I’m sure we’ve all seen them, whether be it our colleagues, classmates or even in ourselves – someone with poor social skills.
I’m not going to lie, I have my awkward social moments too. Like the time I was queuing up at a rather popular roadside vendor with my crush¹ and she suggested I go ahead whilst she picks, and then it happened: a sudden power trip in my neural switches that pushed me to stutter something along the lines of “No its okay”. We both ended up standing slightly apart each other for about a minute of weird silence and side-glances (not to mention the vendor carried a bemused expression while she served us.
My point is that I do pretty awkward stuff too. So let this be a self-reflective journey from me, a gamer, and maybe for you. Many, at this point, would have already started jotting down your counter-arguments. How could games, especially MMORPGs, lead to poor social skills when it requires our utmost collaboration, communication and team efforts? The anonymity provided by the internet created a safe haven that shielded against social anxiety, and some might say it is a virtual training ground for social interactions.
I’d agree. There was a time where I was very shy around people, and I hated meeting new people too. When I first started out in an MMO, I felt that I had to reach out to other players in order to progress and to have fun. If I wanted to move forward, I needed others. And to convince and win people to join my party, a rudimentary level of social skills is imperative. Few months down the road, I’ve gathered a horde of friends, joined one of the more prestigious guilds in the region. I’ve even gone out of my way to meet these people in real life, got myself a guild shirt and never missed a single guild meeting. I must be some kind of social adept now, right? No. Though I can talk to my party about anything and everything, organize raids and missions, I was still pretty clueless in real-life social events. Outside of my gaming circle, I could not establish conversations lasting more than 15 minutes – heck, I wasn’t even good at small talk. And talking to that girl I saw across the table? Not happening for all the mana points in my mana pool. Sure, in some ways I’ve gotten better – but not good enough.
And when gamers do talk, what do they talk about? Games, skill builds, changelogs and other game related topics.
Perhaps the stereotypes were right after all; Nerds and geeks have poor social skills. They are unable to understand simple social cues, outstandingly shy, and they struggle and stutter whilst trying to speak. I am a prime example. This is where my counter-attack begins.
Stereotypes played on the situation where “nerds and geeks” are placed into pool parties, clubs and various places where they would, presumably, have no interest in. They turn out to be exactly how the stereotype predicted them to be: awkward. How about we put “non-geek” who is normally considered charming and throw him into a full-on LAN party full of geeks? He’ll probably be pretty awkward. We may say that gamers are able to speak amongst themselves with ease owing to their mutual interest in gaming. The games acted as an enabling factor to socialization, allowing the participants to talk much more openly and freely than they might in other situations; icebreaker of sorts. If you put a person in a social situation they are unfamiliar with, you will notice a certain amount of social awkwardness. This is true for everyone: jocks, hipsters, gamers and even social butterflies.
Put a geek in a conversation of interest to him and his intelligence would be evident. His eyes would glimmer and his mouth would not stop talking. Put him out of his comfort area and ask him about the latest pop-culture and what you squeeze out of him might be a brain fart. Of course there are people whom are seemingly social adepts in every single situation. They can just find the right topics to strike and keep things cool no matter the crowd. I find the easiest way to learn is to throw yourself in the fray. Try talking a little more to everyone: your mom, the bus driver, the storekeeper and if you feel brave enough – talk to a stranger! You should also try have more meaningful conversations with your gaming buddies other than sharing your latest skill builds. All our life we have practiced social skills by using video games as a medium and consequently we could only communicate when games are in topic. There is no other way to put it: we have to move forward. I have to move forward and learn my next set of social skills.
Because at the end of the day, its about hitting the next level. Games have been teaching me life lessons since I was E for Everyone, I have a feeling it will continue to do so… 🙂 ———– This article is written by PP1MT. ¹He blogs at PP1MT.com and is currently single. He also recognizes that although his singlehood is not entirely caused by social awkwardness, it played a part. And there is a need to improve, in regards to his future endeavors. This article is freely reusable, share-able for commercial use as long as due credit is given. ———–