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Handheld Gaming Devices and Social Networking

Have you ever stepped back and taken a look at the people you know? An interesting question that may come up as you flash through your head the faces and personalities of these individuals is how you met them. Often times you are part of a network of people wherein exists ties of varying strength, and as with your friends, you know some better than you know others. You may have met these people through organizations, having a class together, or from the work place. There is usually another person who facilitates the introduction of yourself to your soon to be acquaintance. What some people may not realize as important in our changing world is that more and more, technology is becoming a facilitator to the formation of ties between people. Video gaming devices are one such technology which is becoming more involved in social networking. Christine Szentgyorgyi, Michael Terry, and Edward Lank of the University of Waterloo in Canada have published an article Renegade Gaming: Practices Surrounding Social Use of the Nintendo DS Handheld Gaming System which gives us some of their findings on the Nintendo DS playing a role as a “social networker.”

An interesting point which the authors of this article make is that normally gaming devices and especially handheld devices place gamers in a private gaming sphere. This means that handheld gamers are normally playing these games alone inherently because the system is small and designed for single player use. This is different from home console systems as those also provide a private atmosphere, but can easily incorporate more people. The Nintendo DS as well as other handheld systems are increasingly becoming a way for people to connect to each other though the games as the devices are now enabled to connect to wireless systems. The games which one can play also allow for you to connect to people you already know (which may have come from meeting through mutual acquaintances), and you can also play a game with someone who could be clear across the globe. Many of you may remember (and still play) Pokemon and Pokemon games. It’s the game where you collect creatures which can battle other players’ creatures and trade between each other as well. The newer Pokemon games for the Nintendo DS allow the user to connect to other people without even actively playing; the game can be in standby mode and as soon as you pass another player with their game on standby, an event comes up in the game and right there a tie could be formed between two passing strangers. It’s the same way gamers who don’t know each other through the internet can connect to each other, except in real life. One subject said: “But, like, not in class, obviously. Actually, there was this one time when I was in CS class and the guy who was sitting behind me had his Pokémon open, and so we’re trading back and forth throughout half the class, like, sort of, kind of secretly behind our computers, although I’m sure everybody noticed.”

Having the social networks established through the video game and the video game system can lead to having ties to other people without meeting them in person. As technology continues to improve, and the social networking component of that technology grows simultaneously, we will be able to interact in more ways than we have today. The creation of virtual avatars can simulate meeting with people in real life, and the technology which we currently have enables us to do so without leaving our living room couch, so long as we have a connection to the World Wide Web of course.

-IMK ’12

Here is the link to the article:

http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/1360000/1357283/p1463-szentgyorgyi.pdf?ip=128.84.127.94&acc=ACTIVE%20SERVICE&CFID=120840615&CFTOKEN=84340822&__acm__=1348869774_7b9e1f750e4523db6d8f65470a066434

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