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The Guild Counsel: Till death do us part?

Karen Bryan

Yes, sometimes being part of a guild feels like being in a marriage -- there's lots of commitment, lots of responsibility, and all too often, lots of arguing and fighting. But this week, we're actually going to look at the issue of online romance and online relationships in MMOs. As games and communities increase in number, more and more players are developing lasting relationships, and some of those have even led to marriage.

Since the Valentine's Day roses are still fresh and there are still a few chocolates left in the heart-shaped box, this week's Guild Counsel will look at a few dos and don'ts of online romance. Joining me this week is Arithion, host of the Rift Podcast. She met her husband in game, and they've been married for four years. She'll share some valuable advice on what to do if you think you've found that special someone.

"I've met someone special, and I'd like to pursue a more serious relationship. What should I do?"

Arithion: First, off, talk to the person through means other than typing. I talked to my husband on Ventrilo for about four months before I decided to fly over to meet him. I think it's important that we talked both in-game and on Vent. Overall, we probably talked to each other at least eight hours a day, and more on weekends. You need to know the person as well as you possibly can. In voice chat, people can't hide nasty inflections or impatience. But through type, anyone can sound like Romeo.

Karen: When you hear stories of successful online relationships, the thing that stands out is that it seems to happen naturally. You can't see the other person, but that actually seems to allow you to learn much more about the person, because that's the only way you can paint a picture of him or her in your mind. Of course, that means putting a lot of trust into the person, since you have to hope you're getting an accurate picture of who he or she really is. If you dive into an MMO thinking it's a free version of eHarmony, you're probably bound for heartbreak and letdowns. But if you're gaming and you find yourself hanging out with the same person over and over, it might be a sign that you have more in common than just killing orcs.

"I'm currently in an online relationship, and things seem to be clicking. Are there certain signs that help me know that this might be 'the one'?"

Arithion: If you have things in common but not everything, or if he makes you laugh and you genuinely look forward to logging in to talk to him, those are good signs. If you try to introduce her to your parents over webcam or over Ventrilo, or if you start thinking of her like she's there and not 8,000 miles away, you just might hit it off. You really won't know until you meet the person, though. Until then, it's mostly "could be."

Karen: Ari makes a great point about having things in common but not everything. If you're in a serious online relationship, you don't have the luxury of seeing someone's everyday routine. You have to work harder to explore what interests you share and what things you enjoy outside of gaming. Even more important, though, is making an effort to find out what differences you might have. It's a lot more fun to revel in the things you have in common, but neglecting to explore the other side might lead to problems down the road, especially when you meet face to face.

"How can I cope with the frustrations of a long distance relationship?"

Arithion: We used to watch movies together on the webcam. We'd both hit play at the same time and watch while we could see each other. It was a little silly, but it gave us together time that wasn't just chatting or playing a game.

Karen: As Ari said, any ideas on things you can do together outside of game are great ways to stay close and pass the time before the next visit. A quick photo of you, even if it's a pic of you doing something mundane, helps remind the person that you're thinking of him or her, even though you're apart. And of course, guildmates can also help take someone's mind off of the distance. There's nothing like rallying together to kill a dragon to pass the time!

"How long should I see someone before popping the question?"

Arithion: For us it was a year, but of course it's different for everyone. You have to have a lot of faith in each other, and you have to really feel it. If you don't, the distance will drive you mad.

Karen: As with normal relationships, it's impossible to put a timetable on it. But I'd advise on going even slower with an online relationship, because it takes a lot longer to get to know someone online than it does face to face. The nice thing is that you get to know a person in stages -- first through text, then voice, then face to face. But that requires a lot more patience and creates some frustration along the way.

"What about the logistics that come with marriage and a long-distance relationship? How do we decide which person should move?"

Arithion: My husband owned his own house and had his own family business, while I had just moved back from Germany and was staying with my parents. Plus, it was actually easier to get the USA Fiance visa, so it made sense for me to give up the beaches of Australia and move to Kansas.

Karen: As with normal relationships, I think the usual factors come into play. As Ari said, convenience and what will mutually benefit both are probably key in making that decision. Family is also a factor, and that might even mean choosing a completely new spot to settle down.

"Are online relationships generally a good thing for a guild, or are they dangerous? What role does a guild leader have when it comes to online romance?"

Ari: Sometimes, couples refuse to play without each other, and often, one of them sucks and drags the guild down. That can definitely be a danger. The guild leader has no role to interfere -- I wouldn't listen to him if he tried. But guild leaders do have a responsibility to the guild to make sure it still succeeds in its goals. So if you have a guy who is the best Rogue DPS and his partner is the worst healer you've ever seen, and they declare themselves to be a package deal, a guild leader shouldn't have to take them on if it means holding the guild back. The guild leader owes a responsibility to his guild not to be blackmailed.

Karen: I've seen some successful online romances and others that fell apart. Of course, guild members are rooting for things to work out, and when two players share the news that they're getting married, it's just as exciting as hearing about it in real life. When things don't work out, the guild tends to become a support network for the two players, and while that can lead to a guild splintering into two separate camps, it doesn't always end up that way. More often than not, when a relationship doesn't work out, I've seen the guild actually play a positive role in smoothing out hurt feelings. I've always been surprised when I see players who break up continue to stay tagged together and even continue to play together. I have to think that's in large part because of their ties to the guild.

As for the role a guild leader has in an online relationship: I stay hands-off. The only time I'd get involved is when a member is perhaps a little too aggressive in pursuing a romance with another guildmate. I was actually in a guild where we saw the extreme -- a male member was so aggressive towards several women in guild that it bordered on harassment. Suffice it to say, when the women came forward about what was happening, he was immediately removed, and we got the word out to other guilds to warn them.

I want to thank Ari for her stories and insight. Next week, we'll continue the discussion with a look at the good and bad that comes with spouses in guilds. If you have any stories or questions you'd like to send in, please email them to In the meantime, pass the chocolates!

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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