The History Of Social Gaming

The image of a video game player can often be distorted. You know that meme, what my mum thinks I do, what society thinks do, etc… well if you state you are a game most people might assume you are a bit of a hermit. But is this fair? Is that correct though? Throughout the history of gaming, there has been a social element. Let’s explore.

Early pong sessions

Now I should really preface this by pointing out that I am but 38 years old. And as such, I may not be going back to the very start of gaming history. However, this is going back some way. When I was a kid we would occasionally pull out what was called “telly games”. This early console predates the Master System and NES and featured several innovative versions of pong. My bro and I would Duke it out on classics such as Pong, Basketball and something resembling foosball. Much simpler times.

Passing the handheld

There were two flavours of early handheld. One that came with a bunch of pre-existing images, a bit like an old school calculator display and even older games which featured a light-up screen. The games were simple affairs. Stuff like the “block game” which was effectively a Tetris clone. There were even simple versions of Pacman. While these were single-player efforts most of them managed to store your best score. The fun was had by trying to hold on to the top score.

Visiting the arcade

Back before amusements arcades were purely a place to get rid of you spare two pence pieces they used to contain actual video games. Most of the console classics appeared in arcades, such as Street Fighter and Tekken. But from a social perspective, some of the best games were the side-scrolling, co-op, beat-em-ups such as Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. Many a ten pence piece was spent on trying to defeat Magneto in the X-men arcade game. (And yes, my best mate and I did beat that game.)

Buying a multitap

When we had all had our fill of Mario Kart and later Goldeneye on the Gamecube we got the console that changed the game. The Playstation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an X-box man these days, but back then the Playstation was a revelation. I owned one and it was incredible. The only problem with the thing was that it was only two-player. If you wanted to play with a group of you, you needed a device called a multitap. This baby opened up the door to four-player action.

LAN parties

This is why they try and make gaming PC’s light. Let’s be perfectly honest very few people can afford a laptop powerful enough to do any meaningful gaming on it. There was something magical about all piling round your friend’s house with your gaming rig under your arm, plugging them all into your internet router and then spending 2 hours trying to get everyone connected. It was worth it so you could all pull an all-nighter on Age of Empires.

Live services

This was the next big evolution in social gaming. Now people didn’t even have to share a room to chat and game with their friends. Headsets made it possible to log on with Matt who moved up the coast and with some 12-year-olds who you yell expletives at because he smashed you on Fifa.


This isn’t accessed by everyone but it brings together thousands of gamers. Both the competitors and fans all come together. In many ways, it shows that gaming isn’t an isolated sport.

Start the discussion

to comment