How to Make Friends Online With Video Games

This past week I had someone reach out to me through my website and ask a simple question. At least it seemed like a simple question. “I have a friend who is suffering from isolation. How could they make some friends online?” The question caught me by surprise. It just seems like everyone already knows how to do that… unless they are too young, or too old, or actually, like me never think to look online to make friends.

Since the whole core of my mission is to reduce loneliness through interactive gaming, I felt compelling to answer this question. So I turned to the experts, our professional coaches, commentators, and our entire staff. They had some great answers.

The Good Old Days

There is no doubt that the world has changed, and not in ways that seem obvious. Not long-ago video games were hosted on private or dedicated servers. In that world, gamers could find a game they liked, find a server they liked, and “hang around”. Eventually they would make connections by seeing the same people over and over again.

In the late 90’s Counterstrike had more people playing video games than watching the highest-rated TV show of the year… every night. There were literally thousands upon thousands of servers.

I remember being proud that ATV Off-road Fury 2 on the PlayStation hosting tens of thousands of gamers every night. Of course, this paled in comparison to the millions of gamers that logged on to play Counterstrike. When World of Warcraft launched in Nov 2004, the game was engineered to push people together into social groups. You had to run across the world, looking for quests, and the game funneled players of a similar skill level into areas of the map and rewarded them for working together.

In short, video games emulated the same kinds of techniques designers and architects have used to make offices a “social space”. 

According to Joseph Grenny of Vital Smarts:

What worked about the office was that it was a highly structured way of promoting unstructured interaction. It gave the illusion of agency to our spontaneous connection.

Basically, video games accomplished the same thing for 20 years by putting players together with a shared interest, and as Grenny put it, “letting them rub against each other like marbles in a jar”. And this worked. [[Yuval Noah Harari]] in his excellent book Sapiens makes the case that humans are wired to work in social groups. 

In the “old days”, all you had to do to make friends, is find a game you liked, hop on a server and hang out. Eventually, friendship would just sort of happen. [True story, I met Bill Amend, the creator of Foxtrot, by playing World of Warcraft in 2006]. 

So, what changed?

Safety, Scale, and the Cloud

More than half the people I spoke with talked about the close friends they made playing games like Halo 2 and Team Fortress 2. However, several things happened with video games and the way they are hosted online.

First, the publishers wanted control of the servers.  Therefore, the “dedicated” server model went away to be replaced with cloud computers. One enormous advantage came from this shift however.  Suddenly a global pool of players could be polled for a match. This is probably one of the single greatest features of Fortnite. As soon as one match ends (usually with you getting wiped out quickly) You can get into another game in seconds.  With Halo 2 it could take upwards of 5 minutes to find a match and start the game.  This was one of the reasons early on I did not include internet play.  People had no idea how much time they were spending waiting in lobbies.  5-10 minutes per game in a 120-minute party is a lot of time.  With local play players could jump into a match in seconds.  It is impressive Epic recreated this experience with an online game. 

The downside? You are faced with a nearly constant churn of players, what Nathan Ullyott, the director of Maricopa Parks and Recreation called the “infinite friend problem.” It is the exact opposite of marbles “rubbing each other”. You don’t like someone? There is zero incentive to work it out. Just move on. There’s an infinite number of people waiting to play.

The Child Online Privacy and Protection Act also had an impact on forming game communities.  Basically, it created a digital wall between underage players and everyone else. In principle this is an incredibly good thing, however the goal of making it safer for kids to play online by giving their parents more control, created systematic isolation for all players. Because match making is not happening at the local server level, the centralized match making systems try to make sure players who cannot possibly meet play together. It is safer yes, but also more isolating.

In the name of safety, advantages of scale, and the advent of cloud computing (where is that server by the way? Does anyone really know!?), the small communities that formed around online video games just a decade ago have changed drastically.

What replaced it?

But have no fear. Not all is lost. While the small server might not be the place where friends are made, gamers and developers have made adjustments and adaptations.  The two biggest ones being Twitch, and the rise of Discord. The idea of building community has moved from the publisher, to (hopefully) well-meaning streamers and fans of the games. I remember when my kids first started to watch people play Minecraft on YouTube. It was the fastest way to learn the rapidly changing complex game. When Twitch came around, and they could interact with content creators in real-time.  Communities started to form with the streamers at the center.  Like some kind of space age fan club mixed with gaming, many streamers decided to use Discord as their tool of choice for managing these enthusiastic communities.

