Friday, July 15, 2005

Pay For Play

Many players of MMORPGs don't realize that some players are actually paying people in India to run up their character's status. For about $30 US you can advance your character significantly. This form of "cheating" shows that social status is, to some, even more important than game play. It may be interesting to recall that hiring someone to assume your identity and have them go into battle for you was something done by conscription-evading aristocrats during the American Civil War. Now, for a modest fee, you can hire a worker in India to go into virtual battle on your behalf. Some of you might ask why players wouldn't just enjoy getting there on their own - after all, isn't that the point of playing the game? It may be that the existence of this form of 'cheat' indicates the importance of social status over game play as a primary motivator to those engaged in MMORPGs. This is a notion often overlooked by game researchers who tend to focus on issues of game play as primary motivators of user involvement. We have only begun to scratch the surface on understanding how powerful verifiable online social status can be and how it can be used to benefit online education.