While I have never personally experienced the death of one of my online friends, I do know that if one of them were to slip into the shadows, I would want to know. Which brings about the question, if you were to pass away, how would you want your online friends to be informed about your passing?
After reading an article recently about an in-game funeral, I have pondered this, and have decided that like so many other aspects of life, "it depends" is once again the best response to this question, because it really does depend on both your personal life (Are you single or married? Do you have a will? Have you been experiencing any illness?) as well as your relationship with your online community (How well do you know each other? Have you been interacting with each other for a long time?).
If you are or have been experiencing any illness or disease which would be life threatening, and are relatively close with your online community, I would suggest informing them of the situation, at least in part, so that they are not caught off-guard should something happen. If you are married or have children, it may be beneficial to discuss with them what you would want done if you were to pass away.
While it may sound almost morbid to discuss these topics, it is very much similar to preparing your last will and testament (and could likely be included as part of your will, if you have one), and is intended to make your passing easier for your loved ones. Some things you might want to consider are the following:
- Of your online friends, which ones would you want to inform? (As many people as possible, or only the ones you interact with on a regular basis, like your guild or raid group?)
- Who from your real life community would you want to inform your online friends? (Wife, siblings, real life friend, etc.)
- Which method of communication would you want used to inform your online friends? (Posting on a website, Twitter, Facebook, VoIP (i.e. Ventrilo, Teamspeak, Mumble)).
- When would you like to have your friends informed of your passing? (Immediately after passing? A week or so after passing?)
- What would you want to have done with your online account? (Cancel the account all together? Sell the account (which is against the ToS)?)
- If you have any in-game wealth, would you want it distributed to the members of your community?
- Would you want an in-game funeral?
Personally, because I am married, I would prefer to take the burden of telling my online friends off the shoulders of my wife, as I would expect her to have other things on her mind. Instead, I would want one of my brothers to let my friends know via either our guild website, or via whichever VoIP software we are using (which is Mumble if you are curious), as soon as possible after my passing. This is partially because they are more familiar with technology than my wife, especially when it comes to VoIP software, and because I think they would be able to relate to my online community better.
As far as my account is concerned, I would prefer to have as many of my belongings as possible sold off, and the resulting wealth distributed amongst my friends. This way, I would be able offer them a small bit of joy in the midst of the sadness. I would not, however, wish to have an in-game funeral, as that would bring about sadness from both my online community, and unnecessary sadness for the person that would have to play my character for the event. Instead, if my friends wanted to honor my memory in some way in-game, I would much rather have a celebration. Assuming my current WoW community, I would prefer to have fireworks, drinks, food, and dancing.
While I hope that both you and your online community never have to experience the loss of an online friend, I will pose the question: What would you like done if you were to slip into the shadows?
See you in the Shadows,