Finding Friends Through Games 2021 Style

To be clear, it is still possible to make friends online through video games, but it is done a little differently.  While the tools and technology have changed, the intrinsic desire for humans to connect persists. Here is the current best practices I culled and combined after talking with my team.

The Steps

  1. Find a game you are interested in. Your interests will make it easier for you to connect and share experiences with other players (side note, some very interesting games have very toxic communities that are not friendly toward new players – do your homework! DOTA II and League of Legends communities are notorious for being harsh on new players)
  2. Spend some time developing enough skill to be willing to play with, or against others online.
  3. Find a streamer, or someone on YouTube who you find interesting and posting and live streaming regularly. Many of these streamers put out a steady dose of tutorials and helper videos. This content should help you get a sense if you like them and what their community might be like.
  4. Check out some Streams.  They don’t have to be the most famous or popular.  Find the ones that click with you.  You do not have to donate!  It is not at all necessary.
  5. Look for a community discord.  You can even ask about it while they are streaming.
  6. Follow the procedures on their discord to become part of the community.  Most streamers do not want a toxic community and Discord and Twitch also frown on “bad cultures”.  This means there are usually some steps you have to go through, like accepting the community rules.  You typically will get a little access to the discord at first – so you are not overwhelmed, and then over time they will open up more and more of the channels to you.
  7. Invite some people to play, and be open to invitations to play.

There is one caveat about spending a lot of time watching streamers.  While most of them are entertaining and often honest and open, you can feel like you know a streamer much better than you would know any other kind of celebrity.  However, while you think you are getting to know them very well, the reality is that it is nearly impossible for them to get to know you. In fact, they probably don’t know you at all. There is a name for this kind of lopsided relationship. It is called a parasocial relationship

You are better off focusing your interactions with other members of the community rather than the streamer themselves. You want to focus on people you can actually play with, and who can get to know you. No matter how genuine a streamer is, they are still essentially performing and most do this as a business. That is both good and bad. Good in that they will work hard to make sure the community is consistent with their values, but bad in the sense that they have an extremely limited capacity to reciprocate any kind of meaningful friendship.

They can (and do) appreciate you, without knowing you.

For Younger Kids

Many parents pay attention to their child’s online gaming and wonder about making friends as well. When I asked about kids making friends online, two themes popped up from our Bravous Parents.  Pick the right game.  Watch who they communicate with.  Remember when I said you should play video games with your kids?  That’s another way to do both.  What games do our parents let their kids play?

Minecraft birthday party

I’m sure you will recognize the names:

  1. Minecraft is still a mainstay and in general, has a nice community. The Java servers can allow more player to player chat (like the old dedicated servers of 15 years ago)
  2. Animal Crossing Pocket Camp because it is easy to meet new people, but even if you don’t you don’t feel so alone playing. 
  3. Roblox – is very popular and really good, but you do want to be careful. There can be some bad apples and immaturity.  Still, our young gamers made some friends here too.


When online gaming and chat became enormous it was inevitable that online friendships – and in fact true, real life friendships would form. Over time, as technology change, the social dynamic of the video game internet changed with it. Despite all the changes, our desire to connect and make friends can still be satisfied.  I saw this quote recently from the poet Jane Hirshfield. She said it about Zen but I think it applies equally well to making friends online:

  • Everything changes
  • Everything is connected
  • Pay attention

If you find a game you are interested in, do some homework, find a community that shares your interest. With time, effort, and persistence chances are good you will find someone who shares your enthusiasm, and you might just make a new friend.


  1. Grenny, J., Grenny, J., & Grenny, J. (2020, November 30). No one is talking about the real problem with working from home. Fast Company.
  2. Harari, Y. (n.d.). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
  3. Ullyot Nathan, Director Nathan Ullyot discusses Maricopa Esports,

Jane Hirshfield,

What Makes a GameTruck Party Great? No Lone wolves.

One of the things that has always made GameTruck special, is that we focus on multiplayer games. The whole vision for the company was to recapture of the magic of playing the best games with your best friends. However, today, more than ever, we see players – mostly boys – who hover outside the edge of the “pack” looking for a way in. Of all the responsibilities of the Game Coach, this is the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart. We have a mantra, “No Lone Wolves”.

