The internet has made playing video games a more social and connected experience. In addition to making global multiplayer matches and social/sharing features possible, the internet also enabled us gamers to form online communities and engage in discussions, analysis, and banter, all in the name of video games, the hobby we know and love.
In the Philippines, several online communities consisting of gamers have been formed through-out the years. These digitally connected communities share similarities but also have their unique, defining characteristics. Being a member of these communities myself, I appreciate being able to talk to and connect with people who not only share my interest in video games but also face mostly the same socio-economic and cultural issues and experiences that I do.
Online forums are one of the earliest and best examples of online communities. The Philippine online space is home to console-centric video game forums such as Pinoy PS, Pinoy Xbox, and Pinoy Nintendo. Pinoy Exchange, probably the biggest and most popular online forum in the country, also has an entire section for electronic gaming. Like their foreign counterparts, local gamers use these forums to talk about the games they’re currently playing, what they think of current and upcoming game consoles, find fellow pinoys to play with online, and speculate on newly announced/soon to be released titles. Additionally, threads discussing the best/Worst ISPs for online gaming, local game tournaments, games with Philippine elements/settings, and local retail prices of video game items just to name a few are also created. Members of these forums also meet offline and in-person for events such as Christmas parties (complete with games and video game items as prizes) or when doing buy/sell deals for new or used video game merchandise.
Video game discussions in online message boards can be playful or in-depth and this holds true for the Philippine’s homegrown forums. In relation to this, discussions are made more playful and/or in-depth by the fact that members can relate to each other not just because of the games they’ve played but also because of their cultural backgrounds and experiences (as earlier stated, this is something I really appreciate). Members can state jokes that only pinoys would get or use cultural references when analyzing recent events in the game industry. Filipinos share a strong affinity for their homeland and countrymen so it’s not surprising to see Filipino gamers regularly flock to homegrown forums for gaming discussions
Social media is critical in online communities, and this is clearly made evident by Datablitz’s Facebook page. Datablitz, the leading retailer of original video game merchandise in the country, opened its first branch in 1995 and now has 24 branches throughout the country. As of this writing, the store’s Facebook page has 33,565 likes and is consistently talked about by thousands. As most would assume, Datablitz’s page is used for marketing/promotion of games, consoles, and accessories; and for answering queries regarding price and availability of the said items. However, the page is not limited to marketing functions as Datablitz also fosters discussion of video game news and views through its #DBGameTalk initiative. In posts marked “#DBGameTalk”, the retailer poses questions such as “What was the most challenging game you’ve ever played?” or asks for opinions regarding recent game news such as the Xbox One’s DRM reversal. The page also asks fun, situational questions like “A Clicker is now outside your room. The object to your LEFT is now your weapon of choice. What is it?” The #DBGameTalk posts regularly get hundreds of likes and comments; and allow the Datablitz community to engage in fun and very active discussions surrounding video games.
Datablitz’s large and active online following is built on the Philippine’s very high social media/social networking usage (the country has the highest Facebook penetration rate in the world at almost 94% according to a 2011 24/7 Wall Street Report); and also on the goodwill that the store has built up by selling original video game merchandise that are of good quality at reasonable prices and providing good after-sales support. In November last year, due to an exclusive distributorship gone awry, the retailer was erroneously accused of smuggling and selling pirated copies of NBA 2K13 by a local distributor and misinformed authorities (multiple branches were raided and their entire NBA 2k13 stock was confiscated). Datablitz’s regular customers and followers rallied and showed overwhelming support for the store and at the center of it was Datablitz’s online community. Datablitz’s official statement (posted on their FB page) denying the accusations and detailing the events that took place prior to and during the raids was shared by thousands of gamers across social media; and the same gamers continued to pledge their allegiance to their favorite game retailer in their social media accounts (a “We Support Datablitz” FB page which got over a thousand likes was also created). Datablitz released a second statement which specifically denied the smuggling and piracy reports, and also thanked gamers for their support.
The online world has also made buying, selling, and trading of goods easier and this applies to the Philippine gaming scene as well. Thanks to sites like TipidPC and Sulit.com.ph, a lot of gamers have been able get in touch with each other and buy, sell, and trade new and used game items. Both TipidPC and Sulit have feedback/reputation system that makes it easier for members to identify the upstanding and reputable members; and weed out those who would take advantage of others. I’ve been a part of this gamer community myself for a couple of years now and I’ve bought, sold, and traded my share of items. I remember buying a Sega Dreamcast from a game console collector and chatting with him for a bit revealed that he’s been regularly doing deals with other local console collectors.
The buying, selling, and trading of video game items (outside of retail and made easy by online means) is prominent in the Philippines due to various factors. For one, always buying an original game at full price can be expensive for some, especially in a developing economy. There are also gamers who see used games as an alternative to piracy, which is still somewhat prevalent in the country. Additionally, the TipidPC/Sulit community also makes it easier to find rare/no longer produced versions of games, consoles, and accessories.
In closing, not only do these online communities forge a sense of belonging, they also make gaming fun even after gamers put down the controller.