Can gamers be really looking to make friends online? I mean considering the ages, and my age... very much yes. The attrition of friendship growing up due to professional and life choices all add up very quickly in this longer lived age, not to forget it is an age where we may change careers more frequently than ever before.
It is TL8, the information age, and in GURPS Ultra Tech we are deep into the midway of TL8 and 15 years from TL9 lolz. Sorry for that Gaming reference, but if you consider the socio economic predictions of Hans Rosling, we are going to have more life to make life changes and part of the collateral damage are friendships and relationships.
So its only natural that many are more emotionally available to have online friendships and I'm happy that this medium is available. Its certainly less messy than fulfilling the other human urges that are more complicated and messy lolz... like eating and exercise, damn my aging metabolism and sedentary lifestyle!
The funny thing about the Wheaton Law/Golden Rule/ gaming rule (don't be a dick) is that if the other person is tolerable and you go through adventures, friendship is pretty much inevitable. Of course I understand there are many tiers of friendship (best friend being a tier, a quote from the Mindy Project).
I guess today is unlike the ages before, we have more co-workers and classmates in our life time, we have more casual or acquaintances because of the comm technology available, and we have little points of time and emotion we can afford to invest in relationships.
There are many kinds of friends, and your grandfather's definition doesn't quite fit it anymore ("friends are people who will help you move"). There are so many different kind of relationships, and there has been greater compartmentalization and definitions that has come with it.