The value of Friends
Posted by SERIAL GANKER [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 March 2010, 1:40 pm
Don’t worry, this isn’t another post about Facebook games. However, to properly tell the story it all started in Facebook. Despite all the MMO blogging posts to the contrary, the intended purpose of Facebook isn’t to setup a fake account with 1000s of false friends in order to play games like Farmville. The actual intended purpose of social networking sites like Facebook is to connect you with other people (and keep you connected).

As anyone who uses Facebook even semi-regularly can tell you, most of your “friends” tend to either be relatives or people you haven’t had a reason to speak with in years. And in 9 out of 10 cases, these are people you don’t really want to talk with on a regular basis and certainly not someone in your close network of friends.

I love my Mom, but I’m not going out for a beer with her. Stan, that guy I worked with 10 years ago, was a nice guy to talk to across the cubicle, but we didn’t hang out after work when I knew him then – so why would that change today? And so Facebook serves as idle chatter, much like our cubicle talk did, to keep us connected without actually having to commit any real valuable time to each other.

The people I care the most about, I’ll stay connected to with or without Facebook. My best real-life friend is a “friend” on Facebook, but he only checks it maybe once every 3 months. I can assure you that we talk more frequently than that in real-life. So, as a tool, Facebook is useful for staying connected to family and these loose relationships, but it’s not something I’m regularly using to keep connected to my close friends.

The rare find
But rarely, very rarely, there are people you DO care about and WOULD like to see in-person that seemingly drop off the face of the earth. Some life change happened to one or both of you (moved, got married, got divorced, had kids, graduated) that caused you to lose contact with a very dear friend.

Connecting with these people in Facebook are the “Epic Moments” of social networking. Most of it is just idle chatter, but every once and a while you make a rare find and reconnect with such a person.

A week or so ago, that’s exactly what happened. A very good friend of mine (and former roommate for four years) joined Facebook and sent me a friend request. We haven’t spoken or heard from each other in around six years. I had attempted to connect with him in the past, but he actually has a very generic “Joe Smith” type name. Turns out, he wasn’t on Facebook anyway. And without an email address or phone number, I questioned whether anything short of hiring a detective could have found him.

So the fact that we managed to connect and actually live within about 50 miles of each other is great news. I wasn’t the only one to fall out of touch with him, so a group of us have already made plans to get together for BBQ and beer later next month. Good times.

The MMO part of the story
A few days ago, after our joyous Facebook reunion, “Joe Smith” sent out a message to a bunch of the old boys he knew used to play pen-and-paper D&D with that we should all start playing an MMO together. The discussion went something like this:
Joe Smith: Hey guys, anyone want to play WoW? We should get a gaming group together and kinda play together as we go. Anyone already playing or interested?

Sid67: ... (sigh)

Joe Smith: I’m up for WoW, but if you guys don’t want to play that, we can try something else like DDO. It’s free for the most part.

Sid67: ... (he must not have read any of my posts about F2P)

Joe Smith: Or Allods. I’ve been looking at this list of reviews and saw some stuff from gPotato. Seems like some stuff is expensive, but it looks like it’s free.

Sid67: ... (he really must not read this blog)

Joe Smith: I just figure it might be better than a subscription game if someone only wants to play just a couple of times a month.

Sid67: DDO and Allods are not really free. They design it so that you’ll want to spend money. Especially if you don’t play much and need to catch up quickly.

Other Buddy: much would it cost for DDO really? Don’t be cheap.

Sid67: ... (ah yes, I forgot about the rich guy with no free time)

Joe Smith: Well, I’m up for anything. My only condition is that it needs to be Kid Appropriate.

Sid67: ... (sigh, I guess Darkfall is out)

Joe Smith: We could try Guild Wars. That’s like $20 for life.

Sid67: ... (aaaaaaaaargh!)
So I’m not sure on the best course of action. All things being equal, I’d much rather play a game with real life friends. In fairness, I don’t know enough about GW to give it the thumbs down but from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t sound like a game I would be interested in playing much.

It really raises an interesting dilemma. Despite my opinions on Microtransactions, would I be willing to play a F2P game if that’s what my friends were playing? Allods, not a chance. GW and DDO – I don’t know. Maybe.

Conspicuously silent on the subject is my buddy who has been playing EVE. He’s actually on the thread, just didn’t add his opinion.

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