Monday, August 30, 2010

Virtual marriage

I got married yesterday, but only in virtual life, and not to somebody else: I married my main character and my second character in A Tale in the Desert. ATitD probably has the most extreme implementation of marriage in any MMORPG: If you are married to somebody, you have complete access to all of his possessions, and you can even log on as him. That is great for mule characters, but requires a big amount of trust when marrying another person. Worst case scenario is a bad divorce where your angry spouse first takes all your belongings and destroys your house before hitting the divorce button.

Many MMORPGs do not have marriage features at all. The best my wife and me could do in World of Warcraft was found a guild together and share a guild bank. But even in games which don't have any marriage game functionality, it is often possible to role-play marriage. You can get a suit, flowers, and a wedding dress in WoW, and role-play a big marriage in the Stormwind cathedral.

A long time ago I was playing Dark Age of Camelot, I was leader of a guild, and I was playing a friar. So when two members of my guild wanted to marry, I searched the internet for a transcript of a marriage ceremony some people had held in a MUD, and role-played the priest doing the marriage ceremony. And that is as close as I ever got to role-playing marriage. Because virtual marriage has one serious downside: Your real-world significant other might object if you marry somebody else in a video game.

This is one of the curious instances in which the virtual world somewhat overlaps with the real world. We are reasonably confident that shooting another player in the head in the virtual world doesn't mean anything in the real world, "it's just part of the game". But online relationships, cybersex, and virtual marriage aren't 100% confined to the virtual world. If you have a stable relationship in real life, a virtual marriage with somebody else is posing some moral questions: Isn't a virtual romance as much infidelity as lets say a steamy exchange of e-mails would be? You wouldn't want you significant other to write love letters to somebody else.

What do you think about virtual marriage? Is that cheating on your significant other, or is it just a part of a game with no meaning for your real relationship?

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