Gaming communities have come a long way from simple chat rooms and message boards. While those media still exist today—seriously, you can find a chat room or forum for pretty much any game (or topic)—the idea of a community has expanded considerably. And if you’re the type of person who likes to converse with others while playing your favorite game, this is surely something that you have noticed, too. The thing is, it goes far beyond the mere concept of throwing the latest Call of Duty in your console of choice and playing online. Specifically, I’ve found three communities that show just how this concept has grown over the years and, perhaps, where it’s headed.

steam greenlightFirst is Steam’s Greenlight, a concept that computer gamers of any kind have likely become familiar with. If not, it’s quite simple: members of the Steam service can go beyond simply chatting with each other in games, comment sections, etc. On Greenlight, the community has the ability to approve or shoot down prospective additions to the game store that exists on the Steam network. In other words, it’s grown into a bit of a democracy, although some would argue otherwise with the recent deletion of the controversial Hatred title. That news aside, though, Greenlight has serious potential moving forward and can mean great things for independent game developers.

Taking things in a bit of a different direction is Twitch, the online streaming hub where the views are coming in droves. Why, you ask? Because people apparently love to watch one another play games. OK, so it’s a very specific type of person who likes doing that, but Twitch has clearly struck a chord with a serious community. They were purchased by Amazon for nearly $1 billion earlier this year, and that acquisition certainly spells good things for Twitch’s future. Not only that, but many of the site’s most-viewed channels deal in eSports, another element of gaming that’s becoming increasingly popular and, according to some in the industry, has no ceiling.

And in yet another aspect of the gaming world, there’s online gambling, which has had a strong focus on building communities in two different ways. Since the market’s birth in 1996 with the launch of the InterCasino platform, companies have looked at ways to expand their audience while also catering to the VIPs out there who spend the most time at their sites. This has resulted in the creation of forums and message boards for the more talkative players and, as expected, VIP programs for frequent gamers. In regards to the latter, a community atmosphere is created through having these VIPs attend exclusive events together. It’s a fun, creative way to bolster the feeling of community while keeping people aware of the brand.

While these are just three examples of online gaming communities, they showcase strength in their numbers by way of diversity and what they offer. It’ll be incredibly interesting to see how else gamers are enticed (and inclined!) to communicate and join forces with another moving forward, especially as online multiplayer becomes more integral on consoles.

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