Illustration by Desmond Barca and Nicholas Ivins

Life on the Gamegrid: “CYBER FIENDS”

“I want him in the games until he dies playing...”
–Master Control Program
Tron (1982)

By Jason Padilla | Feb - March 2006

Let’s face it… reality is pain. If it’s not one thing it’s the next, and when it rains it pours. We wake up every morning faced with work, deadlines, payments, people… the list goes on. Luckily, there are several things at our fingertips to help numb the pain of being alive.

Movies, books, television, drugs, alcohol, and even video games help us escape the daily monotony of our lives. Unfortunately, like most good things; too much can become an addiction. Video games are possibly one of the least obvious addictions, but overindulgence can be harmful nonetheless.

In the United States alone it is estimated that 50 percent of the population are “gamers,” or have been gamers at one point in their lives. Console games and computer games can both be addicting, but it’s mainly PC gamers that take it to excess. Some gamers are so addicted it affects much more than just their social life; the result of a hardcore game addiction can adversely affect personal relationships, and performance at work or in school. Not to mention sitting in front of your computer for days at a time isn’t the best form of physical fitness.

A large portion of game addictions stem from “Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games” (MMORPG). These are computer games played online with other players from around the world.

MMORPG players start out as very weak characters of the lowest level in a world with thousands of other players. The goal is to complete missions and battle opposing factions in order to reach a higher level and become more powerful.

As the game progresses, items become more powerful and rare, and there is often no actual end to the game. Where most games have a number of tasks to complete before the game is over, a MMORPG leaves it up to the player to determine when to call it quits, which is often tough to do.

Artist and gamer, Matthew Lim said, “I have played some MMORPG’s for more than 12 hours straight. I have even gone as far as canceling appointments just to play a few hours longer.”

Players have no qualms about paying a monthly subscription fees to play these games. Most titles are usually under $15 dollars a month and players happily hand over the cash to keep their addictions alive.

In the grand scheme of things, paying $15 to get your fix for a whole month is hardly pricey. Some games make it possible for players to actually make money by playing them, though it’s mostly frowned upon by developers.

“While I don’t play the games to turn a profit like some players, I have no problem paying a monthly fee to feed my addiction,” said Lim.

With MMORPGs, players can take items—known as “loot”—to market and sell them for some serious cash to other players. In games such as “Everquest,” many players take their items and characters to Ebay, selling them for hundreds, and even thousands of dollars.

This practice is common in every MMORPG; the most popular titles being “Everquest,” “World of Warcraft,” “The Final Fantasy” series, and several others. Another common practice is selling game currency, made in the game, for actual currency outside the game, also through Ebay and other third party systems.

So who is addicted? Thousands? Millions?

“Blizzard,” the makers of “World of Warcraft,” recently reported having over 5 million players worldwide, all of whom are paying a monthly fee.

This is only one of several MMORPGs out there. There are still dozens of other titles, some MMORPG, some first person shooters, such as “Counter-Strike” or “Quake;” not to mention sports titles, among others. Some games are so popular that players make a living playing them. See www.thecpl.com for more info on becoming a pro.

Of course letting a game or anything else reach an extreme level of addiction can be harmful. Getting items and building characters is not something done overnight, it can literally take years.

Some argue that the time it takes to build a character often causes gamers to miss out on other aspects of life, especially with younger players who might be spending time online instead of socializing with friends. On the flipside, playing online games is relatively harmless to your health.

Four packs of cigarettes, two movies, a brief high, a couple books, a month of television, a bottle of booze, are all over the $15 gaming price, and some are seriously bad for you.

As with any vice, gaming can be extremely detrimental or relatively harmless, depending on how far you take the addiction.

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