Gaming keeping people connected during quarantine

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 10, 2020

In a time where social interaction is limited, or not even allowed in some areas, socializing online has become a way for people to interact with one another.

Dan Childers is a professor at the Forrest County Center of Pearl River Community College.

He also sponsors the Gaming and Strategy Club, which prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, was a space where 30 to 40 students would meet every other week to play video games with one another.

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A dedicated space with 10 TVs and a variety of consoles was set up and students gathered to compete against their classmates.

Those days are now gone due to social distancing requirements and a shelter-in-place order, so the community has moved interaction online.

Childers organized the club three years ago and he said the main objective was to provide a space for people to connect with each other.

“It didn’t seem like there were a lot of clubs that weren’t academic. I wanted to build a community for others as well and to that end it certainly worked,” Childers said.

Online gaming is filling a niche in the sporting world now that mainstream sports are temporarily shut down, Childers said.

The NBA, La Liga and MLB are just a few of the major leagues that have taken competition online, at times featuring athletes from those organizations taking part in competitive gaming tournaments, according to articles by ESPN.

Major celebrities have participated in these tournaments as well, and the increased public attention could attract even more citizens around the world to the online gaming community.

Nolan Walther is a sophomore second baseman for the Pearl River Central High School baseball team and he said having public figures playing the game helps draw attention to video games.

“Some people will see the famous people playing it and think it’s cool and then they’ll start playing it,” Walther said.

Athletes are stuck at home without their normal routines, which has led to some embracing online versions of competition.

Walther said he and athletes he knows hop on NBA 2K20 and battle for supremacy while stuck at home.

“A few others play the game too and we talk on there since we can’t hang out or leave the house. All athletes have that competitiveness and don’t want to lose. Even in video games they still want to win,” Walther said.

The physical act of gathering with friends for LAN tournaments, or for clubs like the one Childers sponsors, may take on a new dynamic in the wake of social distancing.

Childers said that in the past, club members would share controllers, passing them to the next competitor after a match.

Considering the severity of the pandemic, Childers said he wonders if those same routines will take place after things begin having some sense of normalcy.

“I do worry about going back in the fall and how to handle the constant contact with proximity and handling controllers. I worry about how we do that in the future,” Childers said.

Instead the club may lean more into streaming and other online gatherings that don’t require everyone to physically be in the same space.

Childers said the denial of physical socialization has allowed people to spend more time online interacting with friends, which can benefit people around the world even after the pandemic passes.

“There’s value because you have relationships. The stereotype of people on a screen being by themselves isn’t necessarily true. People make connections,” Childers said.