Online Friends -vs- Real Life Friends

*** Authors Note ***  The great folks at Blog Azeroth have started a part of the forums for members to suggest blog topics and have different people blog on that topic so we get all types of perspectives.  If you have never visited there website than please make time in the future to take a look. 

Well I am the one who suggested this topic and I would like to give you a little background on why I have been thinking about this lately.  At my job I am one of the few people who plays online games so the majority of people do not have the same perspective about “online friends” as I do.  This really came into focus for me several weeks ago when I was talking to a friend at my work and we were discussing an online friend of mine who from now on we will call Paul. 

Well I had known Paul from playing Eve Online with him for over 4 years, and playing a small amount of WoW while he was taking a break from Eve.  I had never met him in real life but we had spent thousands of hours gaming together and talking on Team Speak or Ventrillo.  I consider him one of my good friends and even though we do not game together anymore I still hop on their Team Speak and give him a hard time and enjoy talking to him. 

Several months ago Paul’s teenage daughter was involved in a tragic accident and she regretfully lost her life.  It shocked and saddened everyone who found out about it in game.  I mean this person is not just a computer pixel but a friend.  It did not matter to me that I never met him because to talk to him and hear how bad he was hurting really got to me.  We posted his address on the private forums for our corporation along with links to articles on the accident and funeral information.   

Now if you have never played Eve Online than let me give you one quick piece of background : this game is not dominated by North American players but rather by European players.  Now once the address went out for Paul and his family they received hundreds of cards and numerous flower arrangements from people all over the world that  he had never met in real life but yet had touched there lives from playing an online game.  Some of the people who had been gaming with him for years flew in to attend the funeral and finally meet one of our true “online” friends. 

To me this just all seems natural.  I do not think you can qualify a friendship just by spending time in real life with someone.  Do you think people who spend years as pen pals do not consider each other as friends?  A lot of times my online friends know as much about my feelings, desires, and thoughts as my real life friends that I see every day.  As the saying goes:  “You will always be my friend because you know too much about me.”    

In closing the reason why this made such a big impression on me is I was reflecting on all this at work with some people and when they heard me talking about everything that had happened they looked at me like I was an alien.  They just could not comprehend that you can feel this way about someone you have never met. 

It lead me to wondering if other gamers feel this way about there online friends?  I know I do, and I know that Paul does also. 

I would really like to know how YOU feel about them……

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2 Comments on “Online Friends -vs- Real Life Friends”

  1. Kess Says:

    I struggle with this exact same issue.

    Several of my closest friends are people I met on-line through WoW. We have spent literally hundreds of hours together in game and on vent. Much of this time has been spent in high stress, high pressure situations (raiding ftw) and they have observed me in some of my highest and lowest moments. I feel as if these friends know me better than most of those I rub shoulders with on a daily basis. Our friendship extends outside of the game as well, and I talk to several of them regularly on the phone and via email.

    The hard part is that as real as these friends are to me, I feel awkward talking about them around my family and “real life” friends. These non-gamer friends and family simply cannot understand the depth of friendship that can evolve between people who have never met in real life and it bothers me when they talk down to me about “people you meet on-line” and the evils of “on-line gaming”. Why on earth do people act like spending hours a week playing WoW is “evil” and yet they’ll spend just as much or more time plopped in front of the television?! At least in WoW you are developing your people skills, practicing teamwork, working with other people to achieve a demanding goal (raiding). /sigh

    I know I can’t change them … but it does hurt sometimes to have myself and my on-line friends so misunderstood and quickly judged … especially when it is friends and family doing it. The lesson I try to share is “on-line friends are people too!” and I try in my own life to be cautious of the way I treat others who are different from me lest I find myself doing the same thing.

    Thank you for posting on this subject. It helps to know I am not the only one who has this struggle.

  2. Yashima Says:

    There are at least two people in my guild who I only got to know through WoW and I do consider them good friends. Lucky for me I also get to game with some of my RL friends, so we got an interesting mix. I met many of the people in the guild as we are a German guild and it is not so hard to meet up if everybody lives “close” together.

    At first when people noticed I talked about my online friends as friends they were giving me the weird looks you mention. But I kept at it and now some of my RL friends have finally understood that it does not really matter where you meet. I think even my family has understood, that online friends can be just as real as friends that you know from other activities than gaming. But I still feel like I have to defend the concept of online friendship every time the issue comes up.

    I think all this has much to do with how people look at the time you spend doing stuff online. If they see it as “only a game” or “only some online community” they are probably not going to see the value of friendship created online. On the other hand I was surprised the other day as a (non-gamer) colleague of mine made an off-hand comment about learning things from online games and guild management.


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