Counter-Strike, for instance, was a good place to be. Especially when you were skilled enough to dismantle whole teams with novelty firearms.
The Devil and I continued to merrily MAC-10, TMP, and UMP others, and one another, day to day, week to week, until shit-talking and trolling blossomed into something more. He wound up being Cameron, a high school junior living about four hours away. A decade later I have a spare key to his apartment. I don't think there was any single moment where friendship “happened.” It went from sharing a few rowdy in-game conversations, to sharing emails and stories, to then – in Counter-Strike and beyond – sharing adventures. When all I knew, at first, was that a serial UMPer probably wasn’t pretentious, only worried about maximizing their chance of a win. They were my brand of ridiculous. My brand of fun.
Games and the internet – somewhere along the way – became just more places in the world. Some of them gorgeous, hand-crafted and surprisingly social. Others, gaping abysms of antisocial desperation and rank odor.
It would be long years before I cared to learn the difference.