Dating sites are always looking for a method of matching people up with dates they'll actually like in real life. But World of Warcraft may already have found it.
Stephanie Rosenbloom of the Times profiles couples who met in the game, and her piece reveals a number of reasons why playing WoW might be even more effective than messaging people on Match. These include:
When players aren't battling monsters, their avatars are exploring fantastical landscapes (lush jungles, snowy forests, misty beaches), where they can meet and gab via the game's instant message feature, or through voice communication software.
And so Ms. Langman and Mr. Bentley found a quiet spot for their avatars to sit. Hours evaporated as they discussed everything from their families to their futures. Sometime before dawn, Ms. Langman realized that while she was in the fictional world of Azeroth, she was also on a date.
Virtual communication has its risks — most notably, people can conceal things about themselves that might become obvious in a physical meeting. But talking together under a virtual tree does give people an opportunity to get to know each other before they ever meet in person — and before they ever put themselves in danger of physical violence. It's not foolproof — daters still face risk when they do meet in person. But taking the early stages of dating online could make these early stages, at least, a lot safer.
Rosenbloom writes about gamer Hannah Romero's first declaration of love for her now-husband:
Speaking of emotions, the first time she let Dreadmex know she loved him, she did so in the game, and then swiftly logged off. "You can say ‘I love you' and then run away," Ms. Romero said. "That moment - ‘Should I tell somebody I love them?' - it's a big deal, right? So to be able to say it and then to disappear is pretty great."
Other gamers have echoed that sentiment, saying that typing their feelings or flirtations is less awkward than saying them aloud. That can lead to more-honest conversations, and fewer misunderstandings. It's why many players believe that they come to know each other faster and better than, say, people who meet over a few dates.
Online interaction isn't for everybody — some people prefer to get to know someone in-person as quickly as possible. But for some people, getting to know each other virtually can take the edge off those often stressful early conversations. I've advocated for swift in-person meetings in the past, but I also use IM as my primary method of communication with my best friend, and I know it's too simplistic to say that online conversations are less "real" than offline ones.
One problem with the chat and message functions on online dating sites is that there's not always that much to talk about. Sure, you can discuss each other's profiles, but after that, you don't really have the outside stimulation of an outing or shared experience to keep the conversation going. Contrast that with this:
"There's something magical about falling in love with someone just through writing and then waiting for a reply," said Ms. Langman, for whom Mr. Bentley once stormed a castle.
Emphasis mine. Situations of peril can be romantic, even when simulated, and it's no surprise that some people fall in love after performing acts of derring-do for one another in Warcraft. Compared with your typical dinner date, storming a castle is pretty impressive. Of course, there's the danger that real life won't live up to the excitement of the game. But gamers seem able to keep the two realms separate. Says Hannah Romero,
The reality is we're not magic. We don't live in a game. We live in a real life. The dishes still need to get done.
Like any method of courtship, dating via Warcraft has its downsides. All the same, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the major dating sites introduces a role-playing game sometime soon. Just as online dating has lost much of its stigma, online gaming is coming into its own as a legitimate pastime where people can not only storm castles and pitch battles, but also talk, get to know each other, and even find love.
It's Love At First Kill [NYT]