Bottom line: Video games and those who play them are often portrayed negatively by the mainstream media, but a recent story has shone a light on their positive sides, showing how a shared love of the hobby can bring people together.
A group of six men had been playing online titles together since meeting on the internet over five years ago. Like many gamers, they had formed a close friendship despite never actually meeting in person. But the group finally came together after one of them, 23-year-old Joe, started receiving treatment for cancer.
David Miller, from New Brunswick, Canada, shared the story and the image of the group at Joe’s hospital bed in New Jersey on Reddit. His friends recently discovered he had been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a very rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in bones or the soft tissue around them. It only affects around 200 people in the US every year.
Tragically, Joe’s condition is terminal, and he now lives in a hospice center.
Speaking to the BBC, Miller said, "We played pretty much everything. We played all the time. Even if we weren't playing games we would be just hanging out talking about anything."
The friends had always wanted to meet up but decided to put the action into motion once they discovered Joe’s condition. "...after finding out that our time was limited we knew we had to do it sooner rather than later. We all knew we had to do it," added Miller.
While meeting people IRL having only known them online isn't always easy, Miller said it didn’t even feel like this was the first time they’d met. "We just hung out like we had done it 1,000 times before.”
"It meant everything, especially to Joe. There were definitely tears.”
The image has received almost 150,000 upvotes on Reddit and prompted stories of long-lasting friendships that began through gaming. 2018 has seen the medium once again being blamed for violence, shootings, addiction, and anti-social behavior, but there are plenty of inspirational stories like these that disprove the tired stereotypes.