There are those who say that the online life is an empty one--that relationships that are mediated by an internet connection aren't real. A recent event on Final Fantasy XIV, an online role-playing game, evidences otherwise.
The player behind Codex Vahlda, a 50th level bard, was dying. He was 29 and going through renal failure. He was so well known and respected within that game that as he faced his final hours in a hospital bed, huge numbers of players assembled in the game to conduct a vigil. Mike Fahey writes for Kotaku:
Imgur user Aenemius, a member of Codex's Free Company on the Gilgamesh server, documented the steady stream of players arriving at the Free Company house to pay their respects. […]
According to Pattmyn, a real-life friend of Codex, the stream of the event made it into the fallen player's hospital room, so at the very least his family was aware of the massive outpouring of support. Pattmyn also reports his friend did not make it through the night. May he rest in peace.
I did not know Codex Vahlda. I couldn't tell name a single person in any of these images, character or real life. But I know the MMORPG community, having been playing the damn things for 15 years, and I know that whoever Codex Vahlda was, every single person in these images — in his final moments — cared for him like they were his dear friends. When a group of people is deeply invested in a virtual world, be it Eorzea or Azeroth or Norrath or wherever, there's a bond there that crosses any and all real-world lines.