How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Games as Social Facilitation
When we play games with other people, we often have to interact with them in some way, whether it is the simple comments on the other's move (or later analysis) in chess or the intensive dialog of online multi-player adventure games.
The game hence acts as a facilitating structure that both brings people together and provides a context and implied rules for communication between players.
A person who is normally quiet has an online game persona who is loud and boisterous.
A pre-school unit has an area with toys and games in where the quieter children can play. It is noticed that the talk is more about the things they are playing with than the individuals.
A company has a training day in which they use games as a way to bring people together from different departments.
Some people find it easy to talk and interact with others. There are, however, many who are more introverted and who find making conversation hard work. You can see these people in parties where they sit quietly, talk with the same people that they know and then leave as early as is polite. Yet the same people may be found in online games leading bands of warriors against dragons or commenting wryly upon other games they have played.
Games bring people together and give them rules to follow, which may include or require social interaction. Individuals and groups are given purpose in specific objectives to achieve and so have a reason to act and to interact. They may need to find or use artefacts, weapons and so on, which they cannot do on their own.
The structure of games gives reason for talk and people who struggle at party small-talk are more comfortable interacting where there is a clear need and purpose. The focus for such situations is doing and achieving, not just interacting and conversing for its own sake. Men, who focus more on things (vs. women who focus more on relationships) hence tend particularly to benefit from games.
Games also provide safety, both within the rules and, if this is where games are played, online. If you can walk away without social harm, then it is easier to start playing. In live team games, the coach and referee can also provide structure and safety, ensuring rules are not broken.
This is not to say that the social animals who frequent parties cannot also enjoy themselves in playing games, nor that all introverts enjoy games. The point is that games provide a structure within which a wider range of people can interact than might be found in normal social situations.