How Video-Game Voice Chat Builds Friendship

Peter: I totally hear that. I never talk on the phone, if I can avoid it. And yet I spend quite a bit of time talking with friends who I play games with over the headset.

Jon: Also, let’s be honest, this is some nerdy shit. If you meet someone in the wild, it could take you a while to admit that you’re this nerdy. So when you start out doing this nerdy thing with other nerdy people, you’re already pretty naked in front of each other. It’s disarming.

Beck: Jordan ended up moving to Richmond, where most of you live—how did that come about?

Jordan: Trent called me and told me about a job at his company. This was in 2016. It wasn’t going to pay very well, but I was feeling stuck, and needed a refresh. I had struggled in Seattle to really find connections. It felt like the best connections I had were actually with people that I was playing video games with.

Peter, Jon, and Tim were here, and Trent’s only an hour and a half away. Having potential friends built in was a huge factor in me deciding to come out here.

Peter: When we heard he was moving to our city, it’s like, Of course we’ve got to hang out with this guy. That started a whole new chapter. We brought him into our actual, IRL friend group.

Beck: What was it like when you guys finally met in person?

Jordan: We all went to watch Captain America: Civil War. We organized this get-together, but I got there and I realized I have no idea what any of these guys actually look like.

Beck: You didn’t Facebook stalk them in advance?

Jon: I don’t even know if any of us have Facebook.

Left to right: Tim, Jordan, Jordan’s girlfriend Sonya, and Trent at the movies. (Courtesy of Peter Phillips)

Jordan: I found you guys in the theater as the previews were going, because one of you texted your general location.

Jon: I’ve never seen him before, and in my mind over the headset, I imagined him as really tall and really skinny. And he’s not either one of those things. So when he walked in and sat next to me, it was really weird. Like, Can you talk in my ear very closely so I can make sure it’s you?

Peter: Jordan was the first person I met who I already knew through a game with voice chat, but it’s happened a couple of times since. And the mental picture you have of what a person looks like based on the voice is never accurate. It always throws you for a loop.

Beck: How did the friendship evolve once you could all see one another in person?

Jordan: I’m moving to a new city, I’ve never seen these guys before, I don’t know what they’re going to think. But it was so seamless. I didn’t feel like I had to work for it at all.

Jon: It helped that Jordan didn’t have anything else to do. We would send you invites to get a beer or watch a movie or something and you were basically [always] available because you’re in a new city.

The culmination was when Tim and I threw a party for him. It was his 11-month party of living in Richmond. I don’t know why we decided to commemorate 11 months. We’re idiots and it’s funny to us. But we planned a party that was like, “Jordan, this person on our headset who’s become a part of our lives, is a real friend. Let’s celebrate his existence in Richmond after 11 months.” So we rented this upstairs room of a bar, just hung out, got drunk, and celebrated Jordan.