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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Explaining the Online Phenomenon

(SUPER EXCLUSIVE) -- The Internet is a widespread medium. More homes are wired up with broadband connections that seem to be getting faster every single day and yet at the same time, getting cheaper. There are even wireless networks in some areas. In a technological age like this, it is no wonder that online games and massive-multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) are increasingly becoming more popular. Figures show that millions of players worldwide play online games, the lowest score even clocking a few hundred thousands. The most popular online game is MapleStory, bringing in an estimated number of 33,100,000 of registered players as of February 2006, followed by World of Warcraft, a MMORPG, hitting an amount of approximately 7 million players worldwide. What has spurred so many people, gamers and non-gamers alike, to turn to online games as entertainment?

One of the factors must be the enjoyment of playing such games. Online games are no longer limited to simple flash games, which only has a single-player mode. Instead, more are developing into massive games like MapleStory or even RuneScape, which has vast worlds for players to explore. These games either involve attacking monsters or interacting with others, or even playing golf, as demonstrated in Pangya, another free-to-play online game. Upon successful attacks, players get experience points and level-up. Get virtual cash to buy equipments for your online characters. Pangya provides more variety. Players are spoilt with choice over the selection of golf courses, characters among many other aspects. Graphics are generally adorable, attracting people from all walks of life to play them. It only gets better. The games can usually be downloaded free-of-charge and can be conveniently picked up – hassle-free. These games also do not require high-end gaming machines to play since their visuals are not demanding. This translates into playing opportunities for people who may not have a powerful computer. The only downside is that the games feature mostly 2D graphics, which may not appeal to hardcore gamers, but game studies proved otherwise. However, despite being free-to-play, not all is sweet. There are still hidden costs. For example, players, who are too impatient with collecting virtual cash to buy in-game goods, may resort to buying them from other players with real cash. It is also common to see players selling off their accounts or virtual currency to others – and these do not sell cheap. Nevertheless, online games still remain one of the world’s most popular entertainments. The game developers constantly add in new worlds and collectible items to keep the games fresh and welcome more new players.

Not far behind online games are the MMORPGs such as the ever-popular World of Warcraft, EverQuest, Guild Wars, Auto Assault, to name a few. MMORPGs, unlike the type of online games mentioned above, are not free-to-play. So, you may ask: Then, what is the draw factor? Again, I must say that it is the pure addictive fun. Players normally have to pay monthly fees to play these games, with the sole exception of Guild Wars, which releases an expansion pack every 6 to 9 months to keep customers satisfied. Like the online games, MMORPGs boasts somewhat endless environments for players to explore, be it dragons, dungeons or any other ferocious monsters. Gameplay is usually fast-paced, providing for some really intense action. There are some differences between MMORPGs and online games, though. As mentioned earlier, MMORPGs are not free. MMORPGs usually have fully 3D environments and structures that may at times, challenge the power of your computer. Graphics aside, MMORPGs cater to a more mature audience and hardcore gamers. Not any kid can pick up a MMORPG and say that, “Hey, I am going to play it.” MMORPGs also require players to dedicate a couple of hours to it – at least, by the fact that many gamers hook their eyes to the PC monitor for an unhealthy period. Not only that, MMORPGs are also more likely to turn players into zombies, who do nothing all day besides playing their game, than online games, which offer more casual fun, although people playing online games have the tendency to get addicted too.

As we move into a new year, expect more people to get sucked into this world of playing enterprise that never stops working. Welcome the new age of online phenomenon. No, I am not one of them. Are you?


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