I read an interesting article in The New York Times yesterday, titled “The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s.”
It basically discusses that the generation gap being created by rapid advancements in technology is not just limited to youth and their parents, but also applies between young children, high schoolers and college students.
There’s a lot I could say on the topic, but two grafs in particular stuck out to me as relevant to Warhammer Online and MMOs in general.
The boom of kid-focused virtual worlds and online games like Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters especially intrigues Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist and associate researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.
Dr. Ito said that children who play these games would see less of a distinction between their online friends and real friends; virtually socializing might be just as fulfilling as a Friday night party. And they would be more likely to participate actively in their own entertainment, clicking at the keyboard instead of leaning back on the couch.
I agree with Dr. Ito. Her statements are just as applicable to me, a 20-year-old college student, as they are to kids toddling around as sunglass-sporting penguins (yes, I made a Club Penguin account as part of a project I did on children’s social networks. Do not judge).
Lately, I find myself logging in to WAR more and more with the primary goal of socializing versus flipping zones or running dungeons. If I’m logged in, that also means I’m chatting away in vent with my guildies and alliance mates.
I do find spending time with them on a Friday night just as enjoyable as if I went out to dinner with some friends, if not more so. Sometimes, when I’m working on a project and can’t play, I just log into Vent to catch up and talk.
I’m genuinely interested in how they are doing. For example, one of my alliance mates just received an award in the Navy, and I could not be more happy for him.
The line separating my “real life” friends from my WAR friends has completely vanished. This doesn’t mean I have no life. It just means that my online friends are part of my life.
An excellent illustration of this is my friend Aravista from WAR (I do know her actual name, but I choose to use her avatar’s). Almost a year ago we met on Vortex, probably in Tier 1, running into each other in the lakes. We really got to know each other in Tier 2 when our little Witch Elves were grouped together and told to guard keep posterns together.
This ended up happening to us in every warband we were in together, so we became fast friends. Despite the fact that we weren’t in the same guild, we ran together often and continued to do so into Tier 3. Even if we weren’t together, we would still shoot each other tells to see how the other was doing and what she was up to.
But then Vortex died.
We lost touch. I went to Iron Rock for a month until the mergers occurred and transfers opened to Volkmar.
Over the months that passed, I honestly felt like I had lost a much-loved friend. I wondered if she was still playing and if her life was going ok, but I had no other way to contact her. When I transferred and saw someone already had my name, I was sure to only change one letter on the off chance I could find lost friends like Ara.
Then one day I was in The Inevitable City and saw a Disciple of Khaine named Aravistatoo. I thought the possibility of someone having such a similar name would be just too weird, for I had kept Aravista on my friends list just in case. I took a chance, sent a tell and it turned out it was her after all.
After much rejoicing and multiple tells in all caps, we swapped e-mails and began a renewed communication both in-game and out. Then, without either of our knowledge, her guild ended up joining my guild’s alliance.
So now we talk all the time like “real life” friends. Sometimes I talk to her more than my friends irl. When she and her boyfriend broke up, we talked things out like ordinary girlfriends do. I always tell her about any new developments with my upcoming wedding,
and she gives suggestions. We share pictures ofshoes and discuss the latest news of our lives. We even have our own channel in the alliance vent – Happy Hello Kitteh time.
What I’m trying to show with this story is that WAR has actually enriched my social life, even though it takes place in front of a computer screen. Just because the interactions happen through “a series of tubes,” it doesn’t mean the relationships that result are any less real or meaningful.
I have never met Ara in person, and I don’t know if I ever will.
Nevertheless, she’s one of my closest friends.