This Salon article about online attraction is worth your time:

I first met SaltySaber in a dark and dangerous swamp, where he answered my desperate cry for help and rescued me from a gaggle of ruthless ghosts. He slaughtered them effortlessly, with the efficiency and finesse of an experienced warrior. Then, he chivalrously presented me with the spoils.

From that moment on, we were inseparable. We quested together constantly, and he brought his friends along. They were all his church buddies in real life, and together we made a motley crew. Me, a gay secular Jew in Michigan. He and his friends, religious Mormons in Idaho.

But the author — gay and male — is playing a human character in the game who is pretty and slim and female. Seeds of emotional tragedy, yes?

Soon, my femaleness became central to our relationship, and he grew even more thoughtful. He’d send me notes in “WoW’s” mail system saying he was thinking of me. Once, I expressed my desire for a rare dragon pet, and the next day, it appeared in my mailbox. He must have spent hours slaying dragons and waiting for one to relinquish my gift.

We’d position our avatars next to one another so that we appeared to hold hands. We’d lie down together and look at the “stars.” Salty’s avatar was sexy: broad-shouldered and narrow-waisted with long hair, big arms and pale blue skin. In real life, he was more cute than sexy: a kind face with nice features, a compact build, black hair. In the picture he emailed, he was surrounded by male friends; Salty was the shortest of the bunch but the handsomest. I never sent him a picture of myself.

I wasn’t great at “WoW,” and I needed his help. He was at a higher level but always happy to redo missions he’d already completed just to aid me in accomplishing my goals.

I appreciated his assistance, but that’s not why I kept him around. I enjoyed his company. He was caring and kind and always happy to “see” me. It made my lonely life brighter to know that someone somewhere desired my company, even if he knew only a prettier, magical version of me.

Our romance was a time bomb. One day, as we rode dragons across the plains, Salty expressed his feelings for me: “We’re not allowed to have sex before marriage, but I have a feeling that if you were here in Idaho, I’d be bad.”

If you read the whole thing, you may question the choices that created this situation, or the way it was resolved. Me, I find the story interesting as a document on how and why online attraction works. And the little vignette about the dragon-pet seduction? That’s cute, you gotta admit it.

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