Virtual Life & Death

I’ve been wrestling with this post for a while. In a way, I don’t want to write about this because it touches on a very unpleasant subject. On the other hand, right now I feel outraged, and need to express some of that. Oh, and no, this is not about software either.

On January the 12th 2007, a friend of mine died. His name was Dan, and I’ve never seen him in my life. I met him in World of Warcraft – and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. When you meet people online, and get to know them only through their words and actions, you get to know them in a rather different way. In some ways, their character comes through more purely – you figure out quickly whether you can rely on them, what their sense of humour is, how they behave under stress, and sometimes they tell you what’s bothering them.

You don’t see their face, unless they post a photograph. You don’t hear their voice, unless you’re on teamspeak. You certainly don’t see all the body language, the smiles or frowns, all that subtly establishes how you interpret the person’s character. Getting to know people online is odd. I should know, I’ve married one of those.

But regardless of the oddities involved, Dan was a friend. We had a lot of fun together, Flumpo (as I knew him) and I. I was looking forward to meeting him, at some time, in some place, maybe at a guild meeting.

Last Winter, Dan’s house burned down. Around the same time, he went to hospital, because he had been losing appetite for a while. They diagnosed him with a form of cancer – I think it was his lymph system where the cancer had gotten into. It doesn’t really matter. The first part of the therapy seemed promising, he came out joking, and looking forward to playing WoW again. And when he went to hospital for another part of the therapy, he never come out again. Dan was 18 years old when he died.

It’s very strange what you feel when someone dies. It’s even stranger when you feel close to them, even though you’ve never laid eyes on them.

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