Picking up an MMO is a life-changing event no matter what way you look at it. Not only will it become an integral part of your daily life depending on your level of dedication, it opens up a whole new world that’s just a username and password away.
An MMO can be so many things to a user but above all it serves as a catalyst to help feed any lingering social needs. It diminishes the requirement to approach a person face-to-face in order to find a common ground or spark a conversation. When logging on to a server you automatically have one thing in common with everyone: the game. Generally, in meeting a person outside of a game you can’t help but develop initial opinions based on visuals. But in an MMO, personality automatically becomes the deal breaker. You can log in to an MMO without heeding to real-life standards such as clothes, good self hygiene, and still be accepted. Race, class, ethnicity, and religion all become secondary aspects to a user. All walks of life delve into MMO’s from all over the world without feeling alienated based on any given set of social mores.
Like any major decision, there are definite benefits and downfalls to developing an in-game relationship. Taking the next step can either do a world of good or create a bevy of problems depending on the circumstances.
The Benefits of an MMO Inspired Relationship
One of the large scale benefits of joining an MMO community is the social transformations that can take place. An introverted personality can pick-up on social skills that extroverted players display in order to develop their own skill set that can be exercised in and outside of the game. Not only can it help you develop personal skills, it can be the catalyst for meeting that special someone. This doesn’t mean that you should go into an MMO expecting to find your soul mate, but there is always the possibility of hitting it off with a person you commonly play with whether it be a friendship or something more. Developing in-game relationships can transcend the fantasy realm and become a long-lasting tie.
Not only do MMO’s warrant the blossoming of in-game relationships, they help build upon pre-existing relationships. The leader of my guild, Brad, is a perfect example. He went to high school with his wife, Angie, but never really talked to her until after they both graduated. They added each other on MySpace as friends and she messaged him because he had World of Warcraft content on his profile. All of Angie’s Everquest friends had quit for WoW but she hadn’t yet decided if she wanted to play. Brad suggested she try it. It was the final push she needed to join the community and so she bought it. Angie needed all the patches and at the time dial-up was the only thing available so Brad offered to burn the patches to a CD for her. She met him at his work to pick it up and they ended up hitting it off. After that, they began playing WoW together on a constant basis. It gave them something to do with each other even if they couldn’t meet up face-to-face. They believe it helped to bring them closer together because they were in essence able to spend more time with each other whether it be a date online or off. Years later they married and still continue playing MMO’s together to strengthen their relationship.
The Downsides of an MMO Inspired Relationship
In joining a game server you instantly have access to thousands of people’s opinions. Although playing an MMO can help an introverted personality expand, it can also boost pre-existing frustrations. Many people sign up to an MMO only to find that they are unable to connect with other players. This can further feelings of social alienation you may already feel out of game and deepen a depression. Since you are exposed to what thousands of people think, you will soon find that not everyone has a strong moral compass. There are no repercussions to what people say or do in a game because behavior isn’t regulated. You are exposed to racism, prejudice, and sexism. The negativity felt in-game from one persons dialogue can boost any issues you may already be dealing with. Above all, it’s easy to be taken advantage of whether you are emotionally stable or not which can then lead to rash, life-changing decisions. For example, there have been multiple reports of players committing suicide because of failed in-game relationships.
An MMO ripens your possibility of creating a long-lasting relationship but these relationships aren’t always necessarily healthy. I had a friend dating someone exclusively in-game. He was on cloud nine until things began to fall through the cracks. Towards the end of the relationship he developed control issues and a deep jealously for all other players she played with. After they broke it off, he went on to become severely depressed not eating or sleeping from that point on. Even if an in-game relationship you develop is strong, it can condone the neglecting of more pressing personal issues such as waning self-health and failing friendships. When you are attached to someone in-game it encourages you to play the game more and let everything else fall to the wayside.
As previously discussed, playing an MMO with a loved one can create a whole new level of connection but it can also form an insurmountable barrier based on game etiquette. A prime example is a real-life friend of mine had their partner begin an in-game relationship that escalated to flirting, endless hours of voice chatting, and hiding conversations. They then discovered the in-game relationship which lead to serious trust issues. Since the betrayal was in game, the cheating party didn’t realize the severity of the issue. Meanwhile, my friend questions their motives from therein and can no longer look at their partner in the same light.
Overall, MMO inspired relationships have their ups and downs just like any other tie. All it takes is good judgment and to realize that as much time as you spend on an MMO it is still just a game and you can’t let it consume your life.
Disclaimer: This article is filled with merely observations and does not serve as any final judgment.