Thursday, September 21, 2017

Gaming: a new social network

Heading online can help some gamers relax, form friendships, and even learn English. But some have concerns about how online behaviour affects offline lives – and what happens when too much of a good thing goes bad.

The first thing Yangon online gamer Ko Kyaw Myo does if he’s on the internet is go play games –

Facebook and other web pages come after, he said.

“Gamers chat with other gamers in online games, so they get close with other gamers by playing,” he said.

The online gaming community has seen its numbers grow as connectivity spreads through Myanmar, spurred by the semi-privatisation of the telecoms market and mobile network rollouts. The amount of games played last year doubled over the year prior, according to U Myint Kyaw Thu, chief technology officer at Myanmar games company Total Gameplay Studio.

The firm recently made more room for the gaming community to hang out online, having introduced a unique “social network platform” for gamers, otakus – a Japanese word that can mean “geek”– and teens, according to U Myint Kyaw Thu.

Unlike social spaces for the masses, Total Gameplay Studio’s network aims to pinpoint an audience.

“Facebook and Twitter are very much general,” U Myint Kyaw Thu said. “I think we need specific social networks built around specific user groups.”

The platform, now in beta, deepens users’ connections within the world of play. “[It’s] linked with our games so you can perform meta-gameplay such as challenging another player or coordinating attacks within a clan right inside the social network,” he said, noting 5000 users test the network each day.

Online gaming can give users a place to sit back and socialise. But what some might call a leisure pursuit can also help players engage their brains, according to some.

“Students or schoolboys should play online games to relax because if schoolboys play online games their brain quality can increase,” said U Khin Maung Oo, who owns Best Solution internet cafe in Kyauktada Township.

And U Myint Kyaw Thu said games with stories that progress in English can help players learn words in the foreign language.

However, he also warned that gamers shouldn’t spend too much of their life online.

One mobile user expressed concerns about a perceived trend away from IRL (in real life) interaction. “Once young people shared their experiences and told jokes in tea shops. Now young people are playing mobile online games there,” said Ko Thein Htoo Aung of South Dagon. “I don’t like that because the tea-shop culture involves sitting and talking.”

Though online gaming has increased steadily in popularity, visits to local tea shops prove the internet hasn’t replaced offline communication overnight. And like many activities in life, gaming gets the “okay” when used in moderation.

“I think games are a good form of entertainment to relax after a long day of work or study. But like other things, if you are addicted to gaming, then you got a big problem,” U Myint Kyaw Thu said. “I hope gamers can avoid game addiction and balance their lives between gaming and hard work.”