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A recent personal tragedy has prompted Player Perspectives writer Jaime Skelton to talk this week about the very real nature of online friendships and the loss that can come from them.
The virtual worlds we live in like to gloss over issues of mortality. In most MMOs, characters die and then can instantly respawn, either at a graveyard located not too far from the scene of their death or, in some circumstances, right at their freshly-fallen corpse. Even many of the game's heroes seem incapable of dying, coming back in a phoenix-rising fashion, while villains merely have setbacks. In order to preserve a perpetual world, MMOs offer a sense of perpetual life.
In a sea of anonymity, where even in the darkest world life is still pretty good for the player character, it can be easy to forget that somewhere beyond the renders and wild landscapes, beyond the outlandish armor and flawless persona, there are real people. This is an argument often brought up when players find themselves ruthlessly trolled, insulted, and harassed online by the anonymous crowd, a group of people who feel it's safe to say whatever they like because there are no real world repercussions. Set aside the crude behavior, however, and you'll find that every player is at some point guilty of showing a lack of human awareness for the person on the other side. This ignorance isn't usually voluntary; the nature of our gaming simply creates a wall that acts as any long-distance communication does. It prevents us from the face-to-face, non-verbal communication that proves crucial to human understanding.