Daily #27: Faceless friends

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I’ve always been into gaming. PC gaming, specifically.

Gaming always seems to be under fire in some way. Whether it’s the outlandish ‘video games cause violence’ which is toted on US news whenever a shooting occurs, or just the BBC articles with the headline ‘My son plays Fortnite for 6 hours a day’ – it’s not viewed positively by society as a whole (over a certain age).

The counter-arguments for this onslaught come up time and time again – they help with hand-eye coordination, and creative games like Minecraft can be used in education. The other much-repeated benefit of gaming is the social aspect.

This is usually referred to in the teamwork sense – taking part in a raid on an RPG, for example, or working with your teammates on a competitive shooter. But in my experience, the social benefit of the video game community has been so much more than that.

I remember once, when I was in my teens, I’d forgotten to get one of my school friends a birthday present. My mum was angry about it, and said something to the effect of my caring more about my “faceless friends on the internet” than my “real friends”. She couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m not saying that real friendships mean nothing, and shouldn’t be maintained, but to discount my online friendships in that way made me truly realise their value.

This isn’t true for everyone, but in school, one finds their friends and tends to stick to them out of proximity. In my case, once I left school, I lost contact with almost all of them immediately – without the environment forcing us together, we didn’t really have much in common. In contrast, friendships made online or through games need to be actively maintained. When both parties have the ability to easily cut all contact, one can be choosy about who they talk to.

Because of this, you can end up with far more genuine relationships with online friends. You often have lots in common, and while there’s anonymity, you can find out a lot about the other person. I have an online friend who I’ve been talking to for around 5 years, and we still play games together at least once a week.

And most importantly, I met my partner through online games. We started talking on a forum. We got to know each other over a group TeamSpeak, and later private Skype calls. We visited each other long-distance for 2 years, before moving in together for 2 more – and we bought a house together this year. I would never have known he existed without playing games, so I will never discount the value of a friendship formed in a virtual space.

Even outside of full friendships, communicating online opens your circle exponentially. I’ve talked to people from many nationalities and walks of life, and come across people with amazing talents, which I’ve learned from and shared. While arguing on the internet is seen as frivolous, it can help expose you to different points of view, and it might even change your mind (though that’s not a given).

The internet is not a magical place – it’s just a place filled with far more humans than you can ever come across in person. Use that to your advantage!

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