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.
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.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Posted by Gabi at 11:33 AM