MMO Friends Are Just Like Work Colleagues

Work Colleagues

Generic stock image of work colleagues that aptly represents the lack of true friendship

As much as we try to deny it there are striking similarities between MMOs and the work place, especially when it comes to the relationships we have with the people we encounter within the virtual walls. Guild leaders are like your bosses, guildies and friends are like your work colleagues and PUG members are like people you meet at random, nightmarish networking events. Although money never (or very rarely) changes hands, whittling away a few hours running dungeons or raids with your online companions is really no different from spending some time working on a company project or participating on a team building exercise (although, I suppose, participation is more likely to be voluntary and eager).

Although I’ve encountered hundreds of people online and made friends with dozens, I would consider that I’ve only perhaps made three or so “real” friends out of it all and then, even so, I still have never met any of them face-to-face. Just to clarify though, by real friends, I mean people I’d (and have) speak to on the phone and be willing to go and visit or have stay with me or happily meet up for a drink. Everyone else I’ve befriended is just an online equivalent of a work colleague, someone I’m chummy with, work alongside and chat to when out for company drinks at the pub on a Friday night.

I’ve never been particular fond of the phrase “work friend” (in fact, that’s an understatement – I downright loathe it) but I have to admit that it’s quite an effective phrase. Of course, how we truly define friendship is a very difficult thing and ultimately a philosophical concept that I won’t go into here but I suppose my definition of work colleague or work friend is someone who you hang out with but only in the confines of work and never outside it. You get to know them but it’s a hollow friendship, limited by the feeling that you’re not really engaging on an equal level but rather just as “professionals” who have to co-exist alongside each other in a situation which is out of your power to govern.

In many ways, this description of a work colleague is absolutely apt in describing your guild mates and other friends. You are friendly with them all, know them well enough, hang out with them to get the job done (whether it be grouping, raiding or PvP) and help each other out selflessly due to a moral obligation that stems from that fact you exist together in the same company aka your guild. The truly telling fact about if your friendship extends beyond this circumstantial arrangement though is if, just like in real life situations, you stay in contact once you’ve left the guild, server or game.

Some people might find this concept a little depressing or whimsical but I don’t. I’ve seen so many friends – work friends and MMO friends – come and go that it’s just part of life. Fortunately now we have facilities such as Facebook and Twitter to help keep in touch with people even though, yeah, they are no substitute for real life socialising. Ultimately though, we discover over the years who are truly close friends are, the ones we keep in contact with regardless of anything and everything, and although they are few and far between, they can crop up anywhere, in any situation, from work to MMOs. Treasure them when you find them.


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  1. Longasc says:

    I totally agree and would like to add that I funnily usually talk the least to my “real” friends on all these social networks.

  2. vortal says:

    Although certain exceptions do exist. I have many friends living all across the world in the USA and Europe. So when I play WoW I would have interacted with people I have already met at least at one point in my life. Then I have a larger group of friends who I have met through WoW, those are like my internet friends. It’s not like I treat them differently I just happen to play more often with the internet friends. I Skype with the “real friends”. Strange right?

  3. afk5min says:

    I absolutely agree with Gordon’s premise. I’ve never really thought of it this way, but it’s so true. I will say that I do have a few friends from childhood that game regularly. When we do happen to play the same mmo, it really brings an entirely new level of enjoyement to the game. We’ll sit and talk about quests, gear, dungeons or whatever… over a beer.

  4. Gnomeaggedon says:


    I have worked in a number of places in my life and while I have have had many “work friends”, they have rarely transformed into lifelong friends.

    Watercooler friends – never see them purist of the office.
    EOM drink friends – the ones with a closer connection, have a beer with them
    Lunch friends – will go out for lunch etc
    Party friends – will even go to non-work events.

    Many of these friendships have been strong, even painful when changing jobs, however, the reality is, 3 months later and I can barely remember their names.

    Similar to WoW and others on my friend (even /duck blog) list

    • Gordon says:

      It rather sad who quickly you can lose contact with people. I guess it’s all just about recognising the fact and then really trying to put in the effort to hang out. It’s so easy to stop especially when everyone has families etc.

  5. Yetian says:

    That’s what I love about nexus. We formed to have a no pressure guild where everyone really does help others. We are now years later and still going strong. People who leave our games stick to the forums and join us in new games.

    We have had a few meet ups and I count many neXians as reap friends now. You should come to the next meet.

  6. Yetian says:

    Erm that’s real friends lol. I even travelled to Denmark for a meet once even though I was the only none Dane attending. The 3 others there I now count as good real friends and more meets have planned. Even talked about taking the wife and son over for a nexus next gen Legoland meet. ;)

  7. Awryt says:

    I can see where you are coming from, but I have been lucky to have a different experience. I have hosted several guildies in my home, met some when I have traveled, and stay in contact with several via phone, text, e-mail, etc. including some who have left the guild and/or game. When I needed some letters of recommendation, I had several friends I met in WoW step up and write great ones for me. As with any friend/acquaintance, you get out of it what you put in. It doesn’t matter where you meet your friends (high school, college, church, work, online). It only matters how much you make them a part of your life.

    • Gordon says:

      “It only matters how much you make them a part of your life.”

      Very, very well said and good point. I’d add to that though that the effort must come from all parties. You can’t be the only one doing all of the “work”.

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  9. Rivs says:

    Friends? Hell No I just like keeping my enemies close. :P

  10. Jessica says:

    I used to work for a “gaming” company and this analogy is just dead-on!

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