Virtual Games Keep Us Connected

One of the advantages of a physical card game or a board game is that not only are you having fun playing the game and interacting with the game elements, but you are also connecting with your fellow game players. Games are a way of connecting with other people. Unfortunately, one of consequences of the world-wide pandemic is the lack of connection among people.

Being isolated with your own home office or workspace can be lonely and the stark contrast of having to interact with people over a computer can add to that feeling of isolation. This tends to cause a disconnect with co-workers, leads to feelings of loneliness and can be, quite frankly, a little depressing.

Fortunately, online, digital games can help. There’s evidence that video games can help with mental health and keep us connected.  In fact, Michelle Colder Carras, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University who played World of Warcraft to alleviate her own past bouts with depression has written that “When you’re battling yourself with traumatic thoughts, you can lose yourself in a game and,  “Right now, during this pandemic, real life is the traumatic situation,” and “what games are able to do for people in mental health recovery, all of society now needs.” In fact, she has recently published research paper illustrating the therapeutic benefits of video games for military veterans. So, she knows just how powerful games can be as a method of bringing people together and helping them feel connect.

Sure, play and games can be seen as merely an escape in times of uncertainty like the current situation but, fortunately, games can do so much more. Games can help us make sense of the world around us, can help us feel safe and connected to others and provide a chance to relax and have fun. Playing a game can release endorphins and playing which is a basic human need as well as a simple and effective way of connecting with others.

Online games provide an opportunity for those who are geographically separated to connect and, because it’s a shared online space, people feel that they are together in that space and playing an online game, momentarily, transcends distance. This is key for helping teams stay connected. When people have shared experiences, they create a bond and often use that shared experience as a vehicle for communications long after the experience is over. This happens a great deal with friends and acquaintances whenever they ask “did you see the game last night? I couldn’t believe that…” The game serves as a shared experience.

And when people actually play the game themselves, it raises the shared experience to the next level because now when people reminisce or discuss the game, they talk about things like “I can’t believe what you did, I thought for sure you were losing and then you pulled it out.” Or “That answer you gave to that question was amazing.”

Incorporating digital games into virtual team meetings, online events or virtual training provides a rich opportunity for connection, bonds and shared experiences. Next time you are feeling disconnected or distant from your team or are looking for a way to bring your team closer together or even to just release some stress and help the team to relax together, consider playing a simple, quick online digital card game. You’ll find the experience brings people closer together and provides an event that will be talked about for weeks afterward.

By Karl M. Kapp, learning game designer, author of several books on game and game design.

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