I'm a bit of a lurker and I always see a lot of posts on this sub talking about the lack of social activity in games. A lot of people chalk it up to discord and I don't think this general opinion can really truly be contested. Where this opinion skews off though is the mindset that it's discord as a voice chatting application that's done the damage, when in it's reality discord as a text chat application that's responsible.
TeamSpeak and Ventrilo have existed since the early 2000s. Games in the early 2000s such as Battlefield 2 had their own voice chat systems, and around the late 2000s Skype picked up in usage. There are probably plenty of other examples, but these are the major ones when it comes to PC gaming. Voice chatting has always been around, although it has never been as accessible as it is now, nor as safe as it is now. Decent(usable) headsets are cheaper and more available than ever before as well.
But what about text chat? That's a massive part of gaming too. Out of game text chat for the longest time used various irc(internet relay chat) servers. These servers held some enormous communities. Some of these servers tended to only contain communities that were built around one game, while a few of the larger servers had communities centered around multiple games. While irc chat was old, it was reliable. If that wasn't your style though, there were time periods where different alternatives shown. Xat which allowed users to create their own chatbox had quite a bit of popularity for a while. Msn and Yahoo's instant messaging services were also quite popular, and when Skype grew in popularity some used its text messaging systems too. And of course during the 2010+ era when you could expect most youth to have a touch phone, various apps offering group text chat became somewhat viable for games as well.
None of these systems were flawless though, most of them lacked a feature or two that their competitors had. Aside from the moments where irc was strong, almost none of these methods of text chatting dominated entire gaming communities either. None of these systems ever dominated gaming culture as a whole as Discord is doing now.
Discord changed this all simply by being too good. It was safe, reliable, up to date with a clean look, offered mobile integration and much more when it came to text chat. User profiles had a high amount of customization from profile pictures, to statuses(custom statuses always existed in a way, early on pc users would set notepad files as custom games in order to display the notepad file's title as a status), to being able to connect various accounts with Discord and as mentioned earlier show what game you were playing off as a status. The area Discord lacked in the most(and still does at times) is the stability of its voice chat communications. This is the reason that voice chat alternatives such as teamspeak and ventrilo are still around, especially for larger, more diverse communities.
Now that we've gotten all that out of the way though, we can look at what's really going on here. Discord as an out-of-game communications system is simply too overcentralizing. We've reached the point where it's generally expected that everyone has Discord. Not only that, but because of it's aforementioned features, guild/clan/club/general gaming discord channels can remain active even when their members aren't actually gaming. Part of MMO gaming is meeting new people, but because discord is so universal, and so accessible from both PCs, Phones and other devices(such as tablets), why should you bother? Once you've met a group of people you like, or have added a few friends you like, you don't ever really have to stop chatting with them. Even if those people aren't active, there are multiple ways to search for Discord communities in your game that peak your interest. Instead of say attempting to open up a conversation with the person standing next to you in-game, in less than a minute you can be in an entirely new server filled with so many more people to talk to potentially.
Furthermore, users can look through the profiles of users on discord which provides a great deal more of information on each person than what is provided in-game. This allows users to "pick" out users they want to interact with, and users they may want to avoid. Profile expression has come at a steep cost. Why interact with a random player who you may not like or get along with when you can interact with a random user in Discord whose profile leads you to believe that you may get along fairly well for certain?
In the "days of old"
There are obviously other reasons for the decline of social activity within games, but Discord is the big one. I just wish people wouldn't blame it all on the voice chat. I also wish people could recognize the issue with various platforms becoming overcentralizing.
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