that online friendships can be just as deep as real life friendships,
or that these environments can help people grow, troubles a
lot of people because they feel that nothing real or lasting
can come out of a fantasy make-believe world. As many players
point out however, behind the virtual avatars are real people,
and that is why the interactions in virtual worlds are real.
been playing for over two and a half years. Like most people,
I have found that you can make real friends in this game
once you realize there's someone behind the toon. You look
forward to seeing them every time you play; when they are
gone, you feel the loss. The day our guild leader retired
from EQ, we held a ceremony in her honor. As the MC of the
ceremony, I was startled to realize I was crying real tears
when we said goodbye. A year later, when a guild mate's
RL partner died, we posthumously inducted his character
into our guild as an honorary member. I MC'd that ceremony
also, and that time the tears didn't surprise me. [f, 39,
am guild leader of a small to medium sized guild on EverQuest
and the longstanding members of the guild are in some ways
like a family, certainly nothing less than very good friends.
So, there are close ties.
I, in real life, have had a series of crises, financial
and otherwise. Firstly, my roommates stopped paying their
bills and then, without notice, moved out of the apartment,
leaving me with over $2,000 of bills to pay. A couple of
weeks later, I lost my job and a few weeks after that, my
grandfather had an accident, and is still in the hospital
because he has contracted numerous ailments just from being
in a hospital environment. There is great concern on the
part of his physicians that he will live through this experience.
because I am guild leader, but just because I have become
one of the guild "family" members, I have had
more than one guild member offer to help me financially.
One of the young members of my guild even offered to take
money from his college savings to help me. I did not accept
the offers, but just the fact that these individuals who
only know me from the game have offered their support, say
quite a lot of good things about people in this world.
am not the first person from this guild to experience this.
Another member, who passed away shortly before my crises
occurred, was ailing from a heart condition which prevented
him from leading a normal life. These same guild members
also offered him the same support, one of them sending this
person's family money to help with bills, etc. These people
had never met in person, but still, just as if they had
known each other in real life for years, one helped the
other and we all offered this person and his family our
think this shows that there is more to a MMORPG than just
the gaming part for some people. It is a way of making contact
and friendships with other individuals worldwide, that would
be pretty much impossible otherwise. [f, 40, EQ]
The main reason why the virtual lives
and identities can affect the real lives and identities of
MMORPG players is not because it creates a space that is isolated
from the real world, but because it creates a safe space that
allows real interactions and relationships. And when these
environments have the ability to change a person's life for
better or for worse, then to label MMORPGs as "just games"
would be a denial of how MMORPGs are affecting the real lives
of players, and a denial of the potential of these virtual