A member of a WOW guild suffered a stroke in real life and died. Her guildmates, knowing her only through the game, but nevertheless wanting to offer some remembrance for one of their own, decided to hold a memorial service in the game. A rival guild decided that would be a great time to show up and kill everyone. Hilarity ensued.
Now, is it sort of creepy and vaguely sad that a group of people elected to hold a virtual funeral? I’d say so. It lends a depressing weight to the stereotype of basement-dwelling gamers who can’t function in the real world. In my opinion, it trivializes the real loss that this person’s real-life loved ones feel. But saying gamers aren’t the most socially adept subculture isn’t going to surprise anyone, and the fact is, these people did have a relationship with the deceased, however unorthodox. You can’t criticize someone for feeling grief simply because they haven’t met the deceased in the physical world.
Is killing a person’s avatar the same as killing a person? Of course not. It’s not close. But it does have a real effect on that person. You are inflicting suffering upon someone else, even if only putting them through the tedium of building up another character. We have ways to describe people who get off on inflicting suffering on others. One of them is “sadistic.” Another is “evil.”–Joe Rybicki –The Real and the Semi-Real (1up.com)