In this era of social distancing (It does feel like an era already, doesn’t it?!), nearly all of our social interaction is happening virtually. Zooms, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime dates abound with friends and family like at no other time. But some people are also reaching for ways to relax and play in social settings like they’re used to, turning to video games, whether discovering eSports and the gaming community for the first time or returning to old virtual haunts from teenage years past. Enter Words With Friends, Scrabble Go, and Houseparty’s Pictionary and Heads Up—or perhaps D&D, The Sims, or World of Warcraft. And what they’re realizing is that the gaming community does, in fact, provide the socialization they’re looking for. It is bringing people together—without bringing them physically together (at least right now).

Of course, among die-hard gamers, we’ve known this for ages. It’s one of the biggest reasons we game. But for many who haven’t explored gaming socially before, it’s a revelation, and the revelation that’s needed right now, when in-person hangs are on hold and finding new communities feels much more complicated.

So, the question is, what’s the proof? How is gaming actually good for your social life?

Just ask gamers
Perhaps the first and foremost clue to the social benefits of gaming is just that gamers everywhere proclaim that they gain friends, social skills, and a sense of belonging from being involved in gaming. In online communities, gamers appreciate the ability to learn from one another and dig into their specific gaming niches with others who have the same interests. They also just tend to feel emotionally recharged. In our own “Win Well” Gamers Health Survey, nearly 85% of respondents said they feel gaming has a positive effect on their emotional health, and 75% reported feeling happier after gaming. And as for the social element, over 65% of gamers reported having positive social experiences while gaming and 67% reported feeling that gaming improved their ability to both communicate well and make friends.

You can ask researchers, too
Beyond surveys and anecdotes, however, scientific research has found the same benefits. Going back to 2002, a study on 16-year-old gamers in the Journal of Applied Development Psychology found that the gamers scored better in the following categories than their non-gamer contemporaries: family closeness, activity involvement, school engagement, mental health, lower substance use, self-concept, friendship network, and disobedience. And in a 2017 study, researchers found that MMO gamers have higher self-esteem, better sociability, and a more solid sense of social identity. The same study additionally found MMO gamers had lower levels of loneliness than most people. When you’re playing with and having the ability to meet hundreds, or thousands, of gamers in the MMO world, it’s no wonder your socialization goes up.

In the past or even present, some people have expressed doubts that the friends and social connections you make online can’t be as real of connections as you make in person. But experts refute that claim. Social capital is gained from relationships regardless of whether or not they happen face to face, and connections built upon a common interest, especially ones with shared activity—both qualifications of which apply to gaming—often prove stronger and more significant than those that don’t have those components.

Join a gaming community
Now that you’re convinced of how great social gaming is, it’s time to jump in the water—we promise it’s warm. There are a plethora to choose from, so to get you started we’ve outlined 10 online gaming communities that we recommend in this earlier post.

Get social and Win Well.