Multiplayer Communities

- 5 min read

In a post from last year titled “Stressful Gaming” I opened up a little about my experience with online gaming. Of note was how Counter-Strike: Global Offensive had caused me to tilt, but I feel that I didn’t make too much of it. What I do think is important to note is that I haven’t touched the game since 9 November 2019 and a lot of it has to do with how much of an emotional toll the game was taking on me. I mostly went cold turkey, and I can honestly say it’s left me feeling much happier than before. I am a competitive person, and the just over four months I went without competitive gaming did leave me a little unsatisfied.

A way to fill the hole

The lack of some competitive outlet had started taking it’s toll a little. A nationwide lockdown in South Africa that began on 26 March 2020 also added to a lack of opportunity to compete in some physical activity. It has made it slightly difficult to stay away from my computer where I could jump into a myriad of FPS games to get some competitive action. A colleague had shown us his work-from-home setup where his Logitech G29 was displayed quite nicely. I was intrigued by the wheel, and he told me of this thing called sim racing. By the end of April, I was watching quite a bit of YouTube content on the topic, and I had started developing an urge to do some racing myself.

I ordered myself the same model from a local store which was delivered less than two weeks ago. My colleague had pointed me in the direction of Sim Race South Africa where I promptly signed up for the last few races of the season. My very first race was in the simGP championship only two days after I had gotten my wheel. I managed to set a valid qualifying lap and finish the entire race, which was something that made me feel quite proud.

Friendliness costs nothing

What astonished me was how vastly different the interactions were with my fellow racers. CS:GO is notorious for not being a game where you jump in and play with strangers, but this was a completely different experience. I understand that there’s a fundamental difference in what racing sims are trying to achieve. Still, I found that people were much more pleasant and welcoming than the anonymous individuals one usually has when jumping into a random game.

From my perspective, I can attribute this to three things:

  • Participants are required to participate under their given names
  • Championship participation requires paying an entrance fee
  • Competition is at an individual level.

I feel this has a significant impact on how welcoming your community is towards strangers. I won’t go into the individual level of competition, because it only leaves myself to blame if I fail. My focus will be on how the other two had a more substantial impact on how easy it is to join the fun without fear of trolls around every corner.

I feel much more at ease participating in a smaller community over facing the wrath of someone in an anonymous game. With the community not hiding behind anonymity and the entrance fee creates a barrier to entry that prevents anybody from just joining the race and causing trouble for others. Add to that the friendliness from everybody on the Discord server. I now see why I’ve enjoyed the last two weeks so much.

What’s even better is how the friendly our broadcasters are on the live streams. Downloading a good game you had on CS:GO feels a little bit like you’re tooting your own horn. With the live stream, it does offer you a chance to share this with others who are also interested in the hobby. My very first race last week was at Silverstone, and I had finished last by quite a margin. Having this stream available has left me with a tangible memory of the race that will hopefully be available for quite some time.

The wider gaming community

I do think people find a community they can join as would be the case with clans. Traditionally I feel these clans tend to take the game quite seriously and forget that games should be fun as well. I hope game developers can find ways to connect people better and have them form stronger bonds. People would be left feeling much more satisfied with playing a particular game. I don’t think anonymous competitive matchmaking will ever go away. If you can join a community of people that consists of more than just one squad the game you’ll likely have much more fun. We are moving to a more connected world, but ultimately I feel more disconnected from people than ever before. I’ll be looking out for more of these smaller communities in the future because they bring a love and passion for the game they’re playing that’s unmatched by some anonymous matchmaking tool.

It does mean the chances of me enjoying some game with a reader like you is much slimmer, but it could also help steer you into something that feels a lot more wholesome. Either way, I hope that people can enjoy the great content that’s out there and find a community they can call their own.