There has been extensive research into the subject of virtual communities due to the rise of MMO’s as of late. I think it’s a fascinating subject. This nicknamed “3rd space” has become a really important social factor of some of us in society.
There are three main types of relationships in an average person’s life. You have your family- blood relatives and lovers. Then you have your circle of close friends, some of may also fit into the family category if you’re particularly close. Then you have the outer community, a place where you are accepted but it specifically separate from the other two groups. This could be anything from school, a workplace, a religious group such as a church, a sports club, anywhere that is not your home but a place where a community gathers. Virtual communities have slowly become part of this category too. See back in the day, humans were a lot friendlier to each other. If you’re from a small town you’ll know what I mean- everyone knows everyone, you’re all friendly and there’s always someone to visit or something to do. Yet in our new paranoid society where we are mistrustful of strangers and staying inside our tiny houses all too much we have cut ourselves off a little from this feeling of community. So MMO’s become a harmonious society for a lot of us.
Being in a guild is pretty cool. You instantly have a helping hand, a friend, a leader, someone there next to you no matter what. Because you are in this defined group, you create tightly knitted relationships because you’re all part of this wolf pack structure. It’s amazing. I remember my first ever guild in Warcraft was the Stormwind Guard. A group of roleplayers vowing to uphold the law and act out elaborate criminal vs. authority slam downs. It was glorious in its day but I moved on. IT got me through my teenage years though. I had barely any friends, ill health and a generally miserable attitude on life. I could log in every night and people would greet me warmly. I am still close friends with a handful of people I met there and I’ll never forget what they gave me. Faith that I wasn’t odd- a place I belonged. Friendship, laughter, life lessons. I cried, I laughed and I grew up with these people. They were my world for a long time.
My parents at the time weren’t all impressed at the amount of time I was spending online but I think there’s a general misconception about these communities. I could be whoever I wanted; no one knew anything about me and I was completely free there. It’s not just escapism; it’s getting back that feeling of being a part of something. We are a community of people who care about each other, share the same interests. For nerds who don’t seem to fit into the world’s status quo, we finally found our place.
Ah I’m emotional now! Just thinking back to the old Warcraft days makes me super nostalgic. I miss them a lot. I have a great guild on Swtor, don’t get me wrong but there was a wonder about WoW I’ll never get again. I had so many people I knew, so many role-play plots, so much to do. The guard I was in was so closely knit. We shared our lives together, spent endless nights adventuring. It’s like a fairy tale and I miss the freedom I once had. I’ll never forget those people. I’ll never forget how they kept me going through the day, knowing there was something warm to come home to.
Do you have a community online you couldn’t live without? Let me know on twitter and tumblr @gee4arika.