Apr 052004
 
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

This weekend I called my twin sister, who lives in Houston, to

catch up on life, the universe and everything. At one point in the

conversation she whined into the phone that her “toon had been

hacked.”

What does that mean in English?

She explained that her character for the online game “EverQuest”

had been stolen by a hacker, robbed of thousands of dollars worth

of equipment, and then deleted. EverQuest is a Massively

Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) that requires purchase of the

initial software in addition to a $10 monthly access fee. MMOGs are

games that can be played only through the Internet and where you

are surrounded by hundreds of other on-line players in

real-time.

Let me clarify. When she said ‘thousands of dollars” worth of

equipment had been stolen, my sister was not talking about the

virtual gold used in the game. She was talking about cold, hard

American mullah.

I found it hard to believe that something that didn’t actually

exist in the “real” world could be worth so much. But a search on

eBay reveals there is indeed a selection of EverQuest virtual

property being sold for real cash – the most expensive on a recent

search being a “level 65 Wizard” character with an asking price of

$1,500. That’s a semester of tuition for in-state CSU

undergrads.

What is truly mind-boggling for me is how passionately my sister

felt about the loss and all the hours and energy she has put in to

try to recover what was stolen. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,

since I have often called her to find her completely distracted by

the game, unwilling to leave it for even five minutes for a phone

call.

The addiction levels of MMOGs, particularly EverQuest, is not a

unique thing to my sister. All over the Internet there are stories

of people who lose themselves in the game, some logging in as much

as 40 hours a week or more.

EverQuest has even garnered the nickname “Evercrack,” which is

used to describe the addiction that grips players who “play like

they can’t quit,” according to the definition on

urbandictionary.com.

One Web log at koziarski.net describes why the writer refrains

from getting involved in the world of online multiplayer games. “A

few of my co-workers became hooked on Evercrack. I saw them stay up

’til all hours, miss shifts and generally have a (expletive) life,

all to play this game.”

Another post on a different site reveals the writer’s love/hate

relationship with EverQuest, which consumes 12 hours of her life

almost every day of the week. “Each day, just like my smoking

habit, I say I will cut down a little bit. But there is no cutting

down. I love EverQuest, it helps me forget all the other things in

life that bother me, my parents, my job, etc. It is my escape route

for life.”

Jay Parker, a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of

Internet/ Computer Addiction Services said in an interview with the

Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee that the thrilling graphics are part

of why people become drawn into EverQuest. “The other piece is that

it takes time to leave the game. You have to find a place to hide

to get out, and that makes people want to play longer,’ Parker

said.

Parker said online games as a whole are not inherently bad and

compared playing them to drinking alcohol. Both can be harmful if

abused.

“There’s no end to the game once you begin to play, unless you

turn off the computer,” stated a story that CBS’s The Early Show

did on the addiction of MMOG’s like EverQuest.

Kent T, who posted a response to the plea of an addict wanting

advice on how to get out, would agree that unplugging is the best

route in rehabilitation. Simply put, “Quit cold turkey; delete your

characters; never look back. It’s better out here.”

Free your mind, NEO.

Shannon is a senior majoring in technical journalism. Her column

runs every other Thursday.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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