The most defining characteristic of a massively multiplayer online game is the very fact that it's massively multiplayer. Until the advent of the MMOG (and yes, I'm including MUDs
as MMOGs) playing video games was either a solitary experience or one you experienced with a few existing friends. MMOGs are wonderful in that they allow us to meet new people across the globe; breaking the physical boundaries of our real-world environment that would otherwise prevent our interaction. The relationships formed and fostered during our time gaming often end up transcending the game itself.
Take my friend Rob, for example (Please! Ha!) Rob and I have been friends since middle school and went to college together in Florida. After college Rob got married and eventually moved to Atlanta, Georgia. MMOGs have been great for us because they've allowed us to stay in touch while enjoying a hobby we both love. When we started to play Dark Age of Camelot
, Rob met a guy online named Josh who lives in California. Josh played a tank class and Rob played a healing class. Since both of these guys are arrogant goofballs with a similar sense of humor they hit it off right away. As they played together, learning their classes as they went, they became excellent players of their respective classes. Over the years they've stuck together through Star Wars Galaxies
, City of Heroes
, Everquest 2
, Lord of the Rings Online
and, of course, World of Warcraft
. Although they do mix it up occasionally they almost always stick to the same roles of healer and tank. As a result of knowing their roles, and knowing each other so well, they typically dominate whatever game they play; whether it's in PvE or PvP
. But more than just becoming great gamers, they've become great friends.
Oftentimes, people that haven't experienced this type of online social bonding first hand really don't understand its significance. When Rob flew out to California on business this year he didn't give a second thought to meeting Josh in person to hang out for a while. Rob's wife and mother were both flabbergasted by this act. The typical, "Are you sure Josh isn't a serial killer?!" questions sprang up only to be laughed off by Rob. What people who aren't engaged in MMOGs often fail to realize is that you frequently get to know people online better than you do in real life. When you're grinding
away smacking rats with wiffle bats it can get boring. Shooting the breeze while playing the game comes naturally. I guess it's like the equivalent of playing golf or fishing with friends if you did that every single night for a few hours. It's impossible not to get to know someone when you hang out so often.
Although the worlds we inhabit are illusions or twisted reflections of reality, the friendships we form in those worlds are not. We're all interacting with real people behind those pixels; people with hopes and dreams, anxieties and fears often similar to our own. As in "real life", our online friends may come and go, but their impact on our lives can be quite substantial. So here's a shout out to Rob, Josh, Mike and Coltny currently residing on the Emerald Dream server of World of Warcraft
and to my buds Eric, Mike, and Stephanie over on Azjol-Nerub.
During the holiday season it's all about family right? So feel free to share the love with your virtual family in the comment space below.
Happy holidays everyone!