If you were ever in lockdown and on calls with friends or family when you hit an awkward lull in the conversation early on and found you had nothing more to say, you’re not alone. Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen experienced it, too — but the well-known gaming influencer, ex-host of Good Game and Good Game: Spawn Point on ABC and gamer in Twitch variety show Back Pocket, found another way to connect with others during lockdown instead.
“When I chat to my friends when I’m gaming for hours on end, it’s so different,” Bendixsen told The Latch. “There’s something about actively being in another world with someone, working towards a common goal, cooperating, strategizing, planning, puzzle-solving, motivating each other while we play – it’s this wonderfully engaging release.”
In the moments in between gaming, Bendixsen says she and her gamer friends would share funny stories or plan for the (post-lockdown) future – conversations she says felt effortless because the group was all part of the shared gaming experience. The end result was a strong feeling of closeness.
“I know it sounds corny, but it’s true,” she says. “When we get to the end of the night, and we look back at what we accomplished together, or how we laughed because of the silly things we did, or the challenges we tried again and again to overcome and finally did — you don’t get that from a video call.”
Bendixsen is among a big group — recent research by Playstation found that over half (52%) of Australian gamers also used online gaming to stay connected to people they hadn’t been able to see over the last months. The research also found that one in two (51%) of Australians agreed that online gaming had a positive effect on their social life. And a whopping one in four (25%) gamers used online gaming as their preferred form of communication (online video calls, social media, phone calls and texting) in the last 18 months.
As for how she’s generally felt about gaming, Bendixsen says the last couple of years in lockdown have been really special for her. “Working in TV [host of Good Game], there was this barrier between us and the audience — we were very removed from it,” she says. “But Twitch is about live interaction — you are building a community and people expect access to you in a much more personal way.”
She says that while using Twitch was scary at first, as a result of it, she’s met some of the most incredible people who are now among her closest friends. “We’re all just looking for human connection in a shared space where we can celebrate the things we love, and it’s actually so wonderful.”
As for the broader gaming community, Bendixsen says it still has a way to go with respect and diversity, but, for the most part, video games have brought people together in ways that most other entertainment mediums couldn’t come close to.
“It’s really special,” she says.