No matter which game you play, eventually someone suggests meeting offline. Whether it’s amongst a clique within the game or open to all players, meets might be limited to those living in a specific geographic location or a gathering of players from all over the world! So what is it that makes people want to step outside the fantasy realm and meet others who are -- pun intended -- virtual strangers? It’s actually not one thing that makes people want to do this, but could be one of several different reasons.
- Meet New People ~ Making new friends in real time is the primary reason people attend meets. Even those who are shy rest assured that everyone present has one thing in common -- their game! It’s one thing to read someone’s forum posts, see their picture on a members board, or even Skype with them. Meeting face to face is a different experience entirely! Every meet I’ve ever attended starts the same. People are polite, even demure. But once the ice is broken -- usually with a joke aimed at a popular target, like dwarves or trolls -- the mood lightens and the real fun begins.
- Building Friendships ~ Some people go to meets to build friendships based on a strong online foundation. Imagine my surprise when one of my guildmates revealed that in real life, she went to a wine tasting at a winery less than an hour from my house. It turned out that she lives very close to me! We met for lunch and then went shoe shopping. Unlike shopping with other friends, that day I didn’t have to hold back comments related to our favorite Iron Realms games. Snarky remarks about which pumps might look best on the God of All Dwarves didn’t seem weird or out of place at all in the Kate Spade outlet. It was so much fun that we’ve already planned a second outing!
- Deepen Relationships ~ For two people who find romance in a roleplay situation and later take their relationship offline, meets are often a safe way to have a face to face introduction. Not to mention, it lacks some of the risks involved with Internet dating. One friend of mine booked a flight to visit me so we could both attend a meet close to my house -- and because her virtual spouse was among the attendees! She was completely smitten after talking with him on the phone, but hesitated when he proposed a weekend together. Hooking up at the meet was a great compromise that let them spend time getting to know one another without being completely alone. Another pair of friends were sworn enemies in the game. However, it was love at first sight when they arrived at the meet! Over an afternoon of of bowling and pub crawling, their playful banter forged a real bond.
No matter what the reason, meeting MMO friends IRL often provides real insight into your virtual realm of choice -- especially if someone administrative attends! After the meet, enjoy inside jokes of things that happened at the meet with your fellow attendees, even several years later. The main point to remember is, regardless of the characters in the game that you like or dislike, remember that the person behind them is likely someone very different. Give them a chance, because if you don’t you could be missing out on an opportunity to have fun with some new friends!
If you've been to a meet or met online friends in real life, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section. Thanks for reading!