I just read a deeply touching BBC article about a boy named Mats Steen who grew up with muscular dystrophy but used World of Warcraft to make friends
when the rest of the world remained outside his reach due to being confined to a wheelchair. His parents didn't understand the impact that online gaming had on his life until the disease finally took his life--when his family saw a group of total strangers at his funeral.
But they were not strangers to Mats. They were his friends from World of Warcraft, who had learned of his condition when he disappeared from the game for ten days due to being in the hospital. They had never met him in person, but he was a dear friend to them regardless, and they made sure that they knew if and when he passed away, so they could go to his funeral to honor him.
For Mats, gaming wasn't just something he did to pass the time. It was a source of comfort, a source of freedom, a source of community. My favorite part of the article is here:
While his parents were away in Spain, Mats started his blog "Musings of life". In a post titled "My escape", he wrote about life in Azeroth.
"There my handicap doesn't matter, my chains are broken and I can be whoever I want to be. In there I feel normal."
Mats' story reminded me of the people I know on this forum, and the friendships I've formed as the years have gone by. There are a lot of people that are very important to me in this community. I've discussed this before, but it's worth emphasizing that this isn't just a collection of names attached to portraits and lines of text. This is an entire community.
Behind all these usernames are real people. Behind these portraits are our friends.