When I was a Kid

Image of person with Nintendo Switch playing holiday video games with GameTruck

When I was a kid, my parents moved from Garden City Michigan, to Farmington Hills Michigan. Later, I knew why my mom had done it. Her brother was a supervisor on the Ford assembly line. Well respected and loved, Uncle Tommy was the icon of a steel bending blue collar worker. My mom wanted me to go to college like my father. What my dad did was incredibly hard. Get a college degree, in engineering, when no one else in his family had ever done it. Mom knew that if I lived in a neighborhood where everyone expected to go to college, I was more likely to go.

Her logic was sound. Every single one of my new friends went to college. That came later, much later, however. The cost of that move, however, was that I left a neighborhood where I had a close knit circle of friends. I entered a neighborhood where suddenly I was the outsider. It took me forever to make friends. A friend of my mom’s, a teacher, told her, “When new kids move to a school, the girls seem to make friends right away. The boys however, close ranks and form a knot. The new kids have to break in. It’s tough.”

I don’t know if I ever fully lost that sensation of being outside looking in. I suppose that was one thing that drove me to create GameTruck.  It is a space for friendship. I found “my tribe” at the arcade. Video games were a great equalizer. If you could play, you could fit in. GameTruck parties became a way to create that kind of camaraderie. 

With a Little Help From a Coach

Because this feeling of being on the outside looking in stayed with me, when I created the hiring guidelines for GameTruck, I encouraged owners to look for a very special kind of person to be a game coach. We for “musician gamers”. We want to find that rare coach who not only loves to play video games, but also wants to share that passion with other people. Great musicians love to play, but also to entertain others. Great game coaches are similar. This means they also are aware of the audience. Their position as an adult, who is in charge of a party, who knows a lot about video games gives them a special position with the gamers. They have natural authority, the kind of authority that comes from earned respect. 

Consequently, our coaches are able to do something very few kids can do. They can invite the outsider into the group. It was Joel Carlson, Franchise owner number one and a good friend who coined the term, “No Lone Wolves.” He captured the essence of the idea perfectly.  Nothing works 100% of the team, but we encourage our staff to do their best not to leave anyone outside the group. Stragglers, hangers on, or kids who feel like they may not be welcome to play. What is amazing is how little encouragement we have to give.  Our coaches seem to get it immediately, and intuitively.  They just needed permission to be their welcoming selves.  Ask any gamer, “what’s it like to be left out?” And they can tell you.  In vivid detail.  However, invite a solo player to join a game of Smash, or Minecraft and it is amazing the smiles you can create.  And the memories.  Memories the kids never seem to forget.

Afraid to Fail

birthday party

While we have worked to include players from the very beginning, one thing that has happened over the last half decade is we are seeing more players who show up afraid to try to play. They want to play, but they are afraid to “look stupid.”

For some reason, more kids now expect to immediately master a video game. This is another opportunity for a Game Coach to shine. I have seen it repeatedly.  The coach not only invites the player into the group to play, but stays with the group, giving tips, direction, and ultimately confidence. A good coach can do more than make a great celebration, they can make it okay for players to try new things.


Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide

Creating great celebrations is not only about fun video games, but also about making everyone at the party feel like they are a part of the event. While a Lone Wolf, at the back of the pack might seem quiet, everyone knows they are there, hungry, waiting, anticipating, like a dark cloud on a sunny day.

Inviting that player into the circle, helping them overcome their anxiety opens the event to become a genuinely great celebration.  Why? Because when we are playing together in the same space, our energy multiplies. You shouldn’t have to be perfect to play a video game. You shouldn’t have to wait to be invited to join the fun. However, just in case you need a little help, a GameTruck Game Coach is ready to extend an invitation.  They are there to offer a helping hand. Ultimately, in my experience this is what makes a celebration great, when everyone gets to share the joy.

COVID Video Game Party Options

The number one question we are asked by parents these days is, “What are your COVID procedures?” or “What events do you have that are “COVID friendly?”

The good news is we have good answers. Safety has always been a priority with GameTruck, going back to the very beginning of the business. In part, I created GameTruck because I wanted to create a party where my kids, and their friends could play together.

