As the playgrounds and parks around my home in India started getting replaced by tall apartment blocks, computer games presented a way to stay entertained. Huddled in a room, we played and cheered imagining ourselves to be that Superman who saved the world.
Over time, I moved countries with my family. I had to learn to make new friends and adjust to new cultures very quickly. My schools in Shanghai and Singapore had students from over 40 nationalities with friends moving in and out of school every year. To help keep in touch I was introduced to the online gaming world by a friend who was leaving for Netherlands. Since then I meet virtually with my friends across the world every weekend – sometimes playing on the same team and at other times competing.
The virtual world is an interesting place; it’s a world where there can be friends, enemies and “frenemies”. Within the reach of the mouse of my MacBook, the virtual realm helps me build bridges with people all over the world, making distances insignificant. While I play alongside or against my friends, there is a portion of the game that continues into the real world. It is interesting to notice how the power of anonymity and the reduced chance of physical confrontation, allows some of them to display unacceptable behaviors. At the same time, I have seen some of my friends develop unique strategic thinking skills while playing games that test your grey cells.
Whether one loses or wins, there are no enemies after the game ends. The biggest lesson I take from the virtual community to the “real” world is – even when there are disagreements, don’t lose sight of friendship. Participating in the virtual world has strangely made me a better person in the real world.