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Why it’s odd to think it’s odd to meet people in virtual worlds

Like in many other such groups, the Great Lakes Regulators players formed such strong bonds with one another that their meetings began to spill offline. In 1998, Merchants Guild players who lived in Austin started meeting every other month for lunch. While the lunches were originally meant for discussion of in-game activities, they eventually evolved into proper social occasions, with the group gathering four times a year for lunch or dinner.

By 1999, people grew more ambitious, and rented a boat for an evening of revelry. Word of the outings spread through the Ultima Online message boards, and soon players from around the Southwest were showing up at the Austin events. More than a hundred players registered for the Ultima Online outing in 2000, when Austin played host to the Texas Renaissance Festival, the same event that Richard had experienced with the Society for Creative Anachronism nearly two decades before. — from “Chapter 29: Knights of the Guilded Realm” of Dungeons & Dreamers

When we were writing the book, we spent a good deal of time talking about the nature of the narrative. We didn’t want the book to be a history of games, nor were we much interested in the business of games. However, we weren’t sure how we could capture the essence of game communities. Instead of a strict linear narrative, we settled on a series of portraits, with each part trying to paint a picture about different aspects to the communities that form around computer games.

One of those portraits focused on the socializing effect of virtual spaces. We found scores of people who used these worlds not only to maintain ties with people who lives far away, but also to meet new people with similar interests. These worlds became just another space for inhabitants to find friends.

To this day, I’m still intrigued by stories such as “The RPG Date That Led to IRL Marriage” that tell the story of how people merged their lives online with their lives offline.

The one consistent problem with the angle of these stories is that they are oftentime written as if these meetings are odd despite the fact that millions of people meet through online dating services. What’s not odd is that people who gravitate towards a shared playspace would find common interests and fall in love. The games – and these worlds – are set up to gather a crowd and inspire creativity.

I can’t think of a better place to meet new people.

As always, our shameless plug: Order your copy of Dungeons & Dreamers today.

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