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General: Online Friendship Not Virtual

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member

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.

Jaime Skelton

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.

Read Online Friendship Not Virtual.

Jon Wood
Managing Editor



  • vladakovvladakov noneofurbusinessPosts: 710Member

    fridenship, yeah


  • caitsumarucaitsumaru Dallas, TXPosts: 1Member

    The fact that i have lots of close friends in online games makes me fear such momments, no matter what people say, a friend is a friend.

    I've never lost a friend to cancer or even death and i hope i never will, but if it happens i know i will grief for them.

    Nothing you spend time and effort to obtain isnt fake, you spent something on it and that time and effort makes it real.

  • kinzokukinzoku Winnipeg, MBPosts: 29Member

    Originally posted by vladakov

    fridenship, yeah


  • BademBadem CheshirePosts: 830Member

    During my time gaming I have had the occasion of losing ingame friends to illness and can understnad where you come from regarding 'fighting' fellow guildmates.

    When I started Vanguard Saga of Heroes I met and made some good friends there, We formed a guild and played together every day for 4-6 hours, talking on vent and in chat you got to know each others quirks. People dont realise they spend more time online talking to people than they do with RL friends.

    But I digress, One of our friends started to be seen less often online and eventually a handful of us received an email from his wife stating he was gravely ill. we all gave our best wishes and hoped all would be well, after six weeks he suddenly logged in one day, he was home and had finally convinced his wife to allow him online, he couldnt stand moping around and needed to be doing something. we enjoyed having him back and gladly grouped up again. Sadly he began to attract the ire of several members of the guild (for whatever reason) and he eventually told us that he was leaving, I was immensly saddened to discover several weeks later that he had passed away.

    The second time, I ahd taken a short break from EvE due to work commitments and had returned to the game, I was deeply saddened and dismayed to discover a valued friend on line had suddenly died following a traffic accident only two weeks earlier.

    The feelings and emotions you go through are no different than if it was a real life friend, As I pointed out earlier, you often spend more time online with these friends than you do with RL friends, for some people these online friends are people they can be more honest and open with as there is often less judgmental. Losing one is as painful as losing RL friends.

  • AlteraAltera BrightonPosts: 9Member

    My old social guild in WoW lost what was pretty much it's grandad, the oldest person I have ever met in any game, he was in his 70's and one of the kindest people you could ever meet, he was also lost to cancer.  The guild leader and his girlfriend (good personal friends of mine still as we all raid together in a different guild now) were lucky enough to go to his funeral and meet his family, his daughter was good enough to get in touch with them as he had talked about them such a lot, they founded the guild together back at the beginning when WoW was known as vanilla...I guess that gave them a special kind of closure that you didn't have and in a way, they were there for the rest of us too. 

    His account still exists, they keep it running, I don't think anyone could bear to see anyone with his char name, I know none of us's like a memorial to him now.

    Just thought I would share my own experience :)


  • ProsonProson MandalPosts: 544Member Uncommon

    Good read, a online friend is just as good as a real friend imo, i have loads of friends online that ive gotten to known through alot of diffrent MMO's ive played over the past 5 years.. Some i know better then others, and i speak with everyday even tough we dont play the same games anymore.


    Im sure i have more friends online then in real life.. i would be really sad if any of them passes away :( ofc i would if a real life friend did aswell, i value both type of friendships just as much.

    Currently Playing Path of Exile

  • YasouYasou GenevaPosts: 86Member

    I used to group alot with one of our guild members who was extremely friendly, always offered to help and was the first to make hilarious comments on the guild chann. Eventually he said he would be off for a few days and we learned the week after (through his girlfriend) that he committed suicide.

    We were all in shock, and I think this made me realize that we've got to be very careful with virtual friendships as indeed most of the time we lack the emotional awareness and therefore we need to respect our online companions even more.

  • dar_es_balatdar_es_balat Oakland, CAPosts: 438Member

    On AC Darktide there was an adversary of mine who blew his head off.  While he was my enemy ingame we had a colorful interaction and I was sorry to see him pass.   Most folks ingame simply talked trash about the event.  I found it rather distasteful.

    That being said, I do not promote vigorous online relationships or friendships, so I found it difficult to relate to your article from that standpoint.

    Crappy, petty people breed and raise crappy, petty kids.

  • PendraegPendraeg OsloPosts: 1Member

    The only good thing that ever came out of my years of wow was some real friends. i keep in touch with a few of them via skype.. playing things like LOL or SC2. and a couple of them even comes here (Norway) from britain  once in a while. i have spent my summervaccations visting them in return.... someone said a friend is a friend- True Dat!

  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member

    This isn't meant to be rude, but this read more as a story then an article. An article generally discusses points from both sides and asks questions of the reader, where as this was an account of an event in your life, a tragic one at that.


    Personally I am one of those people that keep my personal life out of my gaming. I don't share what's going on in my life, what I do for work, what my relationship is, my likes/dislikes, etc. I play the game when I'm in the game, and I tend to leave groups who are doing too much talking about real world stuff.


