Dating and Marriage in Online Games

While online dating sites provide the sole purpose of meeting a familiar, online games do not only give you the opportunity to date, and sometimes even marry  another character (Perfect World), but they also provide the chance to play at many other things. It is like you are creating a new life in some of these games, and by dating another online character, it takes gaming to a whole new level. I played perfect world for a very short amount of time before switching to WoW, and I was astonished to learn that players could actually “marry” other players (I think you can in World of Warcraft as well but I am not sure). Sure, it doesn’t involve anything legal, you don’t actually marry the person behind the character, but It felt very strange to me. Marriage is supposed to be the ultimate and final step in sealing a relationship, but in various games that offer this extension, they seemed to be treating it rather lightly. While online dating sites require you to post a picture and talk about yourself, online games allow the player to build a character and a persona. They can tell people whatever they want without having to worry about retribution, and perhaps this “rules free” lifestyle makes them think it’s okay to marry another player inside the game. Marriage within the game, from what I understand, will actually give your player many benefits and rewards, so I think it is safe to assume (to a certain extent) that some games like Perfect World encourage this sort of behavior. My question to you is as follows; how do you think online dating differs from dating within an online game, and what do you think about the option to marry another player? Would you do it if you were dating another character and they asked you to?



  1. I think it is very interesting to compare online dating to dating within an online game. However I do not think they are very similar. While online dating is a remediation of traditional face-to-face dating experiences, dating within an online game is a remediation of the childhood game of playing house. In other words, dating within a game is only ‘pretend’. Game relationships occur between game characters and not between the actual users, while online dating, despite the computer interface, occurs between the people behind these interfaces. Marriage in games is just another step or another tactic towards the game objectives.

    But most importantly, character relationships in online games do not transfer to the real world or influence the real world relationships of its players. In contrast, Internet dating is real dating. It involves real emotions, real judgments, and real attractions, and unlike in online games, the goal of Internet dating is to successfully transfer Internet interactions into a satisfying relationship that exists outside of the computer. Which points to another difference: dating in online games exists only in the game, and Internet dating initiates online and then moves to the real world. However this comparison is valuable in how it expands our examination of the role digital media plays in redefining the concepts and acts of both dating and marriage.

  2. I think this is also a very interesting post, and brings up a lot of intriguing topics. As I was reading your post I wondered… Will MUD’s and RPG’s eventually replace online dating websites like Plenty of Fish or Ashley Madison? (In terms of finding and exploring new relationships?) I most definitely think they could!

    In some instances I would have to disagree with the above comment. I don’t think you can say that character relationships in a game do not translate to the real world. I think online dating and the simulation of dating in online games is quite similar. They both have Avatars that stand in as representation of the user. They can also be true or false representations of the users as well. Users also participate in a “chat” room exchanges and perhaps users can even learn more about each other based on the way they “play” or engage in the game. I also don’t think its fair to say that relationships in online games do not transfer to the real world and do not include real emotions or judgments. I think that it is up to the users whether or not their relationships are carried on in the real world. The same can be said for Ashley Madison or eHarmony. Users can engage in relationships online and never meet in person. (Dating websites can also be completely void of all emotion, and be purely for fantasy and erotic exchanges).

    In the end I think it depends on the users goal, in regards to whether or not online web sites or RPG/MUD’s can be used for online dating. Is the user looking for a fling or the real thing? (How serious are they? Or will they be relying on formulas to match them with another users, rather than their own instincts and perusal of profiles. Perhaps they are looking for someone who is interested in computer games as much as they are…). If you are looking to play a game and happen to find a companion within that game, who says the relationship couldn’t translate into the real world? Often these types of games facilitate the same needs that online dating sites offer. (As suggested by Lawson and Leck) For example, comfort, control over presentation and environment, breaking stereotypical roles, dating as an adventure, or a romantic fantasy etc…).

    Does anyone else think this could be possible? (or even a success?)

  3. Part of the reason things become murkier when discussing romance in online games can be attributed to the magic circle. That is, arguably, when you play a game like World of Warcraft, you take on a role within the game that can be very different from your real-life role, and a certain amount of role-playing is often expected (although that amount varies greatly, from player to player and even between different avatars that a single player possesses). And while some form of identity is expected on the dating forums as well, it’s arguably not to the same degree.

    That said, given that people can spend hours and hours on online games, it’s probably not a bad basis to start a real relationship–you start off knowing something of the other person’s values, and what you share in common.

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