Loss of an Online Friend

As many know, I am an online gamer. I enjoy World of Warcraft the most, because I think it harnesses more dimensions of community and interaction than most any other game I’ve come across. One of the questions that people often ask about people playing World of Warcraft is whether you can actually be friends with people you’ve never met in person, or “IRL” (in real life). Two days ago, I learn that an in-game friend (fellow player) has passed away. He is fairly well known on our server, Kilrogg US, Alliance side. I feel a hole in my friends list- someone I’ve chatted with about health and family, about career and life, and humanity, is gone now. Today, I am talking with an in-real-life friend about the loss and how saddened I am to lose my friend, and he asks “was he really there to begin with?” I answer yes, and it’s hard to understand if you haven’t taken part in online community. It doesn’t replace “real life”- it’s actually just more interactive than staring at the TV. I have much more an interactive relationship with these folks than TV watchers have with Oprah, or the cast of Glee. We all have lives too. We’re counselors, educators, students, financial advisers, artists, engineers, parents and sons and daughters. 


Today while I’m thinking on this, I come across one of the in-game books. I enjoy the books, they often have wit, wisdom, or weirdness. This book didn’t disappoint and it so beautifully addresses the question of online friends’ “realness”: (copyright goes to Blizzard, I hope they don’t mind!)


Old Ri and the Million Souls

Late one autumn evening, two good friends sat on the deck behind the Lazy Turnip Inn. Below them slumbered the quiet farming town of Halfhill. The midnight air was cool to the skin. A thin misting fog had begun to coat the rolling green hills of the valley below with dew, and the spire of the Imperial Granary stood out as a dark shadow against the brilliant canvas of stars overhead.
An evening of good food and many hours smoking the native herbs had put the two friends in a contemplative mood.
Zhi – the younger and more tightly wound of the two companions – suddenly asked a very pointed question: “What if none of this is real?”

His old friend Ri, who until now had been leaning back with his hat over his eyes, lifted up the straw brim to peer at his friend. “A serious question?” he said, his brown eyes gleaming intently.
Zhi swept his arm over the horizon, indicating the whole of the valley. “What if we are just images, drawn into someone’s painting?” he asked. He touched the side of his face, gasping. “What if we are characters in a book!?”
Old Ri hugged his belly with both hands and bellowed a deep, contemplative laugh. He took the smoking pipe from his friend Zhi and set it aside.

“Behind the eyes sits a person’s soul,” Old Ri answered at last. “Their essence: the thinking, loving, emotional core of being. My soul makes me real, as does yours.”
And now Old Ri rose to stand beside his friend. He put his arm around Zhi’s shoulder and drew his attention to the valley below. “See there below us, to our right? The farmer’s market?” In the cool autumn darkness, the Halfhill Market was like an island of warm yellow light amongst the dark undulating hills. Colorful flags rippled in the chill breeze, and figures could be seen moving amongst the stalls, buying supplies or bartering the fruits of their labor. The sound of their voices and laughter, indistinguishable from one another but unmistakably alive, could be heard all the way to the inn.

“Those figures moving about, each of them has a soul,” Old Ri continued. “And together, we share this space. Millions of souls, sharing one place together. Our place! Halfhill is real, so long as you and I are here together to enjoy it.” Satisfied, Old Ri returned to his seat and motioned to the innkeeper for another drink.
Zhi lingered at the edge of the patio, resting his weight against the rough timber of a pillar. He breathed in the cool air, and watched fireflies dart amongst the waving starlit grasses of the fields below. “Ri,” he said at last. “Painting or no… if our souls are to share a place, I would share no other with you.”

Old Ri tipped his hat back over his eyes and answered with a warm rumble of agreement.
The sound of crickets mixed with the lively bustle of the market below lulled the two friends back into a blissful silence.

RIP “Hardrock,” I will miss you. You are, indeed, one in a million, and I am happy to have shared this place with you.

9 thoughts on “Loss of an Online Friend

  1. That was beautiful Doc. I am sorry for your loss, but I am also sorry for our loss. The collective loss in Kilrogg, and of the “real” world. Oddly, I have been meaning to sit down and read this book behind the Lazy Turnip for weeks. I see it almost every day, but I am always rushing off to some quest or queue or something. I did not know Hardrock nearly as well as you, but I do know that he will be missed, and I am sure he is happy that you remember him fondly, wherever he is out there. /hug.

  2. I am sorry to hear about your loss. I fully understand what it’s like to have these relationships. While I’ve found a few in other games, my 5 years spent in Azeroth can attest to the bonds that that game can truly culminate. I don’t play on Kilrogg, but Azeroth as a whole is emptier, and for that, I mourn. I hope you can take solace in knowing that he will be missed. I hope that your future is bright, with him in your memory.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. I too have been asked “How can you be friends with someone you haven’t even met?”. I have lost several friends over the years in my online community, one very special person I still miss hugely, and yet I had never met them “irl”, and they have left holes in my heart. Thanks you for sharing and for putting it so elequently

  4. I feel for you. There are people in my guild(s) I hope I know for the rest of my life. Sometimes I think it’s easier to share more deeply with on-line friends. My guildies probably know me better than my kids, my colleagues, or any boyfriend. I can only think of one real life friend I’m closer to.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, lost a friend from in-game. My friend Jason 3 years ago, February 18th, died suddenly in a car accident. It is a hard way to lose a friend… one that you ‘only’ knew in game. My SO and some of my friends did not understand why I was so upset about this… but ultimately our ‘game friends’ ARE real friends. Stay strong, remember your friend, and know that many in the community are thinking about you. My best to you, and be strong.

  6. Pingback: What Is Real? Thoughts On Gaming And Platonic Love

  7. Joe was an amazing person. vary out going and honorable. i met him about 4 years ago ( PUGs ) pfft ( hehe ) we use to do tank busting runs lol we would go in to random heroic runs all but a tank. and then evaluate how good it was compared to his frost worm. if i had to do more healing to the tank than wen we were 4 manning heroics with his pet , we would ask the tank why. then look up its gear and everything. then ask them to leave the one that stands out the most was the ret palli in healing pvp greens trying to tank..had to do 25k healing pr sec on him and pulled aggro trying to keep him up. /pop bear ( love druids ) /lol we would miss directing shot to the tank as many things as we could and all run away. lol we could 4 man most end game stuff using his frost worm and on my druid i could keep it up with hots doing only 12k healing pr sec. but that was just for kicks on a board night. he was a really great at wanting to get the guild doing something to be productive. sometimes pushing people out of there comfort zone to experience things to its fullest. oh and not to mention did anyone ever see the man fight in real life 0.0 4 degree black belt in 3 schools of martial arts. and he would apply the discipline he learned with that to how things could be overcome in game. to learn a way to ZERG ( kill bosses in less than 1/2 the time normally ) the bosses and set the raid on farm status. an Incredible shadow fell on my heart the day i learned of his passing. this was someone i would talk with on a daily basses about everything for 4 years. to say a void is missing in my friends list is week way if saying it, no Joe was my friend not my on line friend. my friend a brother i trusted saying things to that i would NEVER say to anyone ells. thank you Doc for the great post /pat back.. my heart goes to wicca and the kids. i feel crippled every time i think about the nothing but be as supportive from a distance as one can be. live life to the fullest you never know wen the master calls us home. my deepest condolences Ozric, Zarozanya, Hamashiach…

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