Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Ghosts of Friend's List Past

Of all the misconceptions about the autism spectrum that are out there, the one that gets me riled up the most is that we don't care about others. I know that, for myself, I do but it looks a bit differently than the way others show it. The proverbial ice takes much longer to get broken than others, but once it is, I usually will remember a person forever and there's nowhere this is more obvious than my Xbox friends list.

It's been amazing that, the sophisticated the Xbox Live service has become, the more solitude it seems is out there now. Also, people's attitude are much worse than when I first played online in 2004. However, as I glance at my friend's list, I am reminded of people I played with for years, and others that may have been just one evening. 

There's a gamertag, Prognosis, that I remember vividly. It was February 2006, and we played a ton of Halo 2. He was a doctoral student at IU, and we played with his girlfriend and another friend of theirs. I don't know how I got into a party with them, but the evening I played was the eve of my trip to Madagascar and I was trying to adjust my hours so I could sleep on the long flights. Anyway, we had deep discussions about life, travel, Africa, Halo, and as the sun came broke the horizon, they were done with their all-nighter and went to sleep. When I returned from my trip, their accounts were offline and have been since then. It's amazing how one evening of conversation can stick with a person, and it's been 16 years, but I can't delete them off my list because, in a way, that would be the deletion of their memory.

I have a former coworker from GameStop, the person I first added to my friend's list, dozens of people that I raced for years and years, and several that I've met in person. Each, however, mean so much to me. When I first played online, I did everything I could to maintain anonymity. I played to win and nothing more. Slowly, I opened up and with each friendship developed I learned something more. These aren't just random names on a list to me, but rather a deep meaning of progress, friendship, and competition. 

It's a unique thing, I think, that I'm able to see each person I added. Well, think of the people you worked with and were cordial with, and perhaps there's a person you've tried to remember their name that you worked with 20 years ago. With a list like Xbox has, you'd always be able to recall the name. This, though, leads to the "whatever happened to..." questions. There are many ghosts on my list that may never reappear. For most, gaming with a random person is just that, random, but for those circles people invited me into, those days were special. I think over half my lists are now ghosts. I'll never know what happened to most of them, but they'll also have no idea how much it meant to me and my development to have been included in what may have been just one evening of Halo. Yes, there's a misconception out there that those on the spectrum don't care about others, but for myself, I may be delayed in picking up on social cues, and maybe delayed in offering support when a person needs it, but those that I've come across mean so much to me I can't even delete their name off a list I have, even if they are a ghost of the past. 

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