When considering how multiplayer gaming has changed the world, it’s first necessary to look at how the nature of multiplayer gaming itself has shifted over the years. The truth is that some of the earliest gaming consoles—think old, clunky Ataris, and on through the SNES and it’s competitors—were meant for a certain brand of multiplayer. Sure, they offered individual player appearances, but in many cases, they also came with multiple controllers and were meant either to facilitate co-op or versus experiences, or simply to be played among family and friends. Early gaming, to some extent, was social.
But as written about here in detail, the very meaning of the “multi” in multiplayer gaming changed over the years. Specifically, as that article puts it, “when the magic of the Internet entered the gaming scene, it widened the scope for multiplayer content.” Multiplayer was once an isolated version of a social activity; you could play with others, but only within your own home, and depending on how many people were present. Then, suddenly, multiplayer became an unlimited social activity with the potential to connect players to a world’s worth of other users online.
Really, considering the question of how multiplayer has changed the world begins with the newer form of multiplayer—the one that connects people all over the world via the Internet. So how has this changed the gaming industry or even the world?
One of the earliest effects was the disruption of a major industry that we don’t always include when we talk about “gaming” as a broad activity: the casino business. Digital poker, online bingo rooms, and arcade slot machines have existed for many decades, but with the advent of Internet-based multiplayer, digital casino companies could replicate the experience of an actual casino in ways that quickly created booming online markets. And the progress over the years has been staggering. At one time, a crude and slow-moving bingo game against live opponents excited players. Now, this leading site offers a range of multiplayer gaming opportunities so diverse as to eclipse your average real-life experience. Players can interact with arcade games, but they can also take on huge numbers of live opponents in bingo, roulette, blackjack, etc. There are even live tournaments run by actual human dealers viewed on a video feed. It’s not that there are other sites similar to these, but it’s just we’ve come across recently through social media sites.
What that example shows us is, in a very general sense, multiplayer gaming’s ability to take an entire form of entertainment and put it online. Bingo and other games are the biggest examples and may always be, but there are others as well. For instance, we’re increasingly seeing athletic competition translated to multiplayer gaming environments in the form of sports and exercise games with virtual reality components. The sports games offered by the original Nintendo Wii helped pave the way for this development. And now, on numerous systems, gamers may be as likely to play tennis or golf online as they are in real life. Again, we’ve seen multiplayer gaming essentially absorb a real-life activity and provide a digital alternative that feels much the same to people.
But the greater change we’ve seen in the world as a result of the rise of online multiplayer gaming is simpler to define – an activity that once stood for reclusiveness and personal time has come to be understood as social. The old gamer stereotype was a teenager in a basement, wearing headphones and gaming in the most private way possible. The new image is someone logging into a favourite game to interact with a familiar community either of online contacts discovered through the game or of friends and family (For instance, Steam!). There’s really a full spectrum of communities. Games like this pioneering MMO introduce users to gigantic crowds of online players who may remain total strangers or may gradually become known. Meanwhile, little mobile apps like this one invite people to interact with the friends and family around them just for the fun of it, but through a digital game.
What this really means isn’t just that gamers’ reputations have shifted from introverted to social. The greater impact is that the appeal of gaming has been broadened, and game developers are now in the business of improving our ability to interact with one another. People may find today that they actually maintain contacts better—whether he/she be a cousin across the world or an old friend you haven’t seen in years—entirely because of gaming. And, sometimes gamers get to date as well! Multiplayer has drastically altered the gaming industry, but its biggest effect can be summed up pretty easily – it’s given us one more way to keep in touch and to have fun.