The word 'friend' has changed a lot with the advent of the internet and social media. Before Facebook came along a friend was someone you knew quite well, often for a long while, and was someone you could depend on to be there for you. Other persons you knew were acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors and such. But I suppose that to 'friend' someone sounds better than to 'acquaintance' someone, doesn’t it?
I have made many online 'friends' myself with most, if not all, from RuneScape. Several hundred of the acquaintance type, but many who by now even fit the old fashioned meaning of friends: real friends. When I recently got married several of them came to wish us well in person, while many more sent such heartfelt wishes. It brought tears to our eyes. And still, it is weird to know that many people I consider real friends live too far away to be able to visit. The internet and RuneScape with it have made the world a lot smaller, but the distance between friends—at least physically, larger.
We have, together with Jagex, built quite a society that means a lot to all of us. I have said before: the game itself is not the reason for it anymore, the people are. For many thousands of people this society is their home as much as their village, city or country is. It has become a place where we found friends who made our lives a lot richer.
Another great thing about it is that on RuneScape, and certainly in my clan, people of all religions, nationalities and backgrounds, and even all ages, come together and learn that they are more the same than different. Some groups traditionally at odds, because of religions or nationalities with real life strife between them, come together and care more about what clan the other person is—or if they follow Zaros or Saradomin.
But sadly, besides the big physical distances, there are other limitations to relying on technology for meeting others. It made me think of some friends I lost without knowing how and why. Sometimes on RuneScape people literally disappear. One of them was very ill and maybe the worst happened, but really... I don't know, with the others I have no idea whatsoever.
Now, bear with me while I take a little detour. Many of you will be pet owners, and especially if they are cats, will have had one disappear forever. When cats get hurt or are ill they tend to hide and die. It somehow hurts more and longer than knowing what happened, at least for me. Of course there also is the hope the cat might return, miracles like that are not unheard of.
This is where we get back to RuneScape. Some of the people I lost sight of many years ago I still remember very well, and hope they will one day return, if only to say “hi.” It’s different with those who moved on, we all know many people 'get a life', grow up, and a job or a family becomes more important. They play less and less, but also most times tell us about it and often still pop in for a chat. That's okay, it’s natural. Disappearing friends are not.
In my experience this happens much more in the virtual world than the real one, but it’s not even the worst part about relying on pixels.
Have you ever wondered how long this world we call home, RuneScape, Gielinor, the servers of Jagex, will remain? Someday it will end... Doomsday, apocalypse, or in the case of Jagex: bankruptcy?
What will become of us then? Is there life after the apocalypse?
How many of our fellow players will we still talk to by other means?
That, my friends, acquaintances, and readers, I hope I won't find out for a long, long time to come, but it might be something to think about while I try and get more of my pixel-pals to add me on Skype, join our off-site forums and share email-addresses. (*)
This article is dedicated to Ravenshope and Hag the Cook.
(*) In no way do I admit breaking Jagex rules nor do I advise anyone to pressure others into giving private information, I am instead making a point for the purpose of this article.