I’ve mentioned once or twice in the past that M and I play World of Warcraft (or WoW, as it’s commonly called). It’s an awesome game, something that has actually helped me grow in many ways, one of which is admittedly embracing my own geekiness. If you’re in the mood to find a totally addictive, time-consuming hobby, this is a good one.
One of the benefits of WoW is that it encourages social interaction among its players. There are many goals to be reached in the game that require teams to work together to accomplish. As a result, I have met many interesting people through the game. There are stories of people even meeting and marrying through the game. (Not that it’s that unusual; after all, M and I did meet online as well.)
Some people get to be real friends, even if you have never met them. It sounds geeky to have happened through an online game, but I suspect all of you can understand. I’d like to think many of you are friends as well, and I’ve never met you. Somehow you can get a better idea of who a person is when you get to know them online than you can in person sometimes.
Lately M and I have stumbled across a group of friends who know each other in real life. Several of them work together, and the others live close enough that they can get together for parties from time to time. M and I have become observers in the dramas of their lives and how they interact.
One of these new friends is a French guy. The first time I heard his voice (we often play with voice chat enabled with these friends), I had to laugh. He sounds exactly like Kermit the Frog with a French accent. Despite my initial reaction, however, I found myself liking him. He is a guy who has been through some real crap in the past but has come through it optimistic and good-natured. He is clearly a loyal friend who would do anything for those he calls friends.
I made a mental picture of him, of course, like I do about anybody I meet online; I’m too visual a person not to. I assumed he was of a medium height, kind of skinny, dark hair cut short, and probably with glasses because the odds are good anyone you meet through the game is a nerd. I could tell he was a little introverted from the way he interacts with his friends.
Well, a week or so ago, one of the other new friends we have made friended M on myspace. She of course has many of our new group of friends on her friends list as well. M and I spent some time browsing through them all to see how close their pictures matched the mental pictures we had of them.
Most of them were pretty similar to what I’d expected. The only one that wasn’t even close was the French guy. He was short, fat in an awkward way, with long, greasy hair. If I saw him on the street, I would run in the opposite direction, sure I had encountered a pedophile.
As soon as I saw the picture, I discovered why the others treat him the way they do, much the way you would humor a pet. They take advantage of him, and while they can be nice to him, they also tease him unmercilessly in rather cruel ways. And if any one of them is upset with another from the group, they take out their frustrations on French guy, like kicking the dog when you’re mad at the world.
Since then, I have realized I have a lesson to learn from this. I still like French guy. The guy I’ve gotten to know online is someone to respect, someone I would be proud to call friend. It does not matter what he looks like, even though I can’t get that awful picture out of my head. Of course it helps that I will likely never meet him in person, so I can continue with the first mental picture I had of him. But if I did ever meet him, I would make myself overlook his outward appearance and see only the kind man inside.
It’s a simple lesson–don’t judge a book by its cover–but it’s amazing how learning it firsthand can still take you by surprise.