Playing team-centric games creates communities for players both inside and out of the game, communities that could come together to make a difference in the real world too. I’ve always been a story-centric gamer myself. My favorite game memories usually involve discovering a major plot twist or getting to the end of a 60+ hour epic. Even with Final Fantasy XV sitting in my PS4, it’s hard to commit to the isolation of single-player games. When I manage to get a couple hours in, I tend to boot up something with team-based online gameplay. My games of choice: Overwatch, Vainglory, or (most recently) Heroes of the Storm. Each game requires coordination with other live players to be successful. Even though I don’t win consistently, I value the time spent with others.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve gotten sucked into these games lately. Isolation makes it easier to spend hours on social media, a depression-inducing practice as of late. In contrast, keeping up with friends via games keeps me energized. Being part of a team that communicates well feels phenomenal, especially when we win. With the right group and the right game, it’s easy to see these communities create bonds that stretch outside of the virtual world.
Ranging in scale from local to national, gaming organizations help players meet others and can affect change. The interpersonal benefits shouldn’t be ignored: I’ve created many friendships at casual, in-person meetups. Those groups can also be organized to make changes beyond the gaming space: organizations like Extra Life and Operation Supply Drop raise funds through games, while Humble acts as a game retailer that sends money to charity (their new Freedom bundle has raised over $5 million in under a week). I’d love to see even more gaming groups reaching out and using their skills to help others: organizing community service events, teaching others how to play games, or mentoring others to help them develop their own plans.
I still think it’s interesting that The Legend of Zelda‘s iconic phrase suggests taking a weapon instead of finding help. Playing MOBAs in particular reminds me how much we’re capable of as part of a strong group. In MOBAs, each character holds a limited set of abilities; no matter how powerful they are, they always have a weakness: healers tend to be fragile and need protection, tanks act as targets for the team but tend to do less damage, assassins do massive damage but fall apart when too many enemies focus on them at once. When a team comes together they cover each other’s weaknesses and roll over uncoordinated groups. We have the same potential in reality.
I’ve touched on specialization a bit in the past, so I won’t go too far down that road again. Realizing our strengths and weaknesses helps us better understand what kinds of people we should work with (and sometimes which ones we shouldn’t). Though there are plenty of fights we have to tackle alone, some changes reach beyond our individual capacity. Great movements, even when sparked by strong leaders, require the power of people en masse to push them forward. Our individual roles aren’t always constant: sometimes we need to lead, and other times we need to follow. Sometimes we need to defend or heal a weakened friend, while other times we need to be on the attack. Learning when to change focus is tough, but becomes easier the longer you work with a team.
We have great challenges ahead of us in many places: politics, climate, the economy… it’s unlikely any of us are equipped to take them all on ourselves. We can handle some pieces of the puzzle alone, but the big conflicts out there will take coordination, determination, and resilience. When people find their party and push towards a goal together though, what seemed impossible can suddenly seem within reach.