Friday, January 28, 2011

Screw Gamers

I have met some pretty interesting and amazing people through the inter tubes as they say. I've met some cool bloggers, gamers and lots of people while playing WoW. But are Internet friends, real friends?

Now, I've had some pretty good conversations, interesting adventures and long drawn out arguments with people I have met in game. All of it to some degree has been entertaining and fun. But the thing that I always discover is that those relationships tend to fall apart or evaporate just as easily as they come together. The truth is that you don't know who is behind that cartoon character running with you to kill that elite mob. Sure you can hear their voice on vent but are they really vested in being your friend once their personal goal in game is met? You don't know their life story or what their financial situation is. You don't know where they live or what color their kitchen wall is. They are users of animated characters in a game that could close down tomorrow and then what would you have in common?

Real life friends are people you grew up with, who you've socialized with in college or at work. People who you have something other than a game in common with. They attend your wedding or come to your child's birthday party. They hang out during the super bowl or exchange gifts during xmas. You are to some degree, invested in their well being and they in yours. You actually care what they think about you and vice verse. Their is something more than a digital world between you. Even if you get pissed at each other in game, your still going to be friends because of your history together.

You don't have that with a stranger you meet in a game. They aren't invested in the relationship. There is nothing there to prevent them from logging off for good and never seeing you again. When their work is done in game, what is the motivation to keep in contact with you? I have had more people be my friend in WoW only to have them bail for greener and richer pastures. You just have no guarantee of their commitment or how long it will be there. It just seems to happen time after time, which is probably why people think those that play WoW are a bunch of asshats.

I'm not saying that I don't value the friendships I have met through games or the internet. I have. I have met lots of great people this way, but I don't really know them. We have gaming in common and maybe a few other things, but they don't know the real me and I don't know the real them. We are as different as an apple and a grape. I'm just saying that I've been burned too many times to think I'm the only one who hopes an in game friendship will last longer than one expansion or guild. I know lots of people meet their soul mate and marry, but those are exceptions to the rule. What rule is that? Digital friendships are just one key stroke way from being deleted all the time.

So what have I learned? Real life friends are friends you can depend on, because they value the friendship more. They are invested in being your pal. The other side of that is you can't depend on people you meet in game, not really, not to any amount of certainty. They consider you single serving friends. People you can play with and hang out with, but who are always on the look out for something better on the horizon. My advice? You just have to do your own thing and hope that someone will stay as long as you need to get what you want out of the relationship.

The circle is now complete and thus ends the lesson


  1. Very true. I just look back, and figure my old internet friends were different. When I played EQ there was no vent, barely forums, twitter, facebook, IM, and so on. It was alot harder to stay in contact.

    These days it is much easier with all the available tools out there that internet friendships should carry on forever, but like you said you don't know real life.

    Did they die in a car accident? Did their computer die? Did they lose their job? Did they lose their home?

    In real life you can actually check up, and find out what happened, and internet its basiclly impossible.

  2. I would say it's possible to stay "close" in any distance relationship, just harder. I'm in contact via messenger with a bunch of friends I played online games with. We don't talk too often, but certainly just as often as most people I used to go to High School with. I find I must pick and choose who I spend my limited time with, and having someone who's close enough to meet with and see in person is certainly easier.

  3. Definitely a difference, no matter how much of a "techie" or "geek" you may be.

    I was really tight with a guy from Dallas (now living in Wisconsin) for probably 10 years. We chatted, called each other, talked about girl problems, you name it. We (thought we) were as close to best buds as you could get over the 'net. Then he got married and I went. We got along great, no discernable moments of awkwardness or anything but after it was over we haven't spoken to each other since. No idea why, but it seems to be mutual. Maybe the Internet Boundary is just something best not crossed?

    I consider all the people I follow and converse with regularly on twitter or our respective blogs as sort-of online acquaintances. You and Aaron are the closest to "online friends" mostly due to how much time we've spent gaming and chatting, and I give priority to you guys over anything further down the pecking order but even then, we pretty much leave things just to the gaming/tech area of our lives. I have a ballpark idea where you each live, less of an idea what you do for a living, and none of us has ever seemed to volunteer additional info about who we are, our lives, etc., nor has any of us ever came out and asked the others either. So what does that say, if anything?

  4. Loyalty! Emotional investment! Body language! Hot Cheeto breath! Underoos Party!

  5. I just have to expect that Internet friendships are single serving friendships. There for the moment, quickly consumed, then off to find another single serving friendship later.