I was in a gaming clan back in my high school days, mostly CS based, which had multiple populated servers, a rather well run website and forum, as well as that shining star of all things PC gaming at the time - a ventrilo server. Our nights in the game were like any other group activity. You show up to play, but you end up spending the night talking, cracking jokes, complaining about your day, etc. Then the clan imploded upon itself because it grew too big too fast and lost the sense of community it once had, causing a few cliques inside the clan and fueling internal hostility. When that happened most of those friendships suffered that slow fade to nothing that most high school friendships do, while others ended explosively. But 10 years later there’s still a few people from those days who I keep in fairly regular contact with, and up until a couple years ago still played games with regularly. I would still be playing, but for time constraints and lack of budget for upgrading my PC. One of them I consider among my best of friends, despite the fact that we still have yet to actually meet in person.
Surprisingly, even my grandparents, who are very old-fashioned and conservative, understand that there’s functionally no difference between the people I meet and play games with regularly online and the people I meet and hang out with regularly in person. I guess it helps that one of them is an immigrant from Germany and almost all of her contact with roughly 90% of her family, including newly born nieces and nephews, after 1964 was by phone or mail.