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"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse


5.25.2004

Virtual Addiction 

Wired reports that the text-based online role-playing game Achaea has introduced a highly addictive substance, called gleam, into the gamespace.
"What we wanted to do with gleam was we wanted to see how the player base would react to something that's pretty bad," said Matthew Mihaly, the CEO of Achaea publisher Iron Realms Entertainment. "It's really nasty. We didn't tell them it was addictive.... (Non-player characters) showed up and said, 'Hey, I've got this stuff here, wanna try it?' Being new, they pounced right on it."

Achaea characters who take gleam get hooked quickly -- suffering typical addiction symptoms: violent vomiting, shivering, irrational sobbing, begging for the drug and even overdoses resulting in death. Some of the game's players are angry about gleam's introduction into their world.
Some Achaen cities have banned use of the drug and will boot players who violate the law, but the makers of the game defend themselves and suggest that it's just another level of realism in the virtual world. They also cite the addictive nature of online multiplayer games themselves - the obvious example being Evercrack.
Yet to some, drugs are a natural outgrowth of the intensity with which online game players immerse themselves.

"People spend money, huge amounts of time (and) get completely fanatical," said Ron Meiners, an expert in online gaming and communities. They "get completely wrapped up in the experience -- the second life. Virtual drugs are just the next step."

"Compulsive or addictive behavior is a facet of life many hard-core gamers know a lot about," Meiners said. "If they weren't compelled, they wouldn't be hard-core."

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