A few days ago I attended a memorial service for a young man named Dak who died of leukemia. I didn't know him at all, but some of my friends did; I went to support them and whomever else attended. I figured that anyone who dies at the young age of twenty-eight deserves to be remembered, even if by complete strangers.
The oddity of this event was that it took place within a game, within World of Warcraft.
I don't play very often, but my friends who do asked if I would attend the ceremony. When I arrived at the scene I found scores of other players who had gathered to pay their final respects. Attendants were from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia--some had even re-started their account just so they could pay their last respects.
A procession started at the gates of a castle and ended in a church. People were given time to say something about the departed through voice chat or text message. At first there was a long, awkward silence, and then one at a time people began to speak and type.
After hearing (or reading) story after story, I was amazed by how closely these people had come to know the departed. Whereas I play the game for recreation, it had become their full-time community. Many of the mourners recounted events and conversations that they had with him both on and offline. Some had even tried to visit him in the hospital but Dak insisted they remain home as he would surely be able to do the same soon enough.
As weird as this sounds, I found myself admiring the players around me. These gamers, these people, this community of perfect strangers--they did what they could to comfort Dak while he was alive, and to make sure his life would be remembered.