When Virtual Becomes Reality
By Liz Kloczkowski
WARNING: These are the types of games that completely entrance players. These are NOT the games that you can play for 30 minutes and then stop.
The Sims is a role-playing, life-simulation game that came out February 2000. After two years, The Sims had sold more than 6 million copies. After five years the game sold more than 16 million copies worldwide. By 2008, The Sims celebrated 100 million copies worldwide.
The game is basically a simulation of the daily activities of little people. The gamer controls everything from appearance to actions of their Sims (avatar-like characters that roam around in the game). Some people find their joy in making their Sims look like characters from popular TV shows and films. The gamer chooses hair color and style, eye color, skin color, nose shape, eyebrow thickness and jaw structure.
They tell their Sims when to use the bathroom and when to go to work. They control what is said in conversations between their
Sims. They even decide when their Sims “woohoo” (you know … when they make the bed … naked).
The game is always in continuous play. These Sims have entire lives that need to be lived; there is everything to do—from birth to death. The Sims will literally take over your whole day. If you aren’t playing it, you’re thinking about when you will next be able to play it. You cancel plans, you fake sick—anything to get alone with your Sims.
People don’t manage their Sims addiction; it manages them. “What addiction? I can quit anytime I want!” my roommate, an avid Sims 3 player, said to me one evening.
If you think The Sims is a mildly addictive drug, then World of Warcraft is crack cocaine. And its consequences are much more severe; it requires a paid subscription rather than just a one-time buy.
World of Warcraft—or WoW, as the gamers call it, is classified as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). You play the game through your on-screen character (your avatar), and your motive throughout the game is to “level up” or improve your character by getting experience.
Choose your side, the Alliance or the Horde, and pick from one of the 10 races of the land of Azeroth. Due to the natural human desire to “level up” in life, people can’t resist it. The level of achievement they experience in this fantasy world is something many feel they would never be able to achieve in reality. A guy who couldn’t speak to a girl at a bar could slay dragons and win the hot Elvin chick while playing online.
What is the most important (and the coolest) part is the linkage factor. Not only can you meet other people from all over the world via their avatars, you have to befriend them in order to advance yourself in the game. Many tasks require teamwork efforts; networking is huge. I mean really, can your Sims play a game of capture the flag with each other?
In a game like World of Warcraft, you spend the majority of your time trying to get items that get you points. Those who do exceptionally well at getting points become a kind of celebrity among the other players. It’s understandable why they wouldn’t want to leave that world.
It’s difficult to let go, and it’s potentially never ending. There will always be another quest thought up by the makers, and the world is constantly being manipulated and changed.
The negative effects of games like WoW and The Sims can be devastating. There are some people who play for over 15 hours a day. Some addicts play in 48-hour marathons. They don’t sleep or exercise, and they get sick frequently. It has been found that sitting in the same position for long stretches can cause problems like deep vein thrombosis (from keeping the leg bent), and frequent migraines. Gamer’s eyesight deteriorate from constantly staring at the computer screen.
Some consequences can be fatal. In 2005 Zhu Caoyuan, a Chinese gamer, was stabbed by another gamer during a dispute over a virtual sword worth 7200 Yuan (yes…real money).
In 2001, Shawn Woolley, 21, committed suicide at his computer over a MMORPG, EverQuest. He had shot himself in front of his computer with EverQuest running. His mother suspects that he had a conflict with an avatar he called “iluvyou” that he was particularly attached to. He wasn’t able to separate the world of the online game with his own life.
In places like China and Thailand, where addictive role-playing gaming runs rampant, authorities actually have proposed curfew on online gaming. In South Korea there is a section of its police force that deals exclusively with in-game crime. There are also clubs devoted to managing gaming addictions.
If you have an addictive personality, then online gaming is probably not a good idea. Save the gaming for when you are old and disabled. Right now there are better things to do. Plus, by that time expansion packs will be mad cheap.
Liz Kloczkowski is a freshman journalism major. She slayed the evil warlord and has possession of the mystic chalice. E-mail her at [email protected].