Have you been watching The Guild? It’s a fantastic web series created by Felicia Day centered around the life of a young woman named Syd Sherman, aka Codex, and her guildmates from a popular online game. While a lot of it has to do with nerd things – the current season takes place at a gaming convention – it’s really more about Syd’s insecurities and attempts to pull her life together, and forge meaningful relationships with the people she meets through the game.
While most of the characters are exaggerations of gamers – the guy who never logs off, the guild mom, the teenage rogue* – every time I watch I think of the people I’ve met playing games. I started playing online games with MUDs when I was 10 back in 1993. Yes, that’s 19 years of online gaming. There are plenty of kids now who are growing up playing online games, but I don’t meet too many people my age who have spent their formative years and adult life online, in part because in the mid-90′s the technology just wasn’t that accessible to a lot of people. I was lucky to have had access to a computer since the time I was 3. I’ve heard a lot about how people are worried that so much focus on technology and online social networking is bad for a child, or about the evils of Facebook and Twitter and whatever else. I don’t buy it, but that’s a whole other post.
I am telling you all about my history with gaming and computers so you understand that when I say I don’t know how to exist without them, you understand why. It’s not an addiction and not a fad. To me, the online world and the physical world** have existed together in harmony for most most of my life. As a result, there’s something about The Guild that has really resonated with me. Like Codex, I’ve made poor decisions. Like Codex, I have on occasion retreated into gaming to escape the awful things in my life. Also like Codex, I’ve made life-long friends through gaming, and my guildmates have often been a better support network than anyone could ever ask for.
Some of my closest friends are people whom I’ve never seen in the physical world. The relationships we have are not fake relationships. I have heard people claim that because you never meet, it’s too easy to hide who you are. Bullshit. When you first meet someone online, it’s true that they could be putting up a false front. But it’s the same in the physical world, too. How many times have you met someone you thought was nice, only to watch them laugh and not help when someone gets hurt, or gone a date with someone who claimed to be laid-back who them verbally abuses the waitress? People (who are not trained spies, I suppose) are simply not good at hiding who they are over extended interaction. Granted, when you meet someone in person, it’s usually *quicker* to find out more about them, but the same thing will happen over time in the online world. And just like in person, you start to learn how to read the signals and cues people give off online.
I’ve physically met up with a number of guildmates, too. Every one I can. Especially since, through some odd coincidence, a lot of them are awesome cooks . The first time I ever met fellow players, I was 13 and meeting up with other MUDders in Manhattan. My dad came along to chaperone. And guess what? They were the same people I knew online. Friendly or goofy or shy. In the end, we went rollerblading in Central Park, and my dad even enjoyed himself. I’ve dated guildmates, too, and while that has a whole host of issues attached to it – really, the same issues you face dating someone you work with – it was good while it lasted. No, not every guildmate or online buddy has turned into my best friend, but I wouldn’t hesitate to offer any of them a place to stay if they were in town, or any help they needed, because we are a community. A real one. With love and fights and friendship and nights spent drunk off our asses, enjoying each other’s company and sharing something we all like to do: play games.
My life, like Codex’s, is far from perfect. But it has never gotten better because I ignored the gaming world. It *has* gotten better because of my guildmates. So thank you, Felicia Day, for showing that world what I’ve known for years but couldn’t say to such a large audience: Guildies are awesome, and we should all be so lucky to have some in our lives.
*Actually, I suspect this one isn’t that much of an exaggeration, because I had a guildie just like him. JUST. LIKE. HIM.
**I refuse to think of it as “virtual” and “real” worlds. There’s nothing any less real about what happens online. If you watch a movie and discuss it with your friend, is the conversation less real because the movie was fiction?
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September 22nd, 2011 by Cassie