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Friends I Make Online Are Still My Friends

You can make friends on the internet. And you can mourn when they are gone.
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

“Oh, at least it wasn’t someone you actually knew.”

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A friend of mine passed away last week on Wednesday. I found out on Friday, the day of his funeral, through Facebook. His name was Rich. I called him Widdow.

I met him online. And he was my friend. That shouldn’t have been so hard to understand.

The Game

Ever since I went through a year or two of late nights and low(ish) marks in high school due to too much Ragnarok Online, I had steered away from MMOs. I passed the World of Warcraft boom, wary of falling into that addiction pit and never being able to claw my way back out. 

Global Agenda blindsided me. The flagship first/third-person shooter MMO from Hi-Rez studios was just a blip on the radar. I had dabbled briefly in Hellgate: London with my boyfriend at the time, and the character models from GA were similar in many ways to those in HGL. When the game shut down, we jumped ship.

I wasn’t enthused at first. I got bored of it easily. The sign-in music played incessantly while I slept because neither me nor my boyfriend were interested in getting up and turning it off. And then… I met people. We started finding groups of people to play with. We were doing the same, repetitive things, but the familiarity was what made it possible to talk about other things while still keeping us involved in the current challenge.

That Global Agenda existed almost solely on the social aspect cannot be denied. From the first, the population was not huge. Oh, there were spikes, certainly when it went free to play, but on the whole, it was going downhill and it continued to go downhill. The game is still running. You can still play it. With the five other people online. 

But at the time, there were more of us, we were just a baby agency (guild), and there were bigger, better agencies out there. He was a decent, solid player. He could’ve gotten into plenty of them. But he joined mine, and he stuck with me ever since. I changed agencies, broke up with the boyfriend, changed agencies again, found other boyfriends, lost them too, changed agencies again, and probably again, but he was with me every time.

The Guy

It wasn’t simply because I was a girl on the internet and sounded cute on voice chat. He was always respectful with me, he treated me fairly, and he was always up for a game. We didn’t talk every day, we would go days and weeks without chatting, especially once we stopped playing the same game together. But we were the same people. He was one of the first people I trusted to add to my personal Facebook, and we were still interested in looking at many of the same games to try and play together. He was always good for a talk. 

I knew him when he was sick, and I knew him when he came to ask if there was anything more for him in Canada to help make him better. I made an honest attempt to find out whatever I could about ongoing cancer research in my country, but found nothing different for him. And I had no words for him when he sighed and gave up on that line of hope. I was just there, praying for a miracle, doing the same thing that any other person he knew away from keyboard was capable of doing.

Were we not friends?

How can someone ask me in honest confusion how I could be as upset as I was? “It’s not like you really knew him though, right? That would’ve actually been sad!” I heard several varations of this, many from people I know solely through the internet. 

That is bullshit.

We are human beings behind the computer screen. We can connect. We do things together, we talk, we play games together, and we enjoy each other’s company. There are plenty of people I have met only through the internet and through online games, and I am a better person for having known them.

No, I didn’t know every single detail about him. No, we never sat on the phone and chatted about dinner and drinks after work the next day. No, I’d never met him face to face.

I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. He was my friend. And he’s gone. And I miss him. 

Goodbye, Widdow. Rock on.

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Image of Stephanie Tang
Stephanie Tang
Avid PC gamer, long-time console lover. I enjoy shooting things in the face and am dangerously addicted to pretty. I'm also a cat.