Posted: 4 Min ReadGaming

Share your gaming interests—not your personal information

How to socialize safely while online gaming

In my gaming lifetime, I’ve gone from lone wolf to Discord extrovert. That got me thinking about my social habits. Here’s my story.

I've been obsessed with playing video games since first grade. I remember pretending to be sick in an attempt to stay home from school to play the Atari 2600—yes, I'm an old-timer.

I don't know if this is the case, but I like to think that I'm a rare breed. I've witnessed video games evolve from blocky, ultra-low resolution with almost comical animations, to nearly photorealistic textures with high framerates and resolutions. Although my wife may disagree, I feel like my immature nature has been a blessing that continues to fuel my desire to play.

A little bit about my play style: I prefer to be a lone wolf. I like to play at my own pace and experience everything that a great game has to offer. Rushing through with random players just to level up as fast as possible is not appealing to me. If there are online features that require interaction with other players, I might briefly touch on them but usually steer clear altogether. This is likely due to my independent personality, as well as a lack of gamer friends.

Here's what stirred my inner extrovert

In late 2020, I stumbled upon articles claiming that Fallout 76 (FO76) was actually becoming a good game—despite harsh criticism when it launched in 2018. Being a huge fan of Fallout 4, I decided to give FO76 a shot. Without babbling about how much I like it, let me say that I've spent more time in this game than any other single game I've played. And I've been a nonstop gamer for 38 years.

After a couple of hundred hours into FO76, there was one particular moment when two other players came to my CAMP and purchased weapons. They were chatting, and after about five minutes of fumbling with my mic, I joined the conversation. This is not how I do things. I do not talk to strangers. I decided I was not going to pass up this opportunity to thank them for their purchases!

To make a long story short, these players turned out to be extremely cool and helpful, and they crafted a new weapon for me—score! Before the night was over, I was invited to their Discord server, where I eventually met a lot of new interesting people, with whom I can imagine becoming good friends. This was a fresh experience for me. I was excited to engage with and be part of a group of people. It seems that my hermit-like personality is to blame for me missing out on this after all these years.

How I figured out the rules

As excited as I've become with hanging out and chatting with my new buddies on Discord, there is one question I keep in mind at all times—how much personal information is too much to disclose? And how much should I trust people I really don't know? Sure, I feel like some of us have created great bonds, and I would love to get to know some of these friends better, but what's the safest etiquette to follow? What are the rules?

Here’s the thing. Identity theft is a real problem in gaming, and some personal information should never be shared with others regardless of how close you've become. A good first rule would be to never share information with online friends that you wouldn't share with friends you know personally, in real life. A few obvious examples would be account login credentials, bank account numbers, or Social Security number. But what about your age or birthday, or maybe your home address? You wouldn’t mind real-life friends knowing this.

After doing research and chatting about this subject, I was surprised to find very little information that answers this question. I thought, "OK, just use common sense and you're good."

The problem is, what I consider to be common sense is not the same logic that my kids use when they're on Discord.

These are my tips for my kids—and you, too

So what’s the answer? The way I would preach safety rules on Discord is exactly how I would teach my kids.

  • To start, don't use your real name as your username—some usernames I've seen are questionable—and never share your real name with anyone.
  • Your physical address is also something you want to keep secret, there is no reason for people you just met online to know this.
  • You probably also want to keep your age and birth date unknown since this is a critical piece of info that identifies you. Your voice and demeanor is enough to put you into an age category if that would ever matter.
  • This next one may be obvious, but never give out usernames and passwords to any of your accounts.

These tips can help if you’re a super-social gamer. They work for lone wolves, too.

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About the Author

Frederick Kudelka

Software Engineer

Frederick Kudelka is a professional software engineer with a passion for being creative. In his free time, he enjoys writing, recording music with his guitars, and of course, becoming immersed in all the latest and greatest video games.

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