JEDDAH: For years, video games have been a great way to pass one’s time and keep people connected. Now, amid global coronavirus restrictions, online gaming is helping millions of people stuck at home to maintain and build relations.
With most of the world forced to maintain social distancing, the inherently borderless nature of gaming is giving new meaning to the term “socializing.”
Gaming is often viewed as anti-social but is quite the opposite for many Saudi gamers who consider the virtual world a wholesome place to socialize and build meaningful friendships through video games.
Fatemah Khalil, 23, a Saudi game developer, said that her online friendships started helping other players through games.
“I love massively multiplayer online role-playing games because they are varied and have an almost open world,” she told Arab News.
“I got to know people from Japan and some Arab cities. It started by helping each other in the game and now they are my friends. Some of them I talk to daily outside the game and some have become my best friends.”
Khalil agrees that she now has more time to communicate with online friends and try out new games, while e-meeting new people as well.
The connections and friendships created in the gaming world have helped the young game developer who has learned a lot from her experience during the lockdown.
“I see it as a chance to study and play together. It is easier for me to learn ideas and aspects of the game preferred by many players,” she added.
Ibrahim Al-Khudayri, a 27-year-old Saudi who works as a freelancer, said that he had made good friends on VRChat during the lockdown.
“When it comes down to how we become friends on video games, it’s always random, so either I send the other person a friend request or I’ll be the one who receives it,” he said.
Saudi software developer Shahad Al-Sayari, 23, said that she met “kind and helpful” gamers who allowed her to share their server during the lockdown.
Video games are not only a good way to stay entertained, but also can be a great group activity since communication is key, especially in cooperative games.
“Recently, I made a number of friendships with people from Ukraine, whom I met for the first time in the game ARK: Survival Evolved,” she said.
“I can say that they are more than wonderful friends, beginning with the fact that they let me play on their server without charge because the game system requires players to participate in a server and with a monthly fee. I play for free and nothing was asked of me, and even when I asked to pay the shared fee, they didn’t allow me to.”
Al-Sayari and her new online friends watch over each other’s online properties when one is offline.
She added: “They are all well versed in the game and always give me advice, rare weapons and equipment.”