I’ve made a lot of friends through gaming. A spouse, a nice couple in Arkansas, another one in Washington, a couple of soon-to-be ex-military gents, a darling man from Norway, a lovely family from Dallas. Most of these people I have met outside of the game. Others are on the list for visits or invitations to meet for a day of frivolity. Any of these people would be on my potential list for real ID excepting a strange little quirk of mine–sometimes, I like to play solo.
And that brings me to my other gaming friends. My guildmates. Random PUG people (either 5-mans or raids). Going down my notes on my friends list is good for a laugh some days as it reads:
- Bear Tank of AWESOME
- Disco’ing ALL night long
- Meh, but funny
- He splashes back!
If you’re on my friend list, it’s because I don’t have another way to reach you. You’re not in my guild. You’re not in one of my private channels. I’m not likely to remember your name off-hand when someone is looking to fill a slot, but I LIKED you! You were good at your task, pleasant, generally, a pleasure to be around.
Which makes what happened last night such a shame. I was running a PUG on [undisclosed alt of awesome] that was tossed together through the LFD system. For some reason, we had this really horrid tank. Not in the usual bad attitude, can’t hold aggro, you all suck kind of way, but rather, in his basic inability to move forward more than 2 steps within 2 minutes. Needless to say at the end of the dungeon when someone asked for a re-queue I was thinking “you couldn’t pay me enough” and promptly after the tank dropped group, I said so!
Following was one of the most engaged conversations that I’ve had with someone outside of my circle of friends and acquaintances in many an age. We re-queued together and discussed his leave-taking from WoW and return to EQ sometime back in vanilla, his return to the game, what were good rogue weapons from LFD for his level, picking the right server, and basically, you know, just a normal gaming conversation. We picked up another dungeon and had a truly marvelous, jovial fun-loving tank, who, when the healer disconnected, looked at us, shrugged, pulled, rooted, healed, tanked, rooted, healedm tanked and trusted us to hold up the slack. I told him I would be naming my bear after him, and unsure as to the complimentary nature of my comment, he still took it in good faith.
At the end of the night, I’d met two people that I would normally add to my friends list. And therein lies the problem. I couldn’t! People I’ve known for YEARS don’t have access to contact me through real ID, and I’m surely not going to add two strangers, who while nice, aren’t exactly in the sphere of trust that my closest gaming friends are, not by light-years. However, due to the vagaries of the current system, it is easier to ignore blighted ingrates from ever contacting me again that it is to add personable fun-loving people that have the POTENTIAL to be friends, but likely never will be.
I’d game without the ability to befriend people outside of the game, because I like video games; however, the ability to make these connections makes MMO’s particularly fun to me. Without those random encounters that throw you together with strangers, rather it be a walk in the woods, joining a guild, or running a dungeon, I would have never had the opportunity to meet any of the people that are now on my Christmas card list. The LFD system has expanded my ability to meet people, but in a way, it’s a false expansion because it leaves me no recourse for continuing the friendship.
When looking at real ID, I want the ability to connect with other players that leaves control over the interaction more in my control. I’d be happy to talk to that player more on the character I met him on. Whether he needs to know my main, or even some more of my alts should be at my discretion. I’d prefer not to hand out my e-mail address, especially the one associated with my account, to a stranger. If I had a handle, that I chose myself, associated with my e-mail address that I could give to chance met strangers, I’d be ok with that. It would allow me to ignore that handle at some future date if things became… unsavory or otherwise not to my liking. I’d also require the ability to log-in incognito. If I can’t play solo, I just won’t play.
Whether that friendship would have resulted in another interesting note in my friends list, or an addition to my Christmas card list at some future date: I’ll never know. I surely don’t run around waving my arms in Dalaran looking for perfect strangers to meet, but I’m surely open to the possibility that a game can be a jumping off point for a friendship outside and beyond the game. However, players are the ones creating the connections, and we deserver to have control and discretion over how we’ll choose to interact with the rest of the player base.