Updated: Jan 7
At the midst of the pandemic, many young adults struggled to find a way to stay connected with friends while remaining in quarantine. With restaurants, shopping malls, and schools closed, the world of gaming became the place for teens to “hang out” with friends without leaving home. Prior to the pandemic, only a minimal percentage of Gen-Z identified as “gamers”. Now, according to Forbes, 90% of Gen-Z identifies as gamers. This has caused branding to shift away from social media to online gaming. Being the most tech savvy generation, Gen-Z has created a new frontier for the gaming world, as diversity and new communication channels has emerged from the gaming boom.
Video game streaming sites such as Discord and Twitch have become increasingly popular among Gen-Z. Influencers are discovering ways to become apart of the gaming community while gamers are in contrast becoming influencers themselves. Another reason that gaming appeals to Gen-Z is the competition aspect of it. Friends can compete against eachother and communicate with eachother, building social networks that are much different from typical social media. Brands are able to engage with Gen-Z gamers by pursuing partnerships or sponsorships with gaming event, as they encourage gaming behavior. Popular gamers turned influencers have teamed up with brands, forming an organic appeal that is much less superficial than Instagram or Tik Tok. Unlike these apps, Discord and Twitch allow for users to join different channels or servers that pertain to a certain interest such as anime or sports. These features are different from livestreaming to followers as the audience can also view the gamer’s screen as they play.
Although Tik Tok and Instagram are currently the most popular social media apps among Gen-Z, gaming may change the overall infrastructure of online social networking. Playing games on Discord or watching a livestream on Twitch is much more appealing to Gen-Z than going out to take aesthetic pictures or doing Tik Tok dances. Gen-Z has made it clear that the gaming community is much more open and diverse with more women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQA+ community becoming a part of it. Gen-Z gamers are shaping a unique perception of gaming that has made it challenging for brands to find ways to connect to them. Yet, brands are becoming more creative and inclusive with their marketing strategies, thanks to Gen-Z gamers. The future of social media may even shift towards gaming as Gen-Z communications has become heavily reliant on gaming.