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How I found my ‘third place’ through video games

It’s human nature to seek an outlet to end the day. For the cowboys of the old West, it’s the campfire. For the traditional American family, it’s the dinner table. For me, it’s the virtual world of my PlayStation.

Almost every night this semester, I’ve returned home from a long day of classes and immediately booted up my console. I kick back, grab my controller and open Discord on my phone. My friends are already there.

We’ll pick a game — Fortnite, Rocket League, Minecraft, occasionally something from Jackbox Games — and just play and talk for an hour or two. We’ll chat about our days and things we’re excited for, not necessarily blocking everything else out of our lives, but detoxing from our daily routines.

I love it. At a certain point every day, I’m already looking forward, wondering what games we’ll play, what we’ll discuss.

I grew up in that traditional American family, where we all ate around the dinner table. Some nights, we wouldn’t eat until 8 because we all had our after-school activities and work, but we tried to prioritize this time to just be together and talk.

When I got to college, it was a huge adjustment not having this routine experience. I started with only a few friends who I could share my days with. Now that I have them, I’m cherishing these moments we can spend together each night, even if our “third place” is virtual.

The concept of a third place refers to the idea that people should have another space separate from work and their home. The term is defined in Ray Oldenburg’s “The Good Place.”

The third place is typically a calm area for conversation and regulars. Common spaces for this category include coffee shops, bookstores and community centers.

Oxford has some of these, not enough, though. Sure, you can grab a cup of coffee with a friend at Kofenya or check out the Oxford Community Arts Center, but this town doesn’t even have a bookstore.

Instead, Oxford has a large focus on the nightlife culture. Go Uptown most nights, and you’ll see people partying at Brick Street or Skipper’s. I’ve tried to fit in with this culture before, but it’s just not for me. I’d much prefer a quiet bar that allows for conversation, something my friends and I were unable to find despite a whole night’s worth of searching.

Thus, I am driven back to my room and the PlayStation. There, I can escape to a virtual world where these spaces that promote conversation between friends exist.

We frequently choose video games that get repetitive after a while. It’s less about the games themselves and more about our interactions.

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The virtual world has made it so much easier for third spaces. People across the world can regularly connect and have these frequent conversations. It’s also much more convenient to consistently hop on a video game each night than it is to walk to a crowded coffee shop.

The main downside is that virtual spaces are still restrictive in terms of location. A key point of third spaces is that they’re separate from the home, which is difficult to do with a console. However, so long as you have a designated area for your gaming and feel transported enough, it doesn’t really matter.

Not everyone is interested in gaming. Not everyone is interested in experiencing the nightlife of Uptown. The important thing is that you find your setting that promotes this regular communication and make that your third place.

Luke Macy is the digital managing editor for The Miami Student. He is studying journalism, film studies and American studies at Miami. His work can be found in multiple Ohio publications, and he’s received various awards, including best investigative reporting in Ohio.