    I think for a lot of people gaming is a chance to get away from the real world for a bit and just have some fun, so that is why they don't talk about the real world. It's like people that go to a spa, get a massage, go watch a movie in the theatre. It's a form of entertainment meant to distract you from the real world for a an hour or two before you get back into your regular life.

  • miked9022miked9022 Aventura, FLPosts: 91Member

    that was a pretty beautiful article. thanks alot for that. some interesting insights about the lack of morality in gaming as well.

  • bayfiabayfia Reno, NVPosts: 16Member

    I've been playing EQ2 for over 5 years, and I've made some pretty strong friendships in that time in game.  I've even sent gifts to one or two of these people in real life, and exchanged personal emails about life issues outside the game.  One friend I have is going through serious financial hardship, and his wife has a mortal illness (I don't know what, he didn't tell me, but he says she is slipping away because she's only 80 lbs now).  He is struggling with this future loss, of course, and he plays late at night, talking to me in game about things that have nothing to do with Everquest 2.  I comfort him, and share his pain, to the extent I am able.  Our friendship goes beyond the boundaries of "game buddy", and I know the day is coming when he will be "MIA" (missing in action) at least for awhile - when his wife passes.  I feel deeply for this friend, and wish I could help him to feel better.  I've also heard about people hosting a memorail service on a PvP server in EQ2 and the whole event being attacked by PvP players, destroying the moment.  Apparently someone had leaked news of the memorial service, and it's purpose, and others just felt like taking advantage of the players.  I wa disguested when I heard it.  The RL death of a game friend is a sad thing, not something to be made fun of. But there are plenty of callous predators in the world pretending to be normal people.  They aren't "normal" ... they are predators.   People don't bother to wear masks in a virtual world - they let their fangs show, and even drip!

  • eludajaeeludajae Ocala, FLPosts: 27Member

    If you think about it the virtual world extends to the real world around us, we text eachother on our phones, talk to distant friends on our phones and these are the "real friends" but we sit in game many have voice and other times we use Vent or something simular, and these friends are our "online" friends. Lots of our "real life" friends we see less than our online friends. So really a friend is a friend period. The medium by which you communicate, phone, email, over a pizza, or in an MMO isn't the point. There are no virtual friends and real life friends, there are just friends. And when you lose one its a loss that you feel no matter what happens. But I also like to look at the half empty cup and call it half full, I still have other friends and hopefully I will make a few new. Never to replace the ones lost, but new friends to tell our little online legends about them when we were online together, there is nothing more theroputic than sharing a "no shit there we were" story with a new friend about a friend that passed on.

  • bayfiabayfia Reno, NVPosts: 16Member

    As an aside to this discussion, I also had a run-in with cancer. I got pretty sick from the radiation treatments and the chemotherapy last year for my throat,  and I was playing EQ2, more or less, during that time.  I shared my condition with a few very good friends.  They were very concerned, and worked to maintain contact with me outside of game.  They asked for my email address, and I gave it to them.  They really worked hard to stay in touch, and to encourage me.  They became alarmed when I stopped playing for awhile during the worst of my illness in December, and the emails came in barrages.  I gave my cell phone number to a couple people, and the phone started ringing.  I was grateful for their affection and their concern.  I pulled through, and I am cancer free today, thank God, and I value the friendships I have in EQ2.  As I have often said, MMO's are not "just games", they are a community of souls venturing together.  People form lasting, meaningful relationships in virtual worlds.  Some meet and marry in real life.  Some divorce in real life, because of their actions in a virtual world.  "Ask not for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for thee."   We're all connected, in this community as in any other.  Treat your bro's and your sisters kindly in game, and outside of it.  A RL loss translated to a virtual world is still a RL loss!  Treat each other with kindness in this, as other things.

  • thalialotrthalialotr Naperville, ILPosts: 1Member

    Friend is Friend.  It  was a surprise to me to see folks diferentiate between "rl friend" vs "virtual friend"   (*laughs at self*   Mayby 'face-to-face' vs 'ld' would be more palatable to me)

    On the subject of loss and grief .. I don't know how to deal.  Time passage helps dull the pain, but there will always be a person shaped hole in my life.  Maybe that is how the univese is meant to be.

    The people who disrupt memorials are the worst kind of 4-year-olds, with a "look at me, look at me, watch my power"   Children can be nurtured and taught manners, the dolts should be locked in a closet for the duration.  :(

    ((Sorry to add my stream of consciousness here.  Thank you for the article; it was quite insightful!))

    thalia, for Reacher
    bubbie, for posterity
    rootie, for Egane

  • VexeVexe Short Hills, NJPosts: 549Member

    I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Even though there is no physical contact, online friends can be very important. It's never easy to lose someone you're close with and the loss of  a human life is always saddening.

