Thanks for sharing your experiences. Being that I'm in this exact situation (online AG LDR), I guess I have some input here. This is probably going to be a long reply. I can get wordy. Sorry about that.
I really do agree with everything you said, right up until "You must meet in RL before you call it anything other than an online connection."
Don't get me wrong... I do think there are plenty of people who proclaim and profess "love" for someone they met online when really it's not. It's infatuation, attraction or something -- not genuine love. But you don't just find this happening just online. You can find this in "real life" relationships, too, right? I thought I was "in love" with my first husband. We definitely had a good friendship, but we tried to stretch it beyond that and it didn't work. It wasn't love. The marriage didn't last. When I was young, I experienced infatuation that I thought was love (although I hope I'm over that part of my life!).
Having met a number of people in the past (on a strictly friendship basis, nothing romantic), I do feel you can make real friendships online. Just as in real life, I find that I have made both acquaintances and true friends online. Sure, people can pretend to be someone they aren't online, but I've experienced this in real life, too. I had one close friend, one of my best friends (all in real life), turn into a completely different person. Well, it turns out that she was a completely different person all along, but had hidden it and it wasn't pretty. I guess the difference is that it is just easier to pretend online, so maybe it happens more frequently?
I enjoy gaming, but also go for long periods, even years, without really playing any games. However, having also used a game as an 'escape' from a bad relationship, I can also see the seduction that you speak of. It can and does exist. I escaped into a game in order to escape from my life. I also pretended that things were okay and that my marriage wasn't over with my in-game cohorts, but I did this with my "real life" friends, too. But other than that, I was just myself and I've met other people who, over the years, have also turned out to have been just themselves as well.
I hadn't a clue in the world that I'd fall for someone I met in the game, and that he would feel the same for me. But it's not like he has professed his love for me exactly.
When we first "met" 3 years ago, I joined the guild he was in and we just gravitated to each other. But I was still married then and before I divorced -- as well as for a full year afterward -- he never was anything other than a good friend. He never once even flirted with me. Not a hint of what we were feeling for each other was ever expressed until about a year ago.
We even stopped playing the game we'd met in because we had become bored with it... and it turned out the only reason we had both still been playing was to have an excuse to hang out with each other. For months on end, we'd both log on and then not even play, just chat, watch TV, surf, etc.
When the walls came down, our 'relationship' went to a whole new level. We weren't together and didn't consider that we were in a real relationship, but we opened up to each other in ways we never had before. Plus, we no longer needed the pretense of the game to spend time together. Since then, I got an extension cord for my headset, installed Skype and we talk whenever we can. We watch movies and TV shows together. We have our favorite sites we visit and talk about whatever is on them. We chat together with some of the other people we used to game with, none of whom still play the game either. Sometimes we have what I like to call 'cooking class' where he teaches me how to make some new dish, because I never cook and usually my cuisine is limited to what I can make in the microwave. He has walked me through installing new hardware for my computer, through formatting and such. We even sometimes play games together and just started playing a new one. Not because we need it for our 'relationship', but because we like playing games. We turn to each other when either of us is down just needs a shoulder to cry on.
I feel like I know him and he knows me more than either of my two ex husbands when I first married them. A bad reflection on me and my choices, I know -- but I also know I'm not alone there.
However, I still say don't consider what we have a real relationship. It's more than a friendship, but it isn't conventional and I don't know what to call it. I say 'relationship' above, because we have expressed deep feelings for each other -- not pie in sky and both of us are reluctant to say love, all things considered. We've both agreed that we are at least "falling in love", but we are trying to tread cautiously. Usually, I refer to him as my best friend. I never call him my boyfriend. I've referred to him as my "SO" in a thread or two here, generally in order to avoid having to explain everything.
Because of circumstances I'm not going to get into right now (I have posted about it in threads long ago), we haven't yet me IRL and I don't know yet when we might.