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When players aren't battling monsters, their avatars are exploring fantastical landscapes (lush jungles, snowy forests, misty beaches), where they can meet and gab via the game's instant message feature, or through voice communication software. Hours evaporated as they discussed everything from their families to their futures. Langman realized that while she was in the fictional world of Azeroth, she was also on a date.

Bentley found a quiet spot for their avatars to sit.

Virtual communication has its risks — most notably, people can conceal things about themselves that might become obvious in a physical meeting.

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It's not foolproof — daters still face risk when they meet in person.

But taking the early stages of dating online could make these early stages, at least, a lot safer.

Rosenbloom writes about gamer Hannah Romero's first declaration of love for her now-husband: Speaking of emotions, the first time she let Dreadmex know she loved him, she did so in the game, and then swiftly logged off.

"You can say ‘I love you' and then run away," Ms. "That moment - ‘Should I tell somebody I love them? So to be able to say it and then to disappear is pretty great."Other gamers have echoed that sentiment, saying that typing their feelings or flirtations is less awkward than saying them aloud.

Of course, there's the danger that real life won't live up to the excitement of the game.

But gamers seem able to keep the two realms separate.Says Hannah Romero, Like any method of courtship, dating via Warcraft has its downsides.All the same, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the major dating sites introduces a role-playing game sometime soon.That can lead to more-honest conversations, and fewer misunderstandings.It's why many players believe that they come to know each other faster and better than, say, people who meet over a few dates.Online interaction isn't for everybody — some people prefer to get to know someone in-person as quickly as possible.