I imagine most gamers have been told to “get a life” or “grow up” by family members and other non-gamers. I’ve been told that guild friends are not real friends. People you meet online are not real friends. I don’t see online communities any different than the in-person communities. It’s true that people are braver online and can hide who they are easier, but every community as it’s frauds and dangers. Internet bravery doesn’t just create a medium for pretending to be someone you aren’t, it’s also being exactly who you are when you would otherwise suppress yourself. This can be good or bad. Perhaps someone who might seem decent to your face and would stab you in the back, is who they truly are online – a dick. Sometimes the internet bravery brings out the worst in dickish people, which saves us from being fooled by them in person. On the other hand, perhaps a decent person is shy and has trouble making friends, but online they have the shield of the computer screen to help them open up and we finally get to see who they really are – a great person. I have met plenty of frauds and nasty people both online and plenty in person. You have to be careful in any world you choose to socialize, but online communities and friendships are no less valid.
I made friends online, which lead to becoming friends in person, which lead to meeting a wonderful person, who I lost in the crowd and reconnected with online, and now 13 years later we’re happily married. We’ve meet people online who have been generous and thoughtful and more of a friend than some of our in-person friends. Not to say that we haven’t had or don’t have wonderful in-person friends (Shout out to Metalith, Chaos, “the ever unpronounceable norse handle”, Greg (RIP), Chazz (RIP), and others close to our hearts). The point is that online relationships are just as real, varying, and dangerous as in-person.
The age of social community has given the friendless introverts a way to connect with others and have a social life they never had. For those of us who are extroverts, like myself, it’s just another way to connect with the world, with family and friends, and have a damn good time all the while! Being a gamer is far from being anti-social or having no life. Gaming isn’t for everyone, but it’s no different than choosing any other social medium. I could sit at a table in a loud bar chatting with friends, or I can sit at a computer, where I control the noise levels, can have both public and private conversations all at once, and engage in the teamwork that is raid. I can play a game with the people I want to be around, and have a good time. Sure, I love going out to night clubs too and there’s no reason why I can’t do both!
Some people think the online community and gaming is acceptable, as long as I also go out and do other things too. First of all, I don’t need your validation or approval. If someone doesn’t like going out to clubs or doesn’t like crowds, who are you to judge? If someone spends their free time playing games and doesn’t do what non-gamers feel is acceptable social interaction, that’s not a gamers problem. That’s just non-gamer prejudice and who needs that? Don’t you have a hanger over to nurse, rather than worry about what game some nerd is playing?
Don’t get me wrong, too much of anything can be a bad thing. If I can’t ever get someone to step away from the game or put me before the game, I get upset too. However, it’s important to understand that I’d be upset with that person for not being a good friend or spouse, not at the game or the community of gamers. Gaming isn’t bad, it’s your attitude and your behavior that can be justifiably wrong. If you spend every waking moment gaming and that makes you happy, then it’s okay… but if it’s to the point of destroying your life, then it’s a problem. The community and the game isn’t the problem… it’s you. If you don’t go to work, can’t pay your bills, can’t hold down a relationship or maintain family obligations, then you have created a problem for yourself. If you don’t eat or sleep, that’s a problem.
Not all gamers are like that. Me and both my in-person friends and the vast majority of my online friends, all have full time jobs and pay our bills. I also try to treat my friends and family well and we often put down the game to go to the movies, concerts, to clean the house, or even *gasp* take a walk outside in the fresh air. Some times we read a book (yes a physical copy, despite how much I love RSS feeds), pay obligation to our cats (or else they’ll harass us during raid and questing), and I make it a point to get 8 hours of sleep every work day (sometimes, I get crazy and sleep for 9 hours). Most gamers are motivated to go to conventions, which isn’t cheap, and there is a ton of in-person social interaction and walking at those. We love conventions… gaming, steampunk, anime, comic cons, and more!
For every pathetic gamer in the world, there is an equally pathetic socialite in the physical world. A clubber who would rather go clubbing than hold down a job and pay the bills can also fall into waste. Someone who is too busy partying to maintain their relationships and obligations, also has a problem. You don’t have to play games to ruin your life. Yet, not every socialite is that bad either. I have social friends who love to get drunk and hit the bars and clubs, but they too have full time jobs and meet their obligations in life. A group of us put down the computers and controllers to have a 3-day binge in New Orleans and it was a blast! So much walking and drinking… it was exhausting but so worth it. I highly recommend it. By the way, you have no idea how well gamers party.
Gaming is a hobby, and art form, and sometimes a career too. There are parallels between the physical world and the online world. Both are real, both good and bad. As a gamer, I live in both worlds and that’s the way of the future. As the singularity rises to meet our feet, can we really view them as two separate worlds? It’s like having a parallel universe that exists on top of this one. It’s an integrated life we gamers live and I, for one, love it.