Critics of online games say they isolate people and foster loneliness, which researchers have tied to a range of social problems.  

But Copenhagen-based games creator BetaDwarf says its popular “friendshipping” games Forced, Forced Showdown and most recently, Minion Masters, build togetherness. The games require users to work together as well as compete. After announcing a $6.6 million capital round Friday, the startup will have more resources to expand its online community of gamers.  

Makers Fund, a Hong Kong-based venture firm that focuses on interactive entertainment, led the funding round, which also included London Venture Partners, a BetaDwarf seed investor, and new investors Everblue and 1UP. 

Since its founding in 2010 in an abandoned university classroom, BetaDwarf has raised $8.1 million. The company is reported to be making money

BetaDwarf’s signature game, Forced, which it released in 2013 after raising $65,000 in a Kickstarter campaign and taking out a $200,000 bank loan, has sold more than 500,000 copies. Three years later, the company released an updated version, Forced: Showdown. 

The company launched Minion Masters earlier this year using more than $1.5 million in seed capital raised in 2018 from London Venture Partners and other firms. Minion Masters reportedly has passed 2.5 million downloads and counts more than 100,000 members on its Discord server. 

The digital friendshipping space has been expanding over the past five years amid a surge in loneliness, which researchers have tied to depression and other mental health problems.  The problem is so acute in the U.K. that the government has named a Minister of Loneliness to explore ways to build meaningful relationships. 

  • A 2015 Brigham Young study released by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found a 26% to 32% higher likelihood of early mortality among people who felt isolated. 
  • Almost one in five U.K. adults — about nine million people — say they are often or always lonely, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness, an eight-year-old British initiative to address this problem. 
  • A 2018 survey by the insurer Cigna found that nearly half of Americans feel left out or alone. Other countries have reported similar trends.

Karma Takeaway: Danish online game creator BetaDwarf’s latest venture round highlights a growing interest among investors in online games that can prevent, instead of increasing, loneliness.