Welcome to MMO couples

Every one who is familiar with MMOG's (massive multiplayer online games), knows the stories of people who are so addicted to playing these games that it costs them their real life friendships and relationships. There are also stories though of people who meet in a MMOG and fall in love, like my boyfriend and I. 'MMO couples' is a tribute to our lovestory, but also an invitation to share your story and experiences with others.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

From online flirting to meeting for real: tips to prepare your adventure

If you have a crush on someone in your MMOG and it looks like it is mutual, you might come to a point that you very much like to meet each other in the real world. In the three years that I have been playing, I have met people who took that step but ended up being disappointed or even hurt. In the end, you can never know if the online chemistry is also there when you meet face to face.
There are ways to decrease that chance. Here are a few tips that I think will help you prepare for meeting the person behind the char.

1. Communicate and be open: talk with each other about your expectations. Can you stay at his or her place or would a hotel be better; could it be that you will sleep together or does one of you not consider that option at a first date at all, things like that.

2. Decrease the risk of disappointment: if you do not want to have a real blind date, send each other pictures and call each other in advance.

3. Be realistic: be aware of the possibility that the chemistry is not there, either for one of you or for the both of you. Talk about what that would mean. In my case for instance, he said I would still be welcome to stay at his place. We both felt that we would have a good time together anyways, since it was not only attraction we felt but friendship as well.

4. Have a backup plan in case you are not meeting close to where you live, or even in another country, and it is a disaster. Have a city map and some addresses of hotels with you so you can find your way around and have a place to sleep. Explore the city and make the best out of your trip abroad! Maybe there are other players you know or guildmembers living there. You could take the opportunity to meet and have a drink together :)

5. If it totally rocks: enjoy it to the fullest! But be aware what consequences it might have, especially when you do not live in the same country. Going back home after your first amazing get together is painful to say the least. If you do not have the (financial) means to travel back and forth, it might be the only time you can see each other. So very important: communicate about your plans and possibilities for the near future, before you go home.

P.S.: let someone back home know where you are (name of the person you are meeting, address/telephone number, hotel).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Mystery of Ingame Attraction

How does it work, this allurement in online games? First of all you cannot truly see someone. What you see, is an animated, customized character; either a fantasy character like in World of Warcraft or Perfect World, or one that looks more realistic like in Second Life. But even the realistic ones are still animations and will most likely not come close to the features you have in real life.
Apart from lacking a truthful image of a person, you lack other significant information as well: for instance how someone smells, moves and what he or she feels like. You can talk to each other through Skype or Teamspeak, but that also has its limitations: the voice is more or less distorted and you can't see someone's facial expressions when he or she is talking to you.

So the only tool you seem to have to gather information about a person, is the chat function. But is that truly all there is? In fact, it is not. Playing together can give you additional information you would not get from a first or second real life date. You can see how someone behaves while questing together in a small or bigger group, which can tell you if someone is helpful, reliable, punctual, generous, a good listener, smart, a team player, bossy, rude, humorous, etc., etc.

In my opinion these impressions can be more valuable than the information you get through chatting, because you have to take into account that people can easily mislead you. Apart from the possibility of people telling lies about their age or physical features, the pretty Blood Elf girl dancing on a table in the inn of Shattrath City can very well be a male player. According to a recent university study entitled 'Gender Swapping and Socializing in Cyberspace: An Exploratory Study', 70% of female players and 54% of male players have played a character of the opposite gender. In my experience, it can be quite hard to detect someone's true gender; I have known some guys playing female chars very, very convincingly :)

It is much harder to act as a different, nicer, more attractive person when you are playing in a group or raid, than you might be in the real world. The players want to achieve something and depend on eachother, which requires organisation, concentration, patience and social skills. It is in those situations, people ingame often show manners and a way of behaving they would probably also display at work or at school. So by observing someone's behaviour while actively playing, you can get quite a valid picture of his or her personality.

Eventhough you lack a real life image, taking the possibility of (voice)chatting and the behavioral aspects into consideration, it is not so hard to imagine that one can fall in love with another player. No matter what kind of MMO, fantasy or realistic, you play. This could mean that visual images are not so important for ingame romance afterall, certainly not on the long run. But how about the first feelings of being attracted to someone; someone whom you do not know so well yet? How can one friendly player trigger your curiosity and the wish to learn more about him or her more than the other?

