I have been online gaming since 2001 when I plugged a phone line into my Sega Dreamcast and had my first journey to the interweb. I remember it well, the NFL 2K games were so much fun and I would play for hours and hours. I made a lot of online friends, we would do more then just play the games online. We would talk about life, love, sports, cars, money, all of the typical things you would talk about with friends in real life. Though we would talk and laugh and have a good time I never really considered them to be “real friends” in the normal sense of the word.
Fast forward a decade and social networking is all the rage, we have Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and they are all easily accessible with our smartphones, tablets, computers and even gaming consoles. People strive to have the most “friends” on their accounts, but in reality most people don’t personally know a third of the people on their lists. I see it on Xbox Live as well, people have their friends list full to the point where they cannot add anyone else, if you scroll down their list you will see people who haven’t been online in a year and some don’t even have Xbox Live Gold anymore, yet because it makes them look good they keep as many people on their list as possible.
I personally run a gaming clan and community but I wouldn’t consider many of them to be my actual “friends”. It’s nothing personal, I do try to surround myself with people who are likable and easy to get along with but there is just a lack of trust in reality. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule of course, I have real life friends I have known for years and years that I game with. That is the opposite side of the spectrum however as I’ve known them outside of gaming first.
I think the thing I like best about online gaming is that we all get to act like someone we’re not in real life. It’s the whole anonymity of it all, nobody really knows who you are and sometimes it’s fun to put on a show or act out of character. Very much in the way I am sure people like Howard Stern act. On the radio he can cut loose and is free to be vulgar and rude but when you hear his close friends talk about him, they all say he is quite a good guy, humble and not abrasive in the least.
In my real life and with my real life job I tend to be around a lot of tragedy and I am often around things that aren’t very much fun to think or talk about, so when I get home from a tough day at work and I want to relax a bit, I like to let loose, let out some of that frustration and be someone who I am not. It’s almost like an alter ego, “I am Crapgamer hear me Rawr!”
Seriously though it got me to thinking about how people view their own online friends. Do you consider people you’ve never met to be friends? It’s a tough call for me because we as people are always putting only what we want people to perceive as us out there, so in the end who really knows if you’d even have anything in common? I have actually heard of couples getting together that met in game but that is a whole different story for a different day.
All in all though there are a few people over the last decade that I would consider a “real friend” that I came to know online first. I know with things like online dating and the social media that I spoke of earlier that some people might view it my way and some might not. I would love to hear some feedback and opinions on the subject, so sound off in the comments below. Thanks for listening, “friends.”