No one else. No strangers.

Not to be paranoid, but it is much easier to relax as a parent when you know three things.

  1. Where are your kids?
  2. Who they are with?
  3. Who is watching them?

Now, we can add a fourth item to this list. Is the environment clean and safe?

I don’t know if it is possible to guarantee safety anymore, but what we do, and we have done is everything we can to keep our game trailers and equipment sanitized. We have been doing this since the beginning. While COVID might be new, kids spreading germs is not. All the same, our COVID Procedures are documented on our GameTruck website.

In a nutshell, keeping your family and friends and our staff safe is a partnership. There are some things we must do, and somethings you and your gamers need to do. If that sounds like too much, I will outline some other COVID safe options.

video game party

The steps we take to ensure a safe gathering are going to no doubt sound familiar. There is one other advantage to GameTruck, however. The trailer is not a public access facility, so you can fully control the guests who come into contact with your children.

What we do

Here are the steps we take:

  • Limit capacity to 10 or fewer guests so everyone Social Distance. We do not allow packing the trailer with people. Your booking agent or local franchise owner can tell you how many may safely play together per CDC guidelines within the equipment available in your market.
  • We always wear masks inside the trailer. (I hope I don’t need to explain this one)
  • We wipe down every controller after each use to ensure cleanliness.
  • We clean our hands with hand sanitizer frequently.
  • We sanitize after every party – so the trailer is clean.
  • Ask our staff to stay home if they are not feeling 100%

These can all be summarized in the following infographic:

What we ask you to do

While we do everything possible to ensure the game trailer environment is clean and sanitary, COVID-19 has taught us that safety is a community responsibility, and we all have a part to play.

Therefore, we ask our hosts and gamers to do the following:

  1. Provide masks to guests.
  2. Limit your guest list to 10 or less.
  3. Ask all gamers to wash hands before and after the event.
  4. Use hand sanitizer during the event
  5. Make sure your mouth and nose are covered
  6. Avoid touching your face (this is how most germs are spread)

Finally, if anyone is feeling ill, or developing cold or flu like symptoms, we ask that they minimize the spread of infection to others by staying home.

If you think you or your child have been exposed or may have symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider immediately.

We continue to pray for the health and safety of all our gamers and hope this situation improves soon.

Note: Regardless of whether you have received the vaccine, we will be holding these protocols until the CDC and local government officials change guidance.

Over the last year we have seen several people who do not wish to be inside for an event at all.

This is totally understandable, which is why we have two more options for “COVID friendly” events.

The first option is Laser Tag which is a great outside party I have written about before. It gets your gamers up and moving and it is more popular than ever.

The second option is really a twin option. In the fall of 2020 we launched GameTruck @HOME, our first contactless video game party. The concept is simple. We drop off at your home a case of video game equipment, cleaned, primed and ready to go. You play the games in your own home or backyard, and we retrieve the case for pickup when your party is over.

Recently, Nintendo partnered with us to expand the program to bring you GameTruck@HOME featuring Nintendo Switch – a completely Nintendo Switch focused version of this program which you will be hearing more about in the coming months.

Finally, if you feel you need assistance, we have a staffed version of GameTruck @Home called Gameplex. This option is similar to @HOME in that we bring the consoles and games to your house but this time, one of our professional game coaches accompanies the delivery and stays to manage the party. Game play is at your home, garage or backyard, and not in the trailer.


I hope over the course of this article, I have been able to give you a clear answer to the two questions most frequently asked by parents. Namely, what are your COVID protocols, and what COVID friendly party options do you have? We take safety very seriously, and we always have.

When our kids were young, I would joke with my wife that they were “petri dishes”. They always seemed to bring something home from school. I never imagined we would take cleaning with such solemnity. However, keeping the game equipment sanitized is nothing new to us. In fact, I am glad that people are paying attention. Community health is a mutual responsibility, but so is mental health.

I started GameTruck to play the best games with your best friends. Social isolation, and the pain of loneliness is no laughing matter.

Whether it is with GameTruck, or any other company, or privately, I believe we are healthier together. We run a human connection company, dedicated to helping you celebrate the some of the most important, most memorable birthdays in your child’s life. We take that very seriously, which is why we work so hard to keep you, and our staff safe.