A well customized character can look appealing, especially female characters: boobs, a sexy dress and a nice ass already do the trick for most men. But in the end, they physically all look more or less the same. So why would one Night Elf girl or a muscular, handsome male Human have more effect on you than the other? And how can you feel attracted to someone who plays an ugly Troll or a boney, evil looking Undead? To me, that will probably always be a mystery.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Share your story!

Have you met your dream man or dream woman in a MMOG and would you like to share your story on my blog? Then feel free to mail me your text and if possible an ingame screenshot (.jpg) of the two of you. You can find my emailaddress in my profile.

I am also very interested in how other people succesfully combine gaming and being in a relationship.

How I met my Night Elf Hunter

At the age of 29, my life seemed pretty much settled; I had a good job, was in a steady relationship for 10 years and had recently bought a nice flat together with my partner. I thought it was what I wanted and I told myself I was happy. My partner at the time was quite a hardcore gamer, at least in my opinion. Occasionally I would watch him play, but apart from Tetris, Hearts and Minesweeper, I never felt like playing games such as Sims, GTA or Tombraider myself. Until World of Warcraft came.

As soon as World of Warcraft was released, he had his copy at home. The first weekend I sat next to him and watched while he leveled his pretty character and discovered this beautifully designed virtual world. The game appealed to me instantly and I was quite jealous that I could not play it too. So he gave me a copy as a present. Who could forsee it was going to trigger the end of our relationship, and start the beginning of a new one.

I created a Night Elf druid called Gabrielle and almost instantly found nice people to chat and quest with. Unfortunately the game would often crash, which made it difficult to play in a party. People always had to wait for me to come back online, which was very annoying. The day I would meet my nightelf hunter, that was again the case. So I told my group to continue without me and wondered off on my own in an area called Westfall. After a while I met a Dwarf, a Human and a Night Elf at one of the farms, and asked if I could hang around with them. This Night Elf Hunter called Tofukiller started to dance and flirt with me immediately, making me laugh in front of my monitor. We did a few quests together, became online friends and not much later I received an invitation to join the guild he and his friends were in.

It is very hard to pinpoint when the friendship turned into something more. I do remember being curious about him from the start. I started to ask him questions about his real life; what his name was, how old he was, what occupation he had, what he looked like. We soon talked about private things that happened in our lives as well, which made our friendship quite intimate. We played almost every day and whenever I saw the phrase 'Tofukiller has come online' in the chat, I felt an adrenaline shot run through my body. When he would start to whisper me, I felt even happier. Before I knew it, he was on my mind constantly and I could not help wondering and fantasizing what the guy would be like for real.

There is a black hole in both our memories when it comes to the point that we started to talk about being sexually interested in each other, especially which one of us took the initiative. I do know that I was the one taking the friendship out of Azeroth and suggesting to start emailing and calling each other. I also suggested to meet in the real world. So it is most likely I started talking about sex as well ;)

About two months after we had met in Westfall, we started to plan a blind date in Vienna. We talked many hours what it would be like to see and touch each other for real. Would we be shy, would we kiss each other immediately, would we have sex, ... We were very much aware though of the possibility that we might not be attracted to each other at all. Therefore we discussed sending pictures of each other in advance. But in the end we decided not to and truly keep it a blind date. For me that was in a way important, because I wanted to see if the instant attraction that I felt online would work at the airport, where he was going to pick me up, as well.

The weeks that followed were an all-in-one package of hell and heaven. Hell because of us having to wait until the first weekend of June to meet the faces behind the chars. Being in the process of breaking up with my boyfriend and making arrangements to move out, did not make things easier either. It was heaven because I had never felt so excited and in love in my life. The grass was greener, the lights were brighter... I simply was on a never ending natural high.

When the day of our encounter finally arrived, my heart was continuously trying to beat itself out of my chest. It was not only because of meeting him; it was also my first trip abroad on my own. Double excitement! Walking to the arrivals hall in Vienna Airport was probably the most difficult bodily action I ever had to accomplish. When I saw him though, standing in the hall, being cute and smiling, my head was empty and I walked up to him and kissed him. We took a taxi to his place, which was a 40 minute drive of us holding each other, smiling, giggling and sighing. Once we were there, ah well, you can fill that in yourselves :x

After this amazing weekend, we travelled back and forth to visit each other as often as we could. In August we had 10 days together and because things were going wonderfully between us, we decided I was going to live with him in Vienna. That was over 2,5 years ago. Today we are still together, very happily. And: we still play World of Warcraft together too. How about that!