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Addictive Online Games Have Real World Value

While single-player Flash games like "Tetris" or tower-defense games are still popular, the trends of gaming has shifted to massively multiplayer games, such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars.

Online games have become a new social norm for many teenagers and young adults. Just fifteen years ago, when you wanted to have a social get-together, you'd invite your friends over to play some good old-fashioned board games, like Risk or Monopoly. However, people can now play games with hundreds or thousands of people at the same time, interacting with other gamers across the world.

While it's difficult to justify that playing games online is a better option than heading to the park or mall, there's no doubt that online games are able to bring people together in undeniably large groups. Massively multiplayer online games allows thousands of players to interact on the same playing field. These games are predominantly of the fantasy and science fiction genre, although there are also crime and world domination-style games.

Currently the most popular online game is Blizzard's World of Warcraft (WoW), which has over 10 million monthly subscribers who pay $15 per month to play. Players choose a class for their character, such as a druid or rogue, and take on a profession if they choose. Players then perform quests that allow them to level up, and acquire items and gold.

Multiplayer online games have become overwhelmingly realistic, but not just in terms of graphics and sound. Players must govern and regulate themselves. Because the games closely remodel real-life situations, these games have also provided valuable studies on psychology and economics.

Virtual currencies have been the focus of many economic studies, especially where the game currency is proportional to real-world currency. Players have been known to pay cash or to sell real-life items for in-game currency. Players interact with each other to trade items, and "farm" for more currency to sell to other players for real-life cash.

The game has also contributed to other academic research. In World of Warcraft, a "corrupted blood" ability spread wider than the intentional world. The growth of the "disease" was monitored by the Center for Disease Control to study human response to widespread epidemics.

Psychologists have surveyed thousands of players to gather more information about the emotional aspects of the game. Gamers have been classified by the Bartle Test into four main categories: the socializers, the killers, the explorers, and achievers. The socializers are playing more for the interaction than the game itself, the killers provoke conflict, the explorers seek to discover hidden areas and glitches in the game, while the achievers play to level up and complete every quest.

Real-time online games require huge investments of time in order for players to be successful. As a result, there are many cases of "game addiction," where the players focus more on their gaming achievement than their own reality. Many players spend entire days, weekends, or days on end playing the game, which has led to reports of neglect from addicted parents.

Internet games are an exciting frontier for fans of fantasy gaming. Always evolving, the world of online games will continue to expand and improve. Only time will tell how society overcomes its zealous obsession and conflicts with these games. However, with some moderation, online games provide to great chance to take a break from the stressful world around.

Submitted by:

Daniel Millions

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