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Community Spotlight - Online Friends

Community Manager Laura Genender takes a look at the concept of online friends and looks at a forum post that brings to question the concept of friendships in MMOs, and what communities best foster these long-lasting relationships.

Online Friends

Our mothers never got it, did they? I can’t count how many times I had a parent or a sibling ask me, “Why don’t you get off the computer and spend some time with your friends?” Because, Mom, my friends are in my computer.

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The gamer generation is experiencing a phenomenon of technology: the long distance community. Pen pals only took you so far, pre-internet, but now-a-days we have entire cliques at the tip of our fingertips, with instant communication and even virtual spaces where we can hang out. Forget Vegas – even marriages are formed and destroyed online!

But how easy is it to make friends in an MMO? This week on the forums, user natuxatu brings to question the concept of friendships in MMOs, and what communities best foster these long-lasting relationships.

There are definite advantages to meeting friends face to face, rather than player vs player. For one thing, the online gaming world is very competitive and most of us have a mercenary approach to playing. Our number one priority is ourselves, and any friends we make will have to indirectly benefit that. This means they need to be of the same level as us, have the same play schedule (you wouldn’t want them outleveling you, would you?), and be competent. No one likes a friend who aggros the whelps.

We want to find friends who aren’t going to need the same gear as us, and will be an asset to our group – I often meet warrior/cleric duos, but rarely cleric/cleric or warrior/warrior.

With our online friends, we need to understand that they might disappear at the drop of a hat, be it for 2 hours due to connection issues or spouse faction, or forever without notice when they quit. Of course, there are always exceptions to the above rules.

There are advantages to meeting friends in-game, though. For one thing, you know you have a shared interest – if you meet a buddy in your Alegbra class, or at a bar, all you know you have in common is that you need a math credit or you like beer. If you meet a friend in City of Heroes you know you’ll have plenty to talk about, from Blaster builds to Ghost Widow’s awesome costume.

MMOs also allow us a more diverse audience. In the real world, you are limited to your physical neighborhood to find potential friends. Online, the only limitation is your shared interest in the same games during the same time spans.

I have experienced a multitude of online friendships, ending either in unhappiness or, well, still continuing today. I have had gamer friends scam me of my best gear in Lineage, or give away my contact information as a joke in Lineage II; at the same time, though, my best friends in real life were met through the virtual world and I wouldn’t trade them for any price!