We all met in an online game called Shadowbane, a very lore rich, but technically flawed game. During our stint in the game world, we were a predominately female guild, structured after the amazon lore provided in the game’s back story. This definitely helped to encourage a female based hierarchy.
Over time, various difficulties with the game, and the shifting of interest in the guild, slowly led most of us away from our starting game. But unlike many gaming organizations, luck would have it that our guild was strong enough to survive apart from the game, a feat that escapes a full 90% of game based organizations out there.
During the hiatus in between games, I noticed a rather curious trend. In lieu of roleplaying or talking about what game we were playing (since we had none at the time), things became very relaxed and conversations turned to just about anything and everything.
‘By the Goddess’ was a phrase that was often, and without trepidation. It was a measure of trust and understanding of each other that allowed such bold declarations to go unnnoted, and undiscriminated upon.
The question is, what factors affected this level of comfort?
1. Anonymity – Knowing that you can choose how little or how much of yourself, and your religious preferences, that you reveal is entirely through your words can be empowering. There is little chance of taking a hit to your reputation solely on the basis of your beliefs, and you can choose not to share them at all if you so desire. While you are, in essence, hiding yourself behind whatever name (handle) you take for yourself on the web, in effect you are coming out to be who you are without fear of retribution or criticism.
2. Trust – In the example above, being together for two years (for most members) cemented our relationships. Trust in an online environment is a difficult beast to handle at best, since it is so easy to misrepresent oneself. After two years, though, would you really be living a lie? That’s a long time to cover up your true nature, and can be a better window to the soul than many people believe.
3. Female based community – On the whole, gaming communities online can often be met with many a flame and angry words. But with a female based guild, things were handled almost completely differently from what I expected and experienced with other guilds. The level of conversation was on a much higher and more mature level than I had encountered elsewhere, topics of conversation ranged from personal lives to recipes to the newest
technologies, and helping hands were extended, without question, to
whoever needed them within the guild.
There was just a strange level of feeling that prompted the personal disclosures, the trials and tribulations of life, and a great deal about cooking for some reason. It is very empowering to be able to admit every detail of your life, and not be ridiculed for your personal decisions.
4. Open minded – Of all the groups I have encountered over the years, gamers remain the most open minded. My D&D group consisted of a druid, an energy healer, and a few other assorted folks. That fact was not hidden from any of the other players, and in fact was acknowledged and accepted. While I did have a falling out with the group, that open mindedness stayed with me when my gaming preferences took me online.
The mostly fantasy settings of these persistent world games allowed the players to be used to a world, albeit virtual, where magic is an everyday thing, and are likely to receive people of Pagan faith much easier than other groups.
While there are exceptions, on the whole I’ve never seen any harassment based on disclosure of religious preferences, and again, with the anonymity factor in play, you can easily slip off and integrate yourself into another community that is more receptive to you.
5. Game influences – While mentioned in passing above, the influence imparted by the game was one of the most essential parts in the development of our close knit community. It was very easy to relate with Goddess worship, as our in character actions predisposed us to that.
All in all, it is a very interesting environment to be a part of, and has taught me a great deal about what acceptance really should be, as well as tolerance and non discrimination.
If you ever get a chance to delve into online gaming, I think you’ll be surprised at where it can take you.