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Friendships were really put to the test during the COVID lockdowns. While some friendships dwindled without regular face-to-face contact, others thrived.
In fact, the internet played an integral part in keeping families and friends connected through videochats and gaming. And for 28-year-old Ryan George, from Cardiff in Wales, his gaming friends were instrumental in keeping him mentally healthy and providing him with some very special invites to his recent marriage.
George struck up some meaningful relationships with Gerard, Scott, Kesean and Matt while playing the popular soccer game FIFA. The men met in a “pro club” online, where strangers can play together. The gamers went from playing soccer together, and reaching an impressive 44th place worldwide ranking, to striking up a friendship off the virtual pitch.
The friendship, which George described as the “most accessible” developed further during the lockdown, according to the BBC. In the end, the friends from all over the United Kingdom became so close that they were all invited to George’s recent wedding. Gerard was unable to attend as his wife had just given birth.
“Me and the boys aren’t really the type to be gaming all the time, we’ve all got lives outside of Xbox and friends and families so we weren’t really looking for friends,” shared George. “But it was definitely organic and moving to group chats then became a tool for everyone to speak about other things and get a bit closer.”
Interestingly, the newlywed shared what shocked him the most when he finally got to meet his friends in the flesh was how tall they were. And while his wife, Alice, was “relieved to know they are real,” the gaming friends got on well with all the other guests at the wedding.
It was definitely a leap of faith to invite a group of men whom he’d never physically met to join in one of the most special days of his life, but George explained that over the last couple of years he has really got to know them all, albeit behind a camera.
The benefits of online friendships
Of course parents all over the world are anxious about the number of hours their children spend on their screens, and with whom they are playing. However, with limits and monitoring there is the potential for this more unconventional sort of friendship.
And among adults, with similar prudence, friendships can develop over shared passions in a manner that might be more convenient when juggling work and family life. As George pointed out:
“If you are struggling, or you feel a little bit lonely you can log on and meet some new people and it’s a great platform for that. There’s loads of different games and the market’s massive.” He continued: “It’s a good way to go around things and definitely for me now with kids, it’s something that I really do rely on to be able to chat people.”
These thoughts are echoed by Stephen Buckley from the Welsh charity Mind Cymru, who explained that gaming can allow people “to build a positive community, socialize and connect with others and this in turn could help us to talk about our feelings, especially if we’re going through a difficult time.”
Thankfully for Catholics there is a community ready and waiting in local parishes! However, we appreciate that sometimes it isn’t always easy to make friends, and the world of gaming has helped a number of people create friendships with people they may never otherwise get to meet.