Role-players find friendship and romance through online games

Internet role-players are Ever Questing for intrigue, romance and cyber-marriage in the game of love, 21st-century style. But can these real-time Romeos actually seduce a screen name?

The online fantasy game EverQuest – where players kill monsters and complete quests – can lead to real-life relationships, some students say.

The Sony-produced game is the most well-known of the genre of “massively multiplayer online role-playing games” – or games that allow people to play online with thousands of other people worldwide.

“EverQuest is a game that relies heavily on interaction with other players,” said Timothy McKee, an EverQuest player who lives in San Diego.

Because of the camaraderie and teamwork the game requires, the players can make serious connections despite never having met in person, players said.

University sophomore David Christianson played EverQuest for two years before quitting, but said he still has friends from the experience.

“(With the game) you can either always search for random people, or you can form a group of friends and keep track of them,” Christianson said.

Christianson said the game’s difficulty makes it easier to play with groups of people, who work together and share rewards.

After playing with the same person several times you understand that person’s strengths and weaknesses, which makes playing with them more fun, Christianson said.

Davin Shokes, a University sophomore and former EverQuest player, said the people you meet online can easily become real-life friends.

“You’ll meet people online, then you’ll exchange phone numbers,” Shokes said. “You’ll talk about the game, then soon you’ll be talking about other things.”

McKee said he stayed in touch with people he met playing EverQuest via e-mail, phone and instant messaging.

“(Relationships) definitely don’t constrain themselves to the game,” McKee said.

For others, these online friendships are taken one step further.

“Getting ‘married’ in game is something special that people do,” said McKee, who was married on EverQuest. “It shows a connection, but to me it doesn’t have any significance in the real world.”

McKee said he knew the woman in real life and never thought of her as anything but a friend. However, he said for some people, “marriage” could represent a real romantic connection.

Christianson was also involved in McKee’s wedding ceremony – in which one of McKee’s friends was also married.

“My character was a cleric, or priest in EverQuest Ö so (McKee) asked me to be the ‘pastor’ for the wedding,” Christianson said. “I spent an hour trying to prepare a ceremony, because I was just a first- year student and hadn’t been to many weddings.”

After the ceremony, the brides and grooms had their online names changed by a server administrator to make the union complete.

The newlywed gamers even took a honeymoon by traveling to a previously unvisited game area and fighting monsters.

But both Noah Owings, a University student and former EverQuest player, said he knew people who met online and later had a romantic relationship in real life.

But Owings agreed most people do not take online marriages seriously.

“They aren’t what the creators of the game intended, but I think it does make the game better,” Owings said. “It brings the online relationship to a new level, makes the game more realistic.”

But Shokes said real-life issues cannot be ignored online.

“Some people can’t understand that it’s just a game, just role playing,” Shokes said. “So you give them your phone number and they turn into a stalker.”