Nowadays, the importance of videogames and the number of people who play them is increasing. Many children and teenagers spend their free time enjoying this hobby and the social aspect offered is undeniable. Reading books is another type of entertainment and, although many believe it is less popular now than in the past, access to books in a digital format has increased and it can be another way of forming friendships and promoting social interactions.
Firstly, it is important to mention how videogames can promote social relationships. In fact, it’s a completely sociable free time activity, especially when we think about how many people played during the pandemic as a way to connect and have fun with friends. We can always log on and connect with people playing games and keep in touch with friends from school, for example. Some even say that for those suffering mental health disorders such as anxiety, playing videogames is a way to allow them to interact with others when perhaps they are not physically able to, allowing them to gain confidence to do it in real life.
It is not only possible to maintain and strengthen existing relationships through games, but it also offers the opportunity to meet and to play with people from all over the world. MMORPG’s and co-op games, in particular, are incredibly interactive and allow players to build strong friendships, whilst players work in a team to achieve the same objective. A study carried out by Helen Cole investigating social interactions in MMORPG’s also arrived at the same conclusion, finding that these relationships are very important in the enjoyment of the game and that many people form friendships and partners whilst playing. The possibility of meeting people from other parts of the world is also a huge benefit, widening the general knowledge of the player and allowing them to become more tolerant towards others and different cultures, something that will only help them in future relationships.
Videogames often offer children and adults the opportunity to face difficult situations, but also situations that are similar to those they may have to face in real life. Teamwork is key in many games, but also the way characters interact between themselves often reflect real conversations and relationships. Putting yourself in the shoes of other people through different characters teaches the player to be more open and to better understand others, as well as how to interact in different situations.
These social and friendship benefits are also found in board games, played both online and in person. It is a leisure activity where you can play with others, sharing the emotions of the game and spending time chatting whilst playing. Although in many families, it’s true that this competitive nature can lead to a few heated discussions. All in all, though, people strengthen bonds during this time spent playing together.
Another important leisure activity nowadays is reading, particularly for children. Reading could be considered more independent and less sociable than videogames, but it is also a way to strengthen social relationships and to build friendships. Just like videogames, books allow the reader to put themselves in the shoes of other people and to read about their social interactions. These relationships and life situations are often recreated in real life and people who read a lot are better prepared to cope with life’s challenges. Furthermore, the reader improves their general culture, along with their knowledge of other cultures, people, and aspects of their history, offering a better understanding between people and cultures. They also provide the reader with conversational topics for social interactions.
The messages found in books are often related to the way we interact with others and friendships and personal relationships. Reading fables and stories with a message teaches values that are useful for a lifetime. If we focus on reading books with clear messages such as The Secret Broom by Materlu, a book where some children must cheer up their friend and learn to face their emotions, reading becomes an educational activity that is also enjoyable. In fact, all Materlu books contain an important lesson, as well as being original, as they allow the reader to personalise the characters to create a more immersive story.
Books, like videogames, become sociable when people meet up to discuss them, both in person and online. Many people get together in various forums to speak about their favourite books and games, their favourite characters, to share theories and game strategies… These relationships are created and can continue for a long time and they allow those taking part to express their opinions and to learn to communicate and socialise. As for books, book clubs are popular where members speak about different books and organise social and cultural activities. There is nothing better than having a good time speaking with friends about a shared interest.
Our free time is usually the little time we have to strengthen our relationships with others and to meet new people outside of education and work. Even hobbies that could be considered independent hobbies such as reading books and playing games are good ways to build friendships and to improve our relationships. The number of people spending their time doing these activities is increasing every day, and although many speak of negative aspects of this, the positives are also undeniable.