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When WoW friendships become real friendships

When WoW friendships become 'real' friendships
Internet friends are weird and creepy. If that person you're talking to online isn't a pedophile out of central casting, then they're probably a murderer instead. That was pretty much the general take on the internet as offered up by 1999 news coverage -- news coverage that's probably best remembered in grainy black-and-white, with Chris Hansen and skulls and crossbones edited in.

Of course, that's just how the media works. There are a bunch of set narratives that people seem to love (like "OMG Becky did U hear a murderer played WoW and it probably drove him to murder 'n' junk?"), and the news media is thrilled to reinforce them whenever possible. But here in the real world, the people you meet online through World of Warcraft are pretty much the exact opposite of bloodthirsty murderers and rapists. Crazy, right?

Long before "Fox Van Allen, public figure" existed, there was just "Fox Van Allen, WoW player." I was a not-so-humble player in the field of cancer research who played World of Warcraft every now and then to relax, partially because it was fun and partially because my boyfriend of the time was playing.

But as you all know, in-game friendships are almost unavoidable with any shared hobby. And any good friendship knows no boundaries -- it can (and should) spill over into all aspects of your life. WoW friends quickly become Facebook friends, and eventually, the qualifier before the word "friend" gets lost entirely.

The day the hunter came to visit

One of my earliest friends from World of Warcraft was a hunter in my guild named Kasila. We didn't really play a lot together -- he was a hardcore raider, and I was a casual newbie -- but that never really seemed the point. We talked. A lot. And we became pretty good friends -- good enough, at least, to trade Facebook information and invade each others' real-life space, if only virtually.

Fast forward to December 2009. I was throwing an annual party known as Superbirthday. My best real-life friends and I all share birthdays within two weeks of each other in December, and so we made it a tradition to throw a large event to celebrate all the birthdays at once with all our friends. It's the kind of party that you invite a large number of your friends to so that they can meet new people -- and so can you. The kind of party where you just send out a Facebook invite to all your friends, rather than pick and choose. After all, your real friends will be the ones who show up, right?

Well, Superbirthday 2009 was the year when worlds finally collided. Kasila wound up getting an invite to my party, since he was a Facebook friend. And even though he lived in Philadelphia and I lived in Boston, he hopped on a bus and attended my party. And really, he didn't just attend -- he baked an entire menu of party food, from bacon-wrapped asparagus to Caprese salad.

His presence absolutely blew me away. You'd think that such a thing might be weird and even creepy, but it wasn't. It was just a genuine friendship finally spilling over to the real world. That day, Kasila became Chester, a real, honest-to-goodness real-life friend. Chester introduced me to his other friends from Philly, many of whom also played Warcraft. And at BlizzCon 2010, he introduced me to Mike, a friend of his from Southern California who just happened to be a costume designer for The Guild.

The web grows

Not to get sappy here, but this one stupid little game, World of Warcraft, has changed my life more than any person could really dream. After losing my job as a cancer researcher, I transitioned into writing more for WoW Insider -- a job, by the way, that I applied for at Chester's urging. From there, I became a full-time writer at general technology site Tecca. And then my news/tech articles got syndicated to the Yahoo front page.

Now, I'm living in Southern California. I was only able to move out here because I knew Mike, who is now my roommate. Really, when I think about it, just about everything I have right now, from my job to the roof over my head, I owe to the existence of one singular friend I met from World of Warcraft. So, yeah, thanks Chester. Thanks for everything.

Certainly, though, my story isn't unique. And that's what makes World of Warcraft special -- it's not just a game, in a sense, but a social network built around gaming. So what's your story? How has that one certain someone you've met through World of Warcraft changed your life forever?

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