We'll always be friends
I was weeding through my Steam friends list the other night, looking to remove some of the people that I never see online or playing games anymore. As I scrolled through, I noticed that there were several folks on my list that hadn't signed on for one-hundred days or more. By default, Steam starts itself upon boot, with the option to automatically log yourself in as well.
It made me wonder why these people that I had played with every day or two hadn't so much as even started up the program in such a long time. After all, I don't just send or accept friend requests on a whim. I've only ever add people that I've played with a multitude of times and have spoken to directly via voice-chat or text in-game on a regular basis.
With my curiosity piqued, I started checking their profile pages to see if I could find some clues. Many of them were just the same as they were when I had added them as friends, with no useful information as to why they were MIA. One profile had a lone comment from another user simply asking: "Where'd you go, man?"
I wasn't alone in this search. Finally, I came to the one person on my list that had been offline the longest. His profile always had quite a few random comments, but the most recent ones took me by surprise. They were from users that bore the same clan tag in their nicknames that he did, and they said things such as: "I miss playing with you" and "Rest in Peace, buddy". Last Online: 266 days ago.
I had heard through mutual friends that something had happened with this particular fellow many months back, but information was vague at best. After all, we don't usually delve into our personal lives while trying to stay alive and capture control points. I thought nothing of it at the time, really.
Then, just like that, I discover that this nameless person that I had talked to and played with countless evenings passed away nearly a year ago without a word. Someone I had spent hours upon hours laughing and having fun with was gone in an instant, and he wasn't coming back.
I imagine the last thing that we said to each other over voice-chat was probably "good games, later fellas" or "I'm out, see you guys tomorrow". I have no idea who he really was or even his real name, but I felt a sudden sadness wash over me while I sat there staring at his community profile page. Not like the generic empathy you feel when you see that some random person dies on the local news, but a sadness like losing a family member that you really enjoyed the company of, but didn't get to see very often.
Some people probably think it's silly considering someone you've never met in-person to be a best friend, and I think those people are missing out on something truly special. I've played in the same online community for several years now, on the same set of servers, and generally with the same group of people for the majority of that time.
I've added them to my Facebook, put a name and a face to their nicknames, and become good "real" friends with them. I consider everyone on my list a good friend, even if I don't know their names, what they look like, or even what they do for a living.
Regardless, finding out about something bad happening to any of them is genuinely disheartening. The depth and intimacy that these online camaraderies can achieve over time is really something else.
In the end, I suppose that the point of my rambling here is to simply say that life is something that we take for granted sometimes. You or anyone you know, be they in-person or just online, can be here one second and then gone the next without a trace. It's because of this that I tend to live every day like it might be my last, because who knows, maybe it will be. I try not to worry too much about the future, death, and whatever else; I just enjoy the ride.
Most of all, I look forward to seeing those little notifications that a friend has started playing a game to pop up on my desktop, because I greatly value any and all of the time I get to spend with them. And as for the fellow on my list that won't be coming back online again? I'll keep him on there. I'll keep him on there forever, because even if he's not around anymore, we'll always be friends.
IT Specialist by day, devout gamer by night, Don Straight grew up with a Commodore 64 in one hand and an Atari 2600 joystick in the other and hasn't let go of either one since. When not buried under piles of broken computers or attempting to climb the mountain of videogames in his backlog, he can be found under the hood of any ailing vehicle or cruising the countryside on his motorcycle. It's a rough life, but someone has to do it.