With games becoming much prevelant this topic isn’t quite as unusual as it would have been even just a few years ago but I still think there are a quit a few misconceptions about it. Or perhaps I am just out of touch and it is something still really important in which case I am glad I am going to talk about it.
I am talking about the idea of forming friendships through playing games and socializing online. Gaming has always had experiences that were meant to be enjoyed both alone and with others. But while the original way to play games with friends was to plug in a second controller and sit together on the couch, the arrival of the internet created an entirely different way to play together.
I remember back in 2005 I had finally gotten around to trying out Xbox Live and was playing a game of Madden against someone online. I was nervous at first but it turned out to be a really fun thing. Even though I lost the game, I truly enjoyed just playing and socializing with this other guy. This was the first time I had ever really played with someone that I did not know and could not even see and yet it turned out alright.
However I did not truly start to form friendships until I started playing Final Fantasty XI in 2007. For the next four years I spent countless hours adventuring across the wide world of Vana’diel with numerous friends and acquaintances from all over the world. It was here that the idea of an “internet friend” and a “real friend” got to be quite blurry to me. The people I was spending time with on daily basis were suddenly not only the people I saw at school at everyday, but ones who lived in different parts of the country, or in some cases across an ocean.
The more time we spent together to deeper our bond grew and the more and more I began to talk about my “internet friends” to others as if they were “real friends”. At some point I just stopped making that distinction all together. It didn’t happen all at once, it was much more of a gradual process but I cam to realize that my friends were my friends no matter where they lived. And I have met some truly wonderful people and made some truly great friends through video games.
Indeed just this past weekend I drove about six hours to visit friends I made in FFXI. This is the third time I’ve made the trip and everytime its just like seeing my old school buddies I don’t see too often. Even though we don’t play FFXI anymore and don’t get to play together too much, our friendship is still as strong as ever and I do miss them all just like I miss some of old swim team buddies.
Currently I think I have taken this idea of making friends through games to a bit of an extreme. Through Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer game I have become very, very close with a small group friends and of the four, only one of them lives in the US, the rest in Europe. So while our time difference can make it hard to get together and play sometimes, I still consider them as good friends, as good as any I’ve ever had. Every weekend we get together to play games, laugh and knock back a few drinks and just enjoy ourselves. So what if we are separated by an entire ocean; the good times and bond we have is as real as anything ever was.
…it can get frustrating at times when your best friends are so far apart. I love playing games with them all but there are times when I would like to just grab a pizza and a few beers and just chill together.
Now I have to admit, it can get frustrating at times when your best friends are so far apart. I love playing games with them all but there are times when I would like to just grab a pizza and a few beers and just chill together. Or I know one of them also likes swimming and it would be great to go work out together. But unfortunately geography gets in the way. Still even though I can’t physically reach out and touch them I wouldn’t trade what we’ve had for anything. And I am hoping in the near future to make a trip out to Europe to visit them all.
Its a strange thing to think about the people you socialize with everyday for several hours live hundreds of miles away and that you are willing to share personal secrets and feelings with people you’ve never seen in person before. Yet everything else we do today is tied into the internet and being connected 24/7. So it might be strange at first but for me its no longer anything but normal to form a strong friendship online.
One of the best things that I’ve been able to take away from gaming, besides the amazing games themselves, are the friends I’ve made and the fact that a friend is friend, no matter how you met or where you are.