’ll have a reason to keep talking.”
Furash also encouraged others who might not participate in gaming and internet culture to do so.
“Having a hobby that you’re passionate about is great,” Furash said. “It gives you something to keep your brain working and a community to engage with, and there are people across the globe that if you share an interest, you can have something to talk about.”
NAU Auditoria events coordinator Brett Kitch who organizes the university’s performing arts centers, has a similar story.
“The best thing I have taken away from my time in online gaming communities are friends I would never have made otherwise,” Kitch said. “I’ve got really close friends who live in Missouri [and] Canada who are all from different professions.”
Fandom and gaming communities can be found globally, as well as close to home. Calvin Legassie, the faculty adviser for the NAU Roleplaying Game Club, said he has many fond memories of playing console games with his older brother.
“As I grew up, I got really into the Pokémon games through much of the years that I was in school, and my brother would watch me play and want to play as well,” Legassie said. “Eventually [he] did take on that hobby and that passion and has really ran with it quite a bit.”
As an adviser for the club, Legassie supports others with similar hobbies.
“I think that we’ve seen a lot of traction in the past decade,” Legassie said. “I’ve witnessed how games and fandoms used to be much more reserved for people who are kind of outside the limelight of society. But it’s become much more normalized and popular.”
Legassie represents only one of many groups on campus, but there are others around the world who aim to provide a sense of camaraderie and community.
“People here in the United States, down to South Africa and all the way over to Korea — everywhere across the world, people are video game players,” NAU eSports club president Gabriel Santos said.
As president of the club, Santos said he sees firsthand how people from different backgrounds come together and support each other in gaming communities. Santos said he has been playing since he was very young.
“I started playing when I was about 4 or 5, and the progression in certain games like the Legend of Zelda franchise … some games have more critical thinking tasks that give you such a feeling of accomplishment,” Santos said.
These feelings that people who play video games experience also translate to moments when they seek to move on to a more competitive field. However, too much of a good thing is possible, and everything must be taken in moderation.
Regardless of what community or video game someone is invested in, too much distraction can lead to obstructions in life. Although his experience was largely positive, Kitch said he’s come across these issues before.
“Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to get my bachelor’s in my mid-20s [is that] I really, really dove into online gaming,” Kitch said. “I didn’t have a strong friend base outside of [World of Warcraft]. I’m not really the outdoorsy type to begin with, so it was a safe haven. But also, I would play as soon as I got home. Without self-regulation, it just kind of took over for a while.”
Despite the differences, games and fandoms have one commonality – they bring people together. Video games can affect people both positively and negatively, but at the end of the day, they provide spaces for people to make unique connections, regardless of how far people are from one another.