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Holy Matrimony : Let's get married

25. February, 2012Tags: MMO Blog

One of the strangest things to me is getting married online. I understand online dating – long distance relationships are hard, but workable – and to a certain extent I understand getting close enough to somebody in an MMO that I would want to deepen that relationship somehow. Marriage doesn’t seem the most obvious way of expressing that: perhaps it’s just that it’s such a strange thing to do over such a long distance, perhaps I’m missing the point entirely, but when I read that a game is adding a marriage service and that its users are actually quite excited about the fact, it makes me truly ask why. God knows what the internet-inept think from their Facebook-free domain.



Hey mom, I got married in a game

I’d be tempted to say it’s all down to playing a part – the games that offer this feature are definitely role playing games, you’re unlikely to get too many gifts from telling your family you got married in Crystal Saga – but that hardly ever happens these days: people don’t tend to role play like they did, at least not in the games I tend to play. They may have an avatar shaped like a cat or of the opposite gender with hardly any clothes on, but they are acting like exactly who they are, chatting about music on their iPods, the latest TV and the best movies. So what are the advantages to marrying online and what on earth are your parents likely to say?

Advantages tend to vary from game to game. You usually need to have a pretty high level, you need to have not caused too much trouble and you need to have found somebody who will be willing to marry you – it’s easier than in real life, I promise. Sometimes your names will be broadcast across the server so that “everybody can share in your happy moment,” all the way to sharing items or easier access to one another (private chats and the like). The disadvantages tend to be knock-on effects of this virtual marriage on your real life, take for instance if your actual partner suddenly discovers you’re married to another person and don’t get that you only did it as an “ironic joke.”

Dirty messages, oopps.

I’m sure we’ve all heard more than one story in which a girlfriend or boyfriend has accidentally logged into the wrong World of Warcraft account and suddenly come across dirty messages or private talk that they were never meant to see. The couple inevitably breaks up, the friendship ends and all that’s left is a few instant messages or dungeon runs with somebody you’ve never met. Sometimes that comes to a happy ending, thousands of people have met online and have lived happily ever after despite incredulity from friends and family. More often than not the whole thing ends in tears.

Interestingly enough, while researching this topic, I came across quite a comprehensive survey from a couple of years ago asking about MMO dating (and marriage) habits. It’s online, presumably anonymous and so should probably be taken with a pinch of salt, especially considering that there is such a female-heavy group of people answering. In fact, of the 46 participants, nearly three quarters were female; it probably says more about the people reading that particular blog than about the habits of people who get into online relationships (because the numbers just don’t add up, either that or there really are three women to every man).

Survey results are interesting

80% of people who answered the survey are between the ages of 20 and 35, a very surprising figure in my eyes. My presumption would be that younger people, perhaps not allowed to socialize in person all that much, would be the sort to take part in an online marriage/MMO relationship. As it happens, perhaps jobs and responsibilities (and MMOs) get in the way of meeting people in real life. The most staggering thing, of course, is that these people could potentially move half way across the world if they wanted to, they don’t need to answer to parents and aren’t in school. The survey said that some 44% of people never met, but that if they did meet the majority did it within six months.

It doesn't stay stuck in a virtual world

These relationships very rarely stay stuck in a fantasy realm, with social media taking over within as little as a month for 40% of those surveyed. Others used email, Skype, the phone and webcam. Talking about the phone and webcam, 65% openly admitted to phone sex/cyber sex. It’s a little creepy to think, but it definitely explains why nobody ever talks to me in World of Warcraft. Sticking on this subject, 50% of people who met felt they knew each other well enough to have sex on the first date. A whopping 85% consider their relationship to be successful and nearly 35% had to move to a different country or state to pursue the relationship.

75% of the people who found their partner in an MMO and settled down to live happily ever still have both members of the relationship playing the same MMO. 63% met in World of Warcraft.
It’s a blog about a happy relationship gained from an MMO, so it’s probably not the most unbiased of surveys, the people returning the questionnaire probably have a vested interest in hearing stories that are like their own. That’s not to say that it can be completely ignored, there are definitely some interesting statistics in there that probably do apply to the marrying world as a whole, not just online. As the internet becomes more life-consuming - as if it wasn’t already – it’ll be interesting to see how the dating scene evolves further. Remember Friends Reunited and the stir that that caused? Then Facebook came onto the scene and it’s not unusual to hear similar stories of old couples getting back together after 20-25 years of forgetting about one another’s existence.

Not understanding why people would marry online, not really understanding the allure of an MMO relationship, I came into this incredulous. How can a relationship survive without the little ups and downs that make human interaction the rollercoaster that it is? In an idealized, well thought out world, meeting the perfect partner is as easy as coming across somebody who can type fast and knows how not to offend, but it might not be real.

On the flip side of that, how is it any less real than meeting somebody in a nightclub, your eyes meeting across a puddle of sick and then a drunken grope in the alley outside? Is somebody who has got to know somebody over several months on the internet doomed to an unhappy life while somebody who rushes into living with a partner, perhaps has children before they’re ready any happier? In the end, it’s only fair that two people who love each other are given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this sort of thing and nobody but the couple in question has any right to criticize them for the way they’ve met, nor the way they live their lives; at least, not if it really does result in a happily ever after.

What do you think?

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