It’s becoming a social norm to be more engaged with online communities than with people in the physical world. For many, it has become easier to forge social connections behind a keyboard than through face-to-face interactions. While this social shift began attracting negative attention, millennials were becoming a prominent part of the adult population and seemed to catch most of the blame, but as it turns out they are actually the ones pushing for digital togetherness.
A recent survey found that 81% of millennials wish more digital games were designed to bring friends and family together. Contrary to popular belief, millennials are the ones pushing for digital games to unite people face-to-face and they are driving the gaming industry to design capable platforms.
Getting social back into the game
The survey also revealed that 79% of millennials play digital games multiple times a week, if not daily. But no matter how many hours they spend absorbed in virtual realities or tapping away on screens, people still crave real life interaction and rely upon interpersonal relationships to shape their understanding of society. One study by the Alberta Brain and Cognitive Development Lab found that one of the primary detrimental factors of increased screen time is the decreased amount of human interaction. They state that young people learn best through interaction with others and when a large portion of their time is allocated to screens, it could lead to decreased cognitive functioning. Thus, creating a juxtaposition of two types of social fulfillment — online and offline — which millennials believe the digital game design and construct could bridge.
Digital games also get a shaded reputation associated with hindering socialization and impeding acceptance of society. But having grown up playing these games, millennials are turning to what they know to combat these impressions and reveal a brighter, more inclusive side of what could be if digital games were used to bring people together. So the challenge now, and what this age group is pushing for, is to bring this digital community together in real life.
The opportunities to design social, digital games are increasingly advantageous and obtainable. The staggering success of Pokémon Go is just one flashing, neon sign pointing to what could come if more games were designed as connected experiences combining online and offline spheres.
Bringing the past back into the future
Millennials tends to be very nostalgic, looking to the past to set the trends of the future. From design and fashion styles to the newfangled, cardless version of Pokémon, millennials know how to revamp and modernize an old trend.
Board games led the way to video games, which have become increasingly more detailed and complicated; but, as seen with the recent re-launch of the Sega Genesis, millennial consumers are advocating the return to the simpler days of gaming. As legacy games shift into the digital realm, a new set of gaming practices will evolve and as already evident, digitally native millennials easily adapt, unlike baby boomers, who are less receptive to the idea.
Baby boomers don’t seem to share the opinion that digital games are legitimate ways to bring friends and families together, seeing them instead as individual, “heads down” experiences. While some boomers display a resistance to technological change, millennials are taking advantage of how social, digital games combine their desires for technology and face-to-face interaction and are naturally advocating for bigger, better experiences.
Digital togetherness across generations
This generational divide gets intriguingly pronounced as you dive deeper. Millennials want more digital games to be designed as social experiences, baby boomers want millennials to be more engaged with the world around them, and both generations seem to want a break from the exceedingly complicated, technology-driven society of the present and to return, if only for the span of a game, to a simpler type of social interaction.
Where traditionally a compromise is necessary, both generations desire the same thing. However, millennials are the ones demanding it and pioneering the charge towards digital togetherness and a “heads up” society. The mutual goal is to bridge cross-generational divides and use digital gaming experiences to enrich face-to-face social gatherings through platforms that can fluidly transition between virtual and physical realms.