‘World’ domination

In the past two decades, the video gaming industry has emerged as one of the most lucrative sectors of multimedia entertainment. For millions of Americans, it has also developed into one of the most popular methods of escapism. One of the most high profile examples of this is the hugely popular World of Warcraft, or WoW.

WoW connects players worldwide via the Internet as they embark on various quests in a fantasy world.

World of Warcraft is a quest-based adventure game. Players begin by creating a character which they select from one of eight different “races,” or species. The player then selects from a list of nine different classes. Once completed the player is free to guide the character through an endless number of quests.

In August of last year, the game reached one million subscribers only nine months after its release. In the months since then, WoW has grown even more popular, enticing additional players to journey to the digital environment created for the game.

However, despite the ostensible benefits of such an engrossing recreational activity, WoW has proven on some occasions to be the subject of gaming addiction. Because the game is so involved and intricately executed, players can sometimes find it difficult to pry themselves away from its particular brand of distraction.

Such is the case with psychology majors Chris and Kali Gillis. Though they were ardent gamers to begin with, WoW developed into something of an obsession for them. Noticing that this pastime had begun to jeopardize their time, they decided to take a one-month hiatus from WoW. The results were decidedly mixed.

“There wasn’t one day we didn’t think about playing,” Kali said. “The benefits were great, though, as we actually had time to finish our schoolwork.”

Although the advantages of this brief respite were undeniable, Chris and Kali were nevertheless seduced back to WoW, causing them to continue the tenuous balancing act of school and gaming.

“The game is seriously addicting,” Kali said. “The sabbatical did nothing for our addiction; we still play way too much.”

On the other hand, James Culp, a political science and history double major, praises the game’s visual style and imaginative storyline but does not believe it possesses any real potential for addictiveness. A fan from WoW’s initial release, he does concede that the game is rather time-consuming.

“The more you get into the game, the longer it takes to progress,” he said.

When Culp first got the game, he was an avid player, but since then, his interest has dropped down to a more moderate five to six hours a week.

Upon returning from Iraq, Robbie Nettles, 26, used the game as a way to re-adjust to civilian life. By immersing himself in this fictional world, Nettles was better equipped to gradually return to his life at home. He joined a team of players known as a guild, and his involvement skyrocketed.

“The guild required that he play 20 hours a week,” said his wife, Gwen. “But he was playing more like 35 hours a week.”

What began as therapy soon developed into obsession as more and more of Nettles’ time became monopolized by his commitment to WoW. Ultimately, though, the guild crumbled and Nettles decided to quit.

“It was really hard for him,” Gwen said. “He just got too caught up.”

While today’s burgeoning crop of products seems to indicate that games like World of Warcraft will only increase in popularity, the public will be forced to ask itself whether the existence of such games is beneficial or just another way to waste time.

Despite the game’s potential drawbacks, Kali remains steadfastly supportive. Even after her bout with WoW fever, she still recommends the game to fellow students – but with a word of caution.

“The game is very fun and a great way to relax and meet new people,” Kali said. “Our only advice would be not to play during school. If you can balance a game like this and school, then by all means, WoW away.”

Consider yourself warned.

World of Warcraft facts:

WoW sold more than 240,000 copies in its first 24 hours on the market. That’s more than any other PC game in history. Source: Blizzard Entertainment

On June 1, WoW reportedly passed the 50 percent market share for MMOGs. Source: MMOGchart.com

As of March 2006, WoW has more than 6,000,000 players worldwide. Source: New York Times