My Girlfriend is a Blood Elf: Social Architecture within MMO Worlds

Bitmob writes:

"Johnny lives with me in Ontario, and Courtney lives in Wellington, New Zealand. The two have never met in real life, yet they treat their relationship with admirable maturity. They speak daily with one another, and they often employ the use of webcams and microphones to communicate. Courtney has even been introduced to Johnny's parents, who, surprisingly, really like her!

Terms like "love" and "adoration" often spring up when I discuss the topic with Johnny. The prospect of meeting each other in real life isn't necessarily a pressing matter. Instead, the two enjoy the company of one another -- the relationship is based on more than mere physical attraction, and it seems like they really care for one another.

Removing the obvious physical barrier, it seems like the two are part of a healthy, productive relationship. So why was I so shocked? We read more and more about the misadventures of online couples. Is there anything to it? Is the relationship between my friend Johnny and his "girlfriend," Courtney, valid in any sense? How do people meet, fall in love, and befriend one another in a strictly-controlled, rigidly-designed virtual world?"

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