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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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WoW, video games waste time

By Spencer Merrick

“World of Warcraft” essentially has its own economy, almost limitless land and a population of around 11 million. It’s only a matter of time before it has a self-sustaining ecosystem and a stable government. The game is becoming increasingly real to many gamers, especially hard-core ones, so I feel I must give a distressing reminder8212;”Warcraft” does not actually exist.

For the most part, online gamers are able to make the distinction between “World of Warcraft” and the real world, and don’t let it become a controlling factor in their lives. But for others, including a number of U students, it doesn’t seem like the distinction has sunk in yet.

Garrett Young8212;aka Maetar, level 80 Restoration Shaaman, who resides in Kil’Jaeden8212;gave me some insight into a cycle of play that can lead to addiction. To him it’s just a hobby, and he doesn’t play nearly as much as he used to, but he has online friends who devote upwards of eight or even 13 hours to the game each day. One friend had to drop out of school because his grades were so bad. He would play in class on his laptop and put off homework because of raid obligations to his online guild. Maetar…er, Young, who attended the U last semester, said, “Sometimes people play this game because they see a sense of progression that they don’t see in their everyday lives.”

The game isn’t without its real-life connections, however. For instance, it has an actual currency exchange rate. In 2005, 500 “World of Warcraft” gold pieces (used in the game to buy armor, weapons, etc.) could get you $51.99 (that’s in U.S. dollars, mind you) on special Web sites.

Why get a job in a call center or a retail store when you could raid villages or become a troll blacksmith? Professions within the game, however time consuming, are a large source of these gold pieces. For instance, in the wee hours of the morning, when there are fewer users online, you could earn around 400 gold pieces in two hours by mining. With the 2005 exchange rate, that comes out to be about a $20 an hour.

You could also sell a profile for income. It’s not as common anymore, but you used to be able to search “”World of Warcraft’ accounts” on eBay and find three to four pages with results like “Level 60 Lich King” or “Level 70 Paladin,” virtual characters that users have built up for months that would go for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

“Warcraft” has also become a social network. There’s nothing like laying siege on an enemy Night Elf base on a first date. However, like any other online network, it has become a playground for sexual predators. Just last month, a 41-year-old man from California was indicted for plans to engage in sexual activity with a minor8212;a 13-year-old Utah girl he met through “World of Warcraft.”

“Warcraft” isn’t the only game played in excess8212;”Halo” tournaments governed the lives of my nerdy roommates during my freshman year, putting all of them on academic probation. I had a friend whose mom played “Tetris” for at least four hours every day, completely neglecting everyone in the family except for the dog, which sat on her lap as she played, creating an eerie, defensive-shitzu&-tetris-addict relationship.

I admit that I’ve had my own bout of video game addiction. To this day, if I pick up a Super Nintendo controller, my fingers still instinctively tap out codes for “Street Fighter 2″8212;muscle memory acquired from years of overplay. Some of you, I’m sure, are mouthing the code right now. “Up, up, down, down, left, right.” I shudder to think that I let Mario steal my childhood.

The biggest reason I think this is a problem is simply that it’s not real. I have a feeling that someday, a lot of people will come to that realization and frantically reach for ctrl-alt-delete, then bemoan the fact that humans don’t come equipped with an undo function. Unless users find a way to balance the real world with “World of Warcraft,” or any other game, people will find they’ve neglected their children, their spouses and their jobs. Students, who might not have any of those things to begin with, might be further away from getting them. They’ll at least find that they’ve thrown thousands of tuition dollars down the drain.

[email protected]

Spencer Merrick

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