  • alithanar8alithanar8 Katy, TXPosts: 17Member

    I too suffered a loss similar to this. When WAR was coming out, me and a buddy of mine named Brutus were working hard to build an RP Order alliance to bring into the game. We worked hard and was initially successful, Brutus was a phenomenal planner and a great friend, we would talk for hours about what we wanted our alliance to do... then not a month into the game, Brutus was riding his motorcycle and was struck by a truck, I was told he died at the scene.  As an alliance we all journeyed to the T3 Dwarf Warcamp and held a funeral service, some spoke and we all mourned the loss of our dear friend, unfortunately, that proved to be the last action of our alliance as we all eventually split and went our seperate ways as guilds.

  • karat76karat76 Wellston, OHPosts: 1,000Member Uncommon

     Truly sad story. To me though it often seems easier to make friends in mmos than in real life. As I grew up my friends and I drfited apart, died or got married so it became really hard to keep in contact with them. Luckily recently I had one friend move back nearby recently. However I have always enjoyed online friends and even played mmos where I have made great friends. It is nice to get together with frends online forget about real life trouble and just goof off online. Nothing like a naked drunken run through I believe highhold pass in EQ.

  • edurningedurning Centreville, VAPosts: 5Member

    Back when the orginal EQ came out I played and eventually became online friends with someone.  She was dating another online friend that I had made.  One day she was in a accident and died.  I never really knew her, but the loss was felt as if I had.  I quit playing EQ and haven't been able to log on since.  It's been nearly 10 years since then and I still feel sad about it.

  • xaldraxiusxaldraxius Hastings, MIPosts: 1,249Member

    Sorry to hear about your Uncle and your friend. Several members of my family have died in the last few years of cancer and it's a long painful process to have to watch, to take nothing away from their personal suffering, it is hard on everyone around them too.

    I worry that the same people who crash in game funerals and make fun of articles like yours, where someone expresses true grief, are truely heartless, and that somehow the anonymity of the internet has turned an entire generation into monsters. I worry about the future if the world forgets how to care for and respect their fellow man.

    Maybe the internet just brings out the worst in some people and despite the way they behave online they are still good people. I guess I'm just not optimistic enough to really believe that.

  • NatzratNatzrat Granby, QCPosts: 19Member

    The ability to make friends in game probably differ a lot from one person to the other. But the friendship, when it happen, is as real as it can be.

  • darqserenitydarqserenity Livingston, TXPosts: 9Member

    When you spend years playing online games with a person you get to know things about them they dont share with alot of people because you sometimes understand each other a little better than some face to face relationships. With some of these people you may be seperated by hundreds or even thousands of miles but you share a commonality with them few people other than gamers can understand. You share in both their losses and triumphs, I have grieved for a friend of mine who lost his son in an accident, I have grieved for a friends divorce and celibrated the birth of children with others.  I have been playing online games for close to elevin years now and still play with one of the first people I friended in a PUG in Everquest.  As a group many of my friends will pick new games to try and either play or move on as a group, sometimes we loose contact for months at a time but we will eventually pick back up and continue on with another adventure.  We have gone through EQ, Diablo 2, Delta Force, CoH, WoW, Aoc, Lotro, and even a short stint in STO, I have been through more with my game friends than I have with many of my face to face friends and the few that overlap have become closer than family...

  • dizietsmadizietsma WorthingPosts: 4Member

    Originally posted by Altera

    My old social guild in WoW lost what was pretty much it's grandad, the oldest person I have ever met in any game, he was in his 70's and one of the kindest people you could ever meet, he was also lost to cancer.  The guild leader and his girlfriend (good personal friends of mine still as we all raid together in a different guild now) were lucky enough to go to his funeral and meet his family, his daughter was good enough to get in touch with them as he had talked about them such a lot, they founded the guild together back at the beginning when WoW was known as vanilla...I guess that gave them a special kind of closure that you didn't have and in a way, they were there for the rest of us too. 

    His account still exists, they keep it running, I don't think anyone could bear to see anyone with his char name, I know none of us's like a memorial to him now.

    Just thought I would share my own experience :)


    Same guild, same post I was going to make /wave


    We also had similar problems with people who were newer to the guild not understanding.

  • JaggaSpikesJaggaSpikes LabinPosts: 427Member Uncommon

    when it clicks, it clicks. doesn't matter how, when or where.

  • darkeststormdarkeststorm Miami, FLPosts: 3Member

    You know, it's funny when people say things like you didn't actually "know" them, so it shouldn't be a big deal. If you think about it, how well do we know the people we supposably know? (Just because you have face-to-face contact doesn't mean you know anyone's true intentions) Aside from that, the only good memories I have on MMOs are shared with other gamers. I don't think I can play and MMO and have no sort of social interaction (for that I'd just play console games). While I've basically let go of MMOs, I feel like I've gain true friendships (people that even years after I stopped playing and we still frequently chat). With that said, I'm sorry for your lost and I hope your post can show people that friendships can be obtained through different means and still have value.


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