All throughout middle school and high school, my friends and I would reconnect with each other after school online. We would log into Skype, join a group call and play video games well through the night and into the morning.
Perhaps it might seem strange that we would rarely meet in person outside of school and that all of our communications with each other were facilitated through online platforms such as Skype and Discord. But it worked for us. We were happy playing video games such as Don’t Starve Together, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow 6 Seige — with shame — League of Legends and many more. We were also more than happy chatting online together.
I also cannot help but feel as though this online foundation of my friendships was what helped me get through COVID-19. Going through a massive transition without being able to be around or see other people is incredibly difficult. I graduated high school in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic and also completed my first two years of university through distance learning. Finishing high school and moving to an entirely different space while adhering to self-isolation rules was lonely and felt incredibly anti-climactic. However, I was not entirely alone.
While the whole world changed, the online space we shared was kept the same, one certain element of an uncertain period of time. Through online gaming, I was able to maintain the same relationship I had with my friends and, again, it worked for us.
Now that I am in my fourth year, I rarely play video games during the semester or in my leisure time. Some might argue that this is part of growing up, but I disagree. It is not so much that I do not enjoy them anymore, but more so that I lack the time. And since emerging from COVID-19 isolation, I crave face-to-face connections.
I have found myself more drawn to playing board gaming or card games with friends than to video games.
Board games demand the physicality of a shared space and intimacy. The closeness of sitting around a table or the floor while people are chatting, laughing or in a fierce debate about whether the draw two cards compound in Uno, is such a fulfilling feeling.
Shared physical space has become an incredibly important part of the connections I have.
While I have found this change within myself, it doesn’t mean that online spaces are insignificant or invalid meeting places. Our relationships and needs evolve as we grow up. For the longest time, it was my main place of connection during various difficult times.
There is a rising demand for connection and a lack of third spaces — or community places where people meet and mingle. In light of this, why should we dictate which type of meeting place is better than the other? Everyone has different needs, and if their needs are met, then should not that be enough?