Comment 232

By bucknaked (registered) | Posted None at

I met a guy on a plane to Vancouver last summer. Actually, we were stuck sitting next to one another, so it was a forced introduction aided by several gins. Nonetheless. We spoke for hours. He was headed to the coast, from Ottawa, for a friend's stag party. "Your brother?" I asked. "No." he shook his head. "A good friend?" "Not really. A former colleague." He said, after a pause. "I mean we still keep in touch, well quite often. Yes. I guess he's a good friend." My seatmate seemed uncertain what kind of relationship he had with this guy. At least that's the feeling I had from our conversation. In my mind, he must have had some meaningful connection to the person waiting for him in Vancouver - I mean he was spending a boatload of money flying 4800km to be at the guy's stag party. I was puzzled, and I must have looked the part, because the information that followed was somewhat unsolicited. My seatmate described to me his friendship with the man getting married in Vancouver. It seems the two were aquaintances from an old job in Ottawa, but they really formed their friendship over the years that followed online. They played video games together online. "Really?" I said. Trying not to sound baffled. "Yup." said my seatmate. He and his Vancouver buddy had been flying virtual simulator planes together for years now. He almost sighed as he said this. "Not just any flying games though. We fly missions." "Missions?" I asked. "Yup." He answered. "Missions. We fly authentic World War One mission simulations." He went on to describe the planes, the battles, the way they communicated online with headsets. He elaborated on his "setup," and how much money he spent annually flying virtual combat simulators with his pals from his basement in Ottawa. It was apparent to me that this guy was more than passionate about his virtual hobby. In fact, he was one of over 20 living-room Red Barons who met online, once a week, to fly virtual missions together over a digitized recreation of the Sommes, or Ypres, or wherever. They had specific roles, planes, names. They had virtual personalities that they had created online to distinguish themselves in the squadron. He described the accent he used online to be recognized by the other fighter pilots. "Sometimes." He explained. "There are so many of us, you can't tell who's who." He proceeded to order us two more gins with his phony accent. I found this guy fascinating. Not because of what he was doing, that was wierd to me. I was fascinated because he was so enveloped in his own personal fantasy. I mean, really, he was flying out to Vancouver to go to his virtual wing-man's stag party. He had twenty friends that knew him by another name, whom he spoke to in a phony accent. By all accounts, he spent 8 hours a week with 20 men he never saw in person. As we parted ways at Vancouver luggage turnstill I caught myself feeling sorry for this guy. I know, I shouldn't have been thinking that way. I had no reason to. This was a healthy, productive, and very nice - downright affable - person. He was candid with me, and very knowledgable about his wartime history. I was just worried for him. What if he didn't get along with his old colleague in real life? He admitted they really didn't know each other offline. What if the other guys expected he really was Scottish? What if ... well... what if they just sat inside and played video games all weekend? I had to laugh at that. If a guy flew 4800 km to play a virtual flight simulator game. Fuck me.

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