Tara's G-Spot - ONLINE GAMING FRIENDS, IRL by Tara Babcock - www.impulsegamer.com

ONLINE GAMING FRIENDS, IRL
BY TARA BABCOCK

We walked through the bustling mall on an average, wet Seattle weekend. Peering over the nondescript heads revealed a vaguely recognizable face; after all, we'd only really seen an image or two of him. "Hey!" interrupted the familiar voice whose location-deciphering text message I had just opened, "Nice to finally meet you!"

"Banteng!" I shrieked and pulled him in for a hug.

A moderately uncomfortable half hour of shopping and talking about our one common ground turned into an excessive and pleasant four hours of standing in the parking lot, engaged in heated conversations about various topics. The mall had closed hours ago, it was dark, freezing; but we were having fun. A little too much fun.

Fast-forward six months, and we are all out together again, as we were so many times since. The group is larger this time. She had to shout over the loud Los Angeles restaurant-goers and their clanging silverware. "So, like, how did you guys meet? You and Ban...teng, was it?"

I pause, suddenly grasping the oddity of it. "Actually, we met through World of Warcraft."


My online-turned IRL friend, Banteng, and I at one of my modeling events.

With the implementation of the internet, and the huge transition that many games, and entire gaming platforms, have made toward online multiplayer gameplay, meeting new people online (and spending ridiculous amounts of time with them) is becoming a common phenomenon. Massively multiplayer online RPGs, and other online social outlets, are making it difficult not to find someone online that interests you enough to refer to them as "friend". The real question, though, is whether or not it's technically okay or “normal” to do so.

It's an attractive idea to be able to meet someone online, in the comfort of your own home through forced interactions, but it's also just as easy for a person to pretend they are someone they are not. Generally, people cling to their strong points, hide their flaws, and stick out their chests on the internet; knowing that no one will ever be able to legitimately call their bluff. Through such an anonymous, obscure platform of "sexy girl gamers" and "six-foot-five, ripped football players" holding a gun on the other end of your first-person viewfinder, or spamming their Paladin's Exorcism mindlessly, it is often hard to stand out. Even harder still is it to smell a fake. Should gamers step out of this comfort zone behind their Xbox controllers and keyboards to connect with these avatars in "real life"?


In World of Warcraft, everyone looks this hot. Can you blame us for becoming attracted?

The hotel room door sounds its wooden call. He has finally arrived... and just in time! Corrado, level eighty-five Resto Shaman is on the other side of the door. "Thanks, Brian," I say, letting out a sigh of relief, "I would have been screwed if you hadn't been able to get me to my photoshoot!"

"No problem, I'll grab your bag."

The long, busy trip to Florida had left me scatterbrained, forgetting to secure a rental car or driver to transport me to my next booking. Thankfully, I have a local friend who isn't busy.

"Man, too bad we can't get a mage to make a portal there!" He jokes lightly. As I laugh, I think of how awesome it is to have friends so close that inside jokes develop effortlessly.

As night sets in, and the Tampa thunderstorms turn the sky bright pastels, I am finally through with my workday. Brian grabs my bag, throws it in the trunk, and turns up his favorite song. "So, what is it now, like, a third of our WoW raid group that's seen you naked?"

I can't help but to laugh out loud at the silliness of it. Yeah, it was something like that.

Vast amounts of people are finding love and friendship, even developing healthy marriages through online games like World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, on Xbox Live, PSN, and beyond. Statistical research actually supports findings showing strong numbers like one in three World of Warcraft players are attracted to one another. What exactly is it that makes these encounters more successful than those born of companies such as eHarmony, founded solely for that purpose?

For me, spending a ton of time online, gaming, interacting with fans on my website and social networks, and keeping in touch with people from the video game community and modeling world whom I've never actually met, it can be exceedingly hard to separate the two worlds. I am consistently keeping in touch with my past school friends using the internet, why not switch it around and become acquainted with new people, then interacting with them in person? What better way to do that than through an interactive game and why shouldn't it work both ways? If Match.com had an exciting and epic storyline with some kick-ass gameplay, I wouldn't mind signing up there, either! Addicting pastimes, after all, should include some substance. That's why Facebook harbors so many Farmville junkies in the first place. Internet patrons are searching for extra relationships such as those found in online video games.


