Gamers are notoriously perceived as introverts that don’t have a job, live in their parents basement, and have their mom bring them Cheetos when they run out. The common perception is that they waste time playing their games, and are often rebuked to do something more meaningful.

While those perceptions could be true, they are by no means the rule when it comes the video game enthusiast community. Playing games is a hobby, an entertainment medium, and an unprecedented way to connect with others of similar tastes.

When you go see a movie, you are generally in a room full of people that, like you, chose to see that movie at that particular time, so you are bound to have something in common with them. However, when was the last time you made a friend out of someone that sat in front of you or beside you at the theater? Nine times out of ten, you don’t really notice the other individual, unless they have their phones out or doing something else that annoys you. With gaming, another method of storytelling, many people converge on a game and play it at varying times or days. Of the thousands or millions of people playing that game, you’ll only ever interact with a small percentage, based on matchmaking parameters.

However, when you get down to that level, where you run into a player you’ve never met before, you might just start to like the method of play another gamer uses. You may start to jive well enough that you know what each other will do in a matter of minutes. Soon, a friend request is sent, and you continue building that gaming partnership. In the coming weeks, a true friendship is built.

Personally, I’ve been gaming online on Xbox Live since it was released on the original Xbox. It didn’t take long before I found a group of players that I gravitated to. At first we used the voice chat for strategy only in Star Wars: The Clone Wars in 2003. We would formulate the best battle plan, and let everyone know what base we were capturing, what the global command was set to, if the super blasters were up… Then, after we mastered our team we were able to function as a well-oiled machine without saying much. Conversation turned to more personal things, where we were from, jobs or school. Before I knew it, we came to know each other pretty well! So much so, that people formed business partnerships and held a meet-up! Communities can be formed around so many different things, but it’s so amazing to see how long lasting these friendships can be with people you may never meet in person!

Fast-forwarding now to the current generation, online communities still thrive. Gamers from all different backgrounds can come together in a safe place, because we’re all there for the same reason. Personally, I’ve been lucky enough to have stumbled into an amazing group of gamers. We mainly play on Xbox, but most of us have all the current systems, and play on there with each other, too. I’ve had the chance to meet one of them in person, and really want to meet others in the group, too! We’ve bought each other games and various random things we’re interested in, we’ve been there for each other in difficult times, we’ve cheered when someone gets good news, and of course we’ve helped each other hunt achievements! We’re not just a group of gamers, not just a community. We’re a family.

You might be asking yourself, “Why am I reading this?” My message is simple. When you play with others online, play with an open mind. Communicate with each other about the game. Send that friend request to the gamer you liked playing with. Build that relationship. As gamers, we all gather for the same purpose, so game on.