HOW ISLAND LIFE MIGHT ENCOURAGE ONLINE GAMING

Video games are a hugely popular activity all around the world. Whether you live in a remote community or a big city, you’ll find that gaming is a common pastime among your friends and neighbours. The ubiquitous reach of the internet means that even the most isolated rural areas now have access to broadband, which means online games can now be enjoyed by anyone with a home computer, a tablet, a local internet café or even just a smartphone.

But does living on an island, such as the Isle of Wight, mean that people take more readily to online gaming? As we’ve seen, geography is no barrier to the enjoyment of this hobby. However, one might expect tech-based interests to flourish in the world’s major cities rather than island communities often cut off from the latest technological developments. Indeed, many people choose to live on an island because they like it that way!

A lifeline for young people

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For young people, island life can present several challenges. Chief among these is a sense of isolation, which in some cases can lead to boredom, frustration and even depression. The Isle of Wight Youth Trust Mental Health Census in 2019 suggested that young people on the Isle of Wight might be particularly vulnerable to anxiety and depression. That is partly due to a relative lack of stimulating social activities and the difficulty in finding like-minded friends, especially if you don’t feel you fit in with the prevailing social norms.

For these young people, online activity, and gaming, in particular, can be a lifeline that connects them with a wider world in which others share their interests, outlook, and ideas. Alongside social media, playing video games with other youngsters elsewhere in the world lets them feel part of a wider community and gives them the stimulation, excitement, and mental engagement their everyday life may seem to lack.

Games are for everyone

Of course, it’s not just youngsters that enjoy gaming. Many older people like to play games online to unwind after work, relieve the stresses of professional and family life, or just to keep their mind alert and active. Online casino games are popular among island-dwelling adults, who may not have a “bricks and mortar” casino close by where they can enjoy their hobby. The generous offers made by these adult gaming sites, such as the ability to cash out a welcome bonus, further add to their appeal.

Online games can help while away time during the daily commute and are an especially welcome distraction when making trips to the mainland. One might conjecture that island life encourages a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. So perhaps islanders are more likely to make their own entertainment when bored by finding online games, rather than looking for company or outside activity.

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Positive culture

This resourcefulness also extends to the young. The first generation of digital natives has created a positive online culture and community that has flourished even more during the enforced isolation of lockdown. Many online gamers have built up a sizable following and try to use this in a way that’s beneficial to society overall. On the Isle of Wight, gamers Matt Russell, AKA B4ldyl0cks, and Kieran Annis, AKA DJ Rann, have hosted several 24-hour live streams to raise money for different charities.

Overcoming isolation

One of the frustrations of island life can be when major events easily accessed by those living on the mainland don’t take place on the island. These might include art exhibitions, music concerts, theatre, and sporting events. Going online is a way to overcome this sense of isolation and experience art, theatre, music etc., from the comfort of your own home.

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In terms of sporting events, online gaming allows you to stream esports events and tournaments, which have the advantage of being staged with an online audience in mind. Unlike, say, watching a football or cricket match online or on TV, there’s no sense wishing you were right there in the stadium to get the full impact or feeling jealous of the excited crowds as the camera pans across them. With esports, all the audience is online and can interact with each other, and sometimes with the competing players, just as if they were all seated in the same hall.

The appeal of online gaming is the same wherever you live. It is a way of overcoming or alleviating boredom, isolation, and stress. Perhaps people who live on an island are more susceptible to these problems and have fewer other outlets for relieving them.

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