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
I pause, suddenly grasping the
oddity of it. "Actually, we met through World of Warcraft."
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
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.
better save Steve from Diablo or he'll be pissed and he won't come to our bad
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.
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.
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
question is, "Firstly Tara, you are amazing! Secondly, I loved your
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!
Follow Tara at her official website,