The Virtual in Reality
A younger cousin died suddenly, and young. I discovered he had been part of an online community, no he had formed and fostered this community of lovers of a certain digital game. There were several thousand in this online community and he was the central hubmaster of it all. I was astonished. We hardly ever met, except the usual funerals, and very occasional other event where distant family cross each other’s paths.
He spent his days working in a boring key cutting job, and had very little social life. But every evening he buzzed away in his mother’s box room gaming and building a community and interacting with like minds.
Of course, the whole online community did not appear at his funeral, but enough of them did to carry his coffin and form a guard of honour. And a few read a few wisely selected tributes that came in from his virtually connected friends. They were touching and meaningful, not at all what some would expect from a bunch of young lads (most in their twenties) apparently mad about gaming.
I cannot recall the exact words, read by some from scribbled scraps of paper, by others from tablets or smartphones, but they were all real. That’s what struck everyone in the assembly of multiple generations. These kids had never met in the flesh and blood kind of way but they had connected with one another, and my cousin would be sorely missed, in fact there was going to be a big hole in their online community. A genuine void to fill, just as there would be in his mother’s house and heart.
The fact is an online community built around a virtual world is very real indeed.