Friday, July 9, 2010

Thank You, Lissanna

Reading Lissanna's blog entry from last night inspired me.  I immediately went down to her comments section and started writing.  But the more I wrote, the more I realized this was something I needed to say on my own blog, in an expanded version, of course.

For years, I have had on-line friends.  All the way back in 2000, when I was living in a 12x20 shed and a drop-in truck camper with three small children under the age of 6 in the middle of nowhere, while my husband traveled to large cities for his job, my refuge was my dial-up Internet connection.  I had forums I would frequent, where I "met" people and had meaningful conversations.  On Tuesday evenings, we would meet in chat and play Taboo or such games.  I knew their backgrounds; I knew their opinions on a good many matters; I knew to whom I could send e-mail if I had something extra to say; etc.  What I did not know, in the vast majority of the cases, were their real life names.

Later on, as people moved on with their lives, I moved on to different forums.  (This was no different than a good deal of my life, where I moved from place to place.)  I also started playing World of Warcraft, where I had the chance to meet other people.  Again, I formed friendships based upon the substance of conversations and shared experiences, rather than names and faces.  And I found myself no less attached to these people than I would have been to any other friend I met.  I chattered to my husband about how so-and-so's son was EOD or soberly spoke of so-and-so's four-year-old granddaughter who was fighting cancer.  I prayed for people who were looking for jobs or facing major examinations, figuring that, while I did not know their real names, the Lord did, so the prayers would be just as effective.

My husband used to tell me that my on-line friends weren't "real friends." I contested that viewpoint, telling him that as far as I was concerned, yes, they were "real friends." He told me I had some sort of mental disorder about reality, seeing things as I wanted to see them. /rolleyes

As the Bard says, "What's in a name?" So I know these people by the names of their characters or avatars--that doesn't make them any less real. They each have their identities. They each have their days when they are in good or bad moods. They each have feelings which can be hurt and joys for which to celebrate. When someone finally passes their bar exam or receives their certification as a minister, the entire forum or guild cheers for them. When someone's grandmother dies, everyone sends their condolences.  We can laugh about jokes together or talk seriously about life issues.  Young people might ask for advice on dating, or I might ask for advice on a computer issue.

Knowing their real names would change nothing about how I view them. They are my friends.

This is what Blizzard-Activision is not "getting."  We do not need to know real names to have a social gaming experience.  World of Warcraft is already a social gaming experience.  I have been playing with some of the people in my guild for over two years now, which is longer than I have known many of my out-of-game friends.  The more our real names are exposed, however, the greater our security risk becomes.  Let us give our real names to those whom we choose; do not force the requirement upon us to give our real names to those we do not really know.

No comments:

Post a Comment