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Dealing with real-life tragedy in an online world

Recently, the guild All Good Things on Kargath lost one of their longtime players. Feelan, one of their guild's holy priests, passed away from cancer in early December -- shortly after he was finally able to meet his online friends. Now the guildmates are wondering what they can do to remember their friend in-game. Kesryth suggests that Blizzard add Feelan's character to one of the floating islands in Nagrand, where he can stand and watch the sunset in his favorite zone.

As unlikely as that sounds, Blizzard has done almost exactly the same thing before. The NPC Caylee Dak, on the Aldor Rise, memorializes a member of the guild "Boulderfist Heroes" who died of cancer. Caylee wears the exact same gear that she had when Dak (the player behind the avatar) passed away. Her faithful pet stands by her side. Caylee is even the ending point of a quest for Alliance players to deliver her a poem about death.

Players have made their own memorials to lost friends. An Alliance guild walked a dead guildmate's character (played by his wife) to one of the towers in Hillsbrad, where he enjoyed to PvP. A score of Chinese gamers held a hilltop service for a girl who died from ... uh, apparently playing too much WoW. Blizzard memorialized one of its own at the Shrine of the Fallen Warrior in the Barrens. And, of course, there's the infamous funeral-crashing of Serenity Now on Illidan.

It's tough to figure out how to deal with death on the internet. On one hand, people can form deep attachments in community games such as WoW. But on the other hand, there's a strong contingent of idiots on the forums posting stuff like "lol wut did he drop?" whenever someone on a server dies. What do you think is the appropriate way to handle the death of a fellow player?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Guilds, Forums

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