The old stereotype of the solitary geek gamer hiding out in his dorm room playing video games is long gone, but the myth seems to persist that gamers are anti-social people - people that would rather spend time in imaginary worlds with imaginary people that get together with friends and real people to do "real" things.
Nothing could be further from the truth! One has only to look at the people who populate Destructoid and other gaming related sites to realize that gamers are actually highly socialized people who are often friendly, bright and articulate. Online gaming is increasingly popular and people are making friends all over the world. Even with the offline console games, it isn't unusual to see people enjoying the comraderie of playing multiplayer or 2 person games with friends. Sitting around talking and joking, playing games like Rockband or Singstar, and joyously making fools of themselves. When we meet another gamer at a party or event, we can immediately identify and animated, heartfelt conversations usually ensue. While this conversation littered with "fragged", "RPG"and "KDR" may seem confusing to others, we are happily in our element.
Seeing all the Destructoid PAX blogs has been heartwarmingly wonderful... and I think this is as true an indication of the very real friendships that can be formed on the internet. It seems odd to me that anyone would write "IRL" or "in real life" within a Destructoid blog... because isn't being on Destructoid part of that "real life"? We all compartmentalize our lives in some fashion... I'm sure we are slightly different at the workplace, with friends or at home... so why is our internet life any different? Isn't this too just another part of "real life"?
Friendship. It's defined in the dictionary as "one attached to another by affection or esteem" and "a favored companion". Are "virtual" friends any less valuable than "IRL" friends. If friendship is refined as support, sharing, laughter and loyalty... then yes, internet and gaming based friendships are "real". But how can you call someone who you have never seen and never met a "friend"? Are friends without faces any less real? In some ways, I think a faceless friend can be "more" real... in the virtual world friendships are based on words alone... just as valid a basis as "I work with her" or "he's my cousin". In fact words or a familiar voice in an online game might even be a more valid basis for friendship because we are not influenced by visual cues such as age, appearance, etc. In real life I might not actually take the time to REALLY listen to someone half my age, or to someone with pink hair, tattoos and piercings... someone so different from me. When we finally do meet these people, I'm sure that sometimes there is surprise at their physical appearance... but the overriding emotion seems to be joy at finally meeting a friend and being able to physically give them a hug. The Destructoid pictures from PAX are full of hugs and smiles - a greeting of true friends. There is a sense of excitement in those pictures, I don't know how to describe it except to say that I rarely see such an unconditional sense of "I love you man".
It's not unusual for people from online communities to become friends, or even to meet in person. Many websites are filled with such small cliques of people that often have their own insider jokes and relationships. I think what impresses me most is that Destructoid seems so incredibly inclusive. From a new person's perspective there do seem to be some smaller groups that inhabit the forums, chat or even other sites... but they don't seem to be exclusionary "cliques" - they all seem welcoming to anyone (that's a general perspective anyway). The site doesn't even seem to have the common problem of "new" vs "old" - new members are rarely regarded with suspicion and usually warmly welcomed, particularly if they show some effort. The site owners and staff are also active, personable and really care about the community... and it shows and is reciprocated.
All in all, I guess I just want to congratulate myself. Apparently I had the good taste to choose Destructoid as my community when I went looking for a gaming site. The recent PAX photos, blogs and stories merely confirm my suspicions that I not only made the right choice... but that Destructoid seems quite capable of offering me something more than just being a great community - it's a community capable of giving me the "warm fuzzies"... and I'm not usually a "warm fuzzy" kind of gal!
... ok, I'm gonna have to go randomly kill people in some game in gruesome manners now... or kick a puppy or something... I'm getting all mushy here...