There used to be a site in progress, a long time ago, that allowed you to search for players locations by city/state or by server in FFXI; you could just pop in your character name, server, city, state, and boom; anyone else who used the site could find you if they used it too. Sadly, the fact that I can't remember where the site was is an indicator that it never really took off, but at the same time, I've met plenty of people online (through games or fourms) that have lead into meaningful actual relationships. Even this site's own admins would never have met each other IRL, or had any reason to, were it not for FFXI and subsequently this very site.
I met my current girlfriend/fiancee of over three years online, and we couldn't be more perfect for each other. This is someone I never would have met "IRL" were it not for the internet because despite living 5 minutes away, neither of us enjoy "going out". I'm only going to meet a girlfriend who is a gamer of my own caliber by looking online. And indeed I did.
I think it's folly to separate your "game friends" and your "real friends" because by doing that, you imply to yourself and others that you don't consider people you meet to be online to be real people, which they are.
Sure, you will probably never meet 99.9% of the people you meet online. I doubt any of you will ever meet me, or vice versa. But once you lower "online friends" beyond being a "real person", what happens is you start to validate your actions towards and concerning them as believing them to be lesser, and therefore not deserving of the same respect or courtesy a "real person" has.
Ask yourself, how many people have I screwed over over the years, all in the name of the game, no matter how minor? Maybe you fake dced during an LS event because you wanted to play something else, maybe you enjoyed ganking people for hours because you thought it was funny. Maybe you went around teabagging virtual corpses or shooting your rocket launcher at your own teammates "just for the lulz". Ask yourself: Would you have done the same thing if those people were good friends of yours, and were sitting next to you? Would you actually shout "LOL STFU" at your best friend when he asked for help with AF3? Would you ninja lot a piece of armor that one of your parents was supposed to win? Would you corpse camp your own son for two hours?
For most people, I doubt it. It's much different when you have to look someone in the eye and face the result of your actions, especially when that person is someone you've known for years. It's so easy for some people to compartmentalize and look at online games as "A single player game with bots that have good AI" where logging off instantly resolves any conflict you have.
I think that if more people considered the real people behind the screen when choosing their actions in games, online gaming communities would be much better.
The video is pretty poignant in its meaning. Video Games, while fun, are entertainment. If the entertainment is all you get out of them, then it is imperative that you balance your life with other things. At the same time, it is possible, provided you have the right outlook, that you can develop real friends and a real community and real life experiences as a result of the people you meet online. But if all you do is compartmentalize your "Two worlds" and never the twain shall meet, you're doing yourself a huge disservice.
Edited, Mar 6th 2010 5:49pm by Mikhalia
Mikhalia: and FWIW, my posts are 95% helpful, informative, or funny.
Mikhalia: only 5% or less of my posts are utter crap.
Tyapex: 393 posts of utter crap...
Mikhalia: Sounds about right.