|andurus and branwen in final fantasy xi|
so. post number 42. i actually hoped and hoped that when i went through my daily news sites this morning that i would find something that related to hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, the answer to life, the universe and everything, or even some sort of suggestion not to panic or recommendation that i keep a towel handy. hell i would have even settled for something on mos def, but alas, i found none. maybe once i DO find something like that i’ll renumber all of my posts to make it line up. we’ll see. in the meantime this story will have to do as my attempt to entertain you monkeys. it’s a story about technology bringing people together and tearing them apart. love blooming where it may seem impossible. a torrid tale about two star-crossed lovers finding each other… and their avatars.
yes, avatars. as in the onlines. and the interwebs. this whole story takes place in the virtual realms of final fantasy XI online, an MMO (massively multiplayer online) game based in the final fantasy universe. in it, as is the case in most MMO’s, players can create their own characters and specify their attributes – including race, gender and class. you can play as anything from a heavily armored berserking beast of a warrior that takes care of things up close and personal to a intellectual giant – a robe-clad magic caster who deals with their enemies from afar and many shades in between. this is the backdrop for the story of paul turner and vicky teather of the UK, or as they’re known in avatar form, andurus the hume and branwen the tarutaru. after playing together for while, they became friends and grew close, until andurus (paul) had a job change and had to cut his daily 4-5 hour final fantasy intake from his schedule. branwen (vicky) always had a crush on him, but didn’t realize to what extent until he left. living with her boyfriend at the time, her conscience was wracked with guilt and she couldn’t suppress how she felt about her hume friend. according to an interview with the london daily mail – “… i couldn’t help but feel guilty as i was living with my partner. at first i tried to forget my feelings.” she went on to say “but i couldn’t. fortunately, i had paul’s MSN address and nervously sent a message to him telling him how much i missed him and confessing my feelings.” paul, who also had a serious girlfriend at the time, suggested that they meet up in southampton on christmas eve. so they did. and the rest is history. she broke up with her boyfriend, he dumped his girlfriend, and by new years day they were an item, visiting each other on weekends and continuing their “date nights” in virtual space, until the power vested in someone by something somewhere pronounced them mr. and mrs. turner.
so how did this attraction even begin? according to mrs. turner, “one day, when as andurus he endangered his own character in the game to save me, i felt an incredible bond between us. it might sound strange to people who have never played an online game, but the fact he was a traditional man with values to match and was protecting me was what first drew me to him.” and i guess i can understand that on some level. but lets face it, according to this logic, anyone playing the MMO role of a “tank” (a character that absorbs and takes damage to defend their party) should be able to instantly attract the affections of anyone else they happen to be tanking for. and if they can’t defend a clothie, then they’re really not doing their job, are they? they better be picking up those mobs and keeping them healers alive. could this just have been a player fulfilling their class role? and if they endanger their own character and “die,” they are resurrected within minutes. unless this was in the old diablo II hardcore ladders, in which case that kind of action would be far more moving. back when a dead character was a dead character.
…but i digress.
|the turners’ nuptials|
anyway, as i said i do understand it on some level. i do have a few friends that i know only through playing world of warcraft. a friend of a friend of a friend of mine had as his best man someone he’s only met once in real life, but had been playing halo with for 6 years. and in that sense, MMO’s, as well as other online gaming, have brought about what i would call serious sociological shifts in the way people interact. it can already be seen that people will interact in these virtual worlds more or less the same way they would in real life, with slight situational modifiers (one of my friends wrote a masters thesis on identity and communication in virtual worlds – an excellent read, let me know if you want me to hook you up). it’s an interesting evolution from just chatting online to actually doing something while talking and having fun. some quests and objectives in these games force you to interact with others. for example a couple of nights ago i was playing with 24 complete strangers in one of warcraft’s raid encounters. anyone has spent significant time with a geek in their life can attest that social interaction is a subject foreign and feared by most of us, and for some people, this forced social bonding over a common goal might be all the social interaction they have. romantic couplings between people who may or may not be socially well adjusted are the next logical step. i can understand how it can be almost be like an e-harmony or something similar, but for geeks, to get to know someone and figure out whether or not you really want to meet in real life. the turners weren’t the first couple to meet and marry this way. a couple of years ago, again in the UK, a chance meeting in second life led to the marriage of kristen birkin and steve sweet. and we can expect this trend to continue. according to social psychologist dr. arthur cassidy, “cyber-dating” is becoming more common and actually a preferred method for young professionals these days. as many professionals put in increasingly long hours at their jobs, they have less time for socializing. so in addition to online dating, some people are logging into fantasy worlds just to meet people (on this subject, for a real social adventure log onto a “role playing” server on warcraft to see some… interesting stuff). “intelligent people like the control they have over their character. you are not revealing your whole self straight away and if you don’t want to talk to someone any more, it is easy just to click out of the fantasy world.” true words, doc. true.