Welcome to the another meeting at The Crossroads, where both Ercles and Wulfy jointly attempt to answer a topic of the day, without consulting each other just to mix things up. Today’s topic for discussion is online friends: How much do we value them and how do they compare to our real-life friendships? Read on to discover the shocking truth!
I have to say that over the last couple of years my guildie friends from Abso have become very important to me. This is partly because we’ve been through a lot together: slain dragons together, levelled together, played Marco Polo in Dalaran and pissed off the whole server together. Its also because many of them are really decent people and you naturally form a bond hanging out in such (virtual) proximity to each other. For instance I was very touched when I came back from a 3 month Wow-hiatus last year. I was a tier below the needed gear and ICC had just come out, so I said that regretfully I would not be able to attend a raid for a while until I geared up. My guildies’ response was simply “Don’t worry Wulfy, we can carry you.” I found this very touching, and says something important about WoW friendships, when people will go out of their way to play alongside you even when its at a detriment to their own raiding gain.
So, I can say without a doubt that I am in favour of online friendships. I do however feel that there are notable strengths and weakness to an online friendship, compared to one in that scary dimension we refer to as “real life”. The benefits I feel are kind of obvious. Making friends in WoW is relatively easy. There’s always something to talk about, as we’re involved in a shared reality, not to mention shared activities. You can’t really play WoW without interacting and helping each other. Not to mention that the ongoing progression made with something like guild raiding, which requires team effort, naturally creates camaraderie and leads to lasting friendships. The shared experience counts for a lot. For instance, in real life very few of my friends are male, mostly because I get tired with all the macho bullshit and talking about cars. In WoW, no problem, I bond really easily with guys because we have the instant connection of being in WoW!
Of course there can be the weakness that there is a built-in limitation to a WoW friendship: Its only about WoW. I have some friends with whom all I’ve discussed is about is WoW and nothing else. I don’t know their names, their ages or anything about their lives. Such friendships can still be fun but are ultimately rather superficial. However, such things don’t really bother me because, as mentioned, I have a number of very good WoW friendships in spite of having some trivial ones as well. Also, I don’t need to know a player’s age or real name, because I’ve been hanging out with that person for ages. How could I not know them? Unless they’ve been consistently lying for months, which hopefully they haven’t… Then again, people can be lying in real life too, and we don’t go around mistrusting every new friend we make.
Ultimately WoW friendships have all the hallmarks of normal friendships, they just take place in a virtual world rather than the one with dull graphics.
As with many aspects of MMO’s the concept of online friends is foreign to most people. Even among MMO-ers there are very different views on how valuable these friendships are. There are those who see other people in the game as nothing but pixels, at least they act that way, and there are those who prioritize their online world over their real life one. As with most things the best thing is often too try to find a balance between the two. I’ve never seen online friendships as a substitute for real life ones, but rather as a supplement. I’ve met several people online, before I’ve met them in the real world, a few of who I still keep in touch with on a weekly basis. I even met my ex online, how geeky is that?
I like to compare a raid group to any type of gathering of people with a similar interest and goal. Football teams, chess clubs, book clubs and a load of other things are in my opinion comparable to a raiding group. While you don’t necessarily meet them face to face, it’s still the same people you get together with (although virtually) several times a week for months and perhaps even years. Doesn’t it seem natural that friendships would form? I probably talk to some guildies more often online than I do talk to real life friends face to face. No matter how sad this might sound it’s still true and not that illogical.
Of course it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. You never who really is behind the keyboard, and “hawtgrl19” rarely turns out to be a hot nineteen year old girl… Still, I think it’s worth it. WoW, any other MMO’s and the internet in general makes it possible to connect with people in a way no one would have imagined a hundred years back. Not to mention that it allows me to keep in touch and “meet” up with friends who have moved and I otherwise would have very little contact with. To summarize, I think it’s worth the risks, just remember to turn around and run if you hear someone yell “It’s a trap!”…