The "Impossible" Romance
Low Pressure Environment
Let's now talk more conceptually about these romantic relationships and the unique constraints and affordances of MMO environments. While it's easy to compare this aspect of MMOs to a dating website or a romance chat room, these analogies are in fact inaccurate and frame these relationships incorrectly. First of all, none of the respondents described themselves as deliberately looking for love when they met their romantic partner. In fact, they often described the opposite.
I was in no way 'looking' for anyone ... in fact I turned down advances I received in real life citing I was not ready to start dating up again because I had just gotten out of a serious relationship. [WoW, F, 24]
I wasn't looking for this to happen, it just did. [City of Villains, F, 25]
The more apt analogy is probably the gym or the office - places where romance is not the primary goal for social interaction. This is an important distinction to make because people interact very differently when under and not under the pretense of a date. In other words, the formative and incubation period of these online relationships typically occur without this additional emotional pressure.
I think it's easier to get to know people online than in person, because when you date somebody in person, you spend half your time sitting in movie theaters or restaurants not talking. Online, all you can do is talk, so you kind of have to get to know each other, lol. [CoH, F, 31]
I believe that the online environment made it much easier. There was nothing in the way of awkward social pressure that is the 'first date'. It started out with two people of the opposite sex talking and having fun with absolutely no expectations of romance or sex. [EQ, M, 25]
We were able to be more honest with each other without worrying about looks or sex and all of the pressure and distractions that go along with that. [WoW, F, 22]
More importantly, the game environment provides a variety of collaborative tasks that allow players to get to know each other. In fact, players are forced to communicate with each other.
The necessary communication led to us becoming soulmates with a good understanding of what made the other person tick before.... oh I suppose *life* got in the way. :-) [WoW, F, 42]
As other players point out, working together through crises reveals much more about another person than going to the movies with them. Watching how someone interacts with others in different social settings (under different amounts of stress) and how they work through problems can be very character-revealing.
I found that the way people acted to me in-game was usually the way they acted towards me and others in real life. EQ was a great way to see how a potential partner treated others. [WoW, F, 22]
We'd tackled life-threatening crises together before we ever went on our first date … The biggest difference between this relationship and my previous ones was that I didn't run screaming as soon as it became serious. Perhaps that was because I already knew that if push came to shove, he'd be there for me - or perhaps because I never dreamt it would last. But looking back over the last ten years, I must say that I don't think it made a whit of difference how we met - it's what we did after which counts. [WoW, F, 32]
In other words, many of these players got to know each other without the intent of trying to impress, date, or get in bed with each other.
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