I happened to meet up with one of my friends from College yesterday. He's a police officer now, which suits him well because I've always admired both his facility with people and his cool head in an emergency. He's smart, empathetic, and level-headed, all things that you want in a dedicated public defender.
Anyway, he was telling me that his brother, who is also a policeman, was an early responder to a pretty grisly scene in which some of his friends had been ambushed and killed.
My friend said that he couldn't get away to visit his brother, who was understandably troubled and shaken by the experience, but that he did manage to spend some time with him virtually using World of Warcraft as an intermediary. No phone bills, instant contact, and best of all, a removal of the context of the visitation - they could focus on something else when it became too much to talk about. Stepping out of the real world, assuming a totally different persona, and laying the smack down on a couple of ogres apparently provided a much-needed escape from the immediacy and mundane morbidity of what they were talking about.
My stomach sinks thinking about what his brother must have gone through, and I'm glad to see confirmed something that I've always suspected about RPG's, especially MMORPG's - having access to an alternate world can be therapeutic as well as entertaining, because the real world can have crushing levels of boredom, drudgery, loneliness, and pain, and having a temporary but engrossing escape from that can help people deal with those realities by giving them some relief from thinking about whatever is troubling them. Yes, some people can take it too far and assume the virtual world as their real world, but that is a miniscule minority compared to the people that gain real personal value from it. Brother connecting with brother to comfort and heal is a testament to that.