MMO Friends Are Just Like Work Colleagues
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.