Social media, as we know it, rests inside platforms like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). The evolution of digital accessibility, however, has begun to morph how we interact with our friends and family. With COVID-19 urging people to stay inside, more are reaching for video games to satisfy social needs.
Video games have acted as social platforms since the conception of internet multiplayer options. By opening doors of self-expression and a direct link to other people, players have created their own virtual avatars and worlds. Games like “Minecraft” have allowed players to creatively interact with friends and collaborate in different building projects.
Epic Games’ “Fortnite” has expanded upon this, promoting a competitive atmosphere while blending different aspects of pop culture. From EDM concerts to crossovers with movie franchises like “The Avengers” and “Batman,” the game has sufficiently created an atmosphere that welcomes people to gather and connect.
Doug Clinton, managing partner at Loup Ventures, wrote about how video games are becoming a “core component” of social media:
“In short, all meaningful social internet platforms are worlds that merge elements of identity and reality so users can interact in a compelling way. In hindsight, if social internet platforms as worlds is axiomatic, it was inevitable that social networks and games, which are virtual worlds, would intersect. As digital third places continue to emerge, many will be built on game engines as we move beyond traditional text- and video-based social media.”
Clinton hypothesized last year that the next social media network might be “Grand Theft Auto.” He wrote about the importance of alternate identities and the flexibility video games allow versus traditional social media.
“The alternate-identity hole in the social landscape will ultimately be filled, whether by GTA RP or something else, as the natural evolution of social,” Clinton wrote. “Worlds based on a user’s real identity are well addressed across various realities. At this point, you could argue identity is becoming more of a rigid barrier to expression on social media than an asset. Because every platform leverages a user’s real identity, tribalism prevents users from deviating from preconceived notions of themselves to explore the world in different ways.
“By playing a character that is not him or herself in a world not tied to reality, users are free to explore social expression in ways not comfortable or possible before.”
However, some titles have already introduced second lives for people.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (NYSE: SNE) introduced “PlayStation Home” in 2008. The PS3 game was a virtual 3D platform that allowed players to customize avatars, build homes, and interact with friends in minigames like bowling. It also attempted to introduce features “Fortnite” is utilizing now: live events. From video game trailers in a virtual cinema setting to a digital replica of E3, “PS Home” tried to create a new universe to promote human connection.
In a time where digital connection is desperately needed, could we potentially see more virtual universes replace traditional social networks? With games like “Second Life” promoting alternative ways of connecting, it’s entirely possible we could end up with our very own OASIS, a virtual universe detailed in Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One.”
Eventually, the only limits of reality will be from our own imagination.
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