"Hurry! We'd better save Steve from Diablo or he'll be pissed and he won't come to our bad movie night!"

I wipe a frustrated tear from my eye. The day has been so long, makeup artists and wardrobe stylists pulling me every which way, photographers demanding I pose in contorted, back-breaking and nearly impossible shapes. I come home tired, ready to relax, and ten minutes in a notice pops up on my computer screen. You have been reassigned... Damn you, StarCraft internal rating! I don't deserve this demotion, could today become any worse!?

I instinctively grab my phone and, without thinking, text the person I know will make it all better. "I am having the worst day. Nothing seems to be going right. I am so demotivated..." I ranted on and on.

Bzzzzrp! My phone vibrates with the contact name "Coldyst" popping up on the screen. He hates it when I call him by his "toon's name". Kit's reply instantly puts a smile back on my face; it didn't even matter whether the advice was solid, though it always was. "Everyone feels this way! Don't let it get to you. Just step back and re-evaluate things from a different angle!"

I could recall back to our early raid days, when, to him, I was just the annoying girl gamer who could never time her Hunter's Frost Traps correctly. "Thanks for putting up with my silly venting, Kit. You're seriously like one of my best friends." I typed, still remembering the first time I called him out outside of Warcraft, inquiring why he hated me. It’s crazy how thing can change.


"Dude, don't worry, I've got your back! In Black Ops and in real life... no matter what!"

Whether you're a hardcore gamer, playing hours amassing to the thousands, or a casual enthusiast who enjoys gaming simply to blow off steam, the people you meet while owning noobs should not be ignored. If games were better with an all-NPC atmosphere, every major console and computer franchise wouldn't have become so player-to-player interaction-based in the first place. To me, these real "characters" were a large portion of my gaming experience, an experience which I could access at any time, from any state I happened to be in (emotionally or physically), and at any time of the day. They became a part of both of my realities. "Coldyst" became Kit, "Corrado" became Brian, and "Banteng"... well, I still call him Banteng. It doesn't matter how I met them, or what anyone, or any stigma, dictated I should feel. Through online gaming I had made life-long friends, IRL.

EXTERNAL RESEARCH LINKS:

PsychCentral: 1 in 3 World of Warcraft Players Attracted to One Another

Kotaku: World Of Warcraft May Be The Future Of Online Dating

MEANWHILE, IN TARA LAND...

As a note regarding this article, three of my best friends, currently, I met through online gaming. I would like to thank Banteng, Kit, and Brian in advance for not getting angry that I exploited them, publicly, on the internet. A wise and successful gamer (who I also befriended online prior to meeting in real life) once advised me to "post first, apologize later. You'll get to use whatever content you want, and people will be less likely to object if you say sorry!" I can't argue with the convenience of that!

This time, our Ask Tara question is, "Firstly Tara, you are amazing! Secondly, I loved your Mario photo shoot and of course your Macenstein shoot! I'll never look at Mario or Apple products the same again! Wow! My question to you is what do you like about cosplay and do you have any plans to do more shoots as video game characters?" I definitely plan on doing a ton more cosplay, I just need to find the perfect concepts and the time to create the outfits. I'm not the best seamstress, but I like to create my own costumes in Tara-style rather than just buying them. I have some cool ideas for a special event I may be covering for Impulse Gamer... keep your eyes peeled for that announcement! I'll be doing comic book babes, too!

Without further ado, I am presenting you with my latest nerd girl shoot! I had so much fun shooting in a sexy underboob outfit (again), and all of my pink gamer gear, from gel keyboards to PlayStation and Wii controllers. Don't worry Xbox fans; I love you, too... I only had Xbox controllers in white, and my purchased pink one arrived too late. I owe you guys big! 


CHECK OUT OUR EXCLUSIVE "NERD" GALLERY OF TARA!

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Follow Tara at her official website, www.tarababcock.com

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