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Today's word on journalism

Friday, May 12, 2006

THE FINAL WORD

PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

Just fun and games? The truth about internet gaming

By Trevor Linderman

April 5, 2006 | There I was, deep in the jungle of Stranglethorn Vale, harvesting singing crystals from the undead minions of Zanzil, the outcast of Booty Bay. Engaged in an epic battle, near death, I shout for help. My comrade, a "divine holy priest" jumps to action, mounts his undead steed and races toward me. Throwing a power-word shield, deflecting the blow of the minion's mighty sword, he casts a renewing heal. With my new found strength I manage one final slash of my sword, and the vile creature is executed with the last of my rage.

The above account was an actual event in the life of Daniel Hobbs, a 24-year-old student majoring in computer science. Well, at least the alternate life Hobbs plays in the virtual universe of World of Warcraft (WoW). I watched Hobbs as he maneuvered his avatar, video game character, through the online realm during an interview at his apartment in Logan, Utah.

"I have two lives," Hobbs said. "Actually, there really is only one, but that gets interrupted when I have to go to class to take a test." Hobbs began playing in Blizzard Entertainment's virtual world, WoW, in March of 2005. Since that time Hobbs has logged over 1200 hours or 50 continuous days, creating, developing, and leveling his various characters. His "main," as he calls the character he plays the most, is a level 60 Shaman, named Delyla, who has been played for 27 days, 14 hours, 26 minutes and counting.

Hobbs joins the ranks of, according to Blizzard, over 5 million customers worldwide.

"World of Warcraft's growth continues to exceed all our expectations," said Mike Morhaime, president and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. But WoW is just one of the many online games entering into the new industry, and affecting people like Daniel Hobbs.

The industry itself is exceeding all expectations. The Business Wire said the online game industry is the most promising industry of the Internet economy, because of it's offers huge market potential, high profitability, high growth speed and clear profit pattern.

But many individuals, doctors, and even governments are beginning ask about the risks involved with internet gaming. In October of 2005 the Associated Pres said a 28-year-old man died after nearly 50 straight hours of playing online computer games. A Korean paper, Chosun Ilbo, said a couple in Korea neglected to care for their 4-month-old infant when they became lost in the World of Warcraft. They found the child had died from suffocation when their game had gone longer than expected.

"We must clearly recognize that the Internet is a double-edged sword and that its development will have some negative effects," Tang Jun, president of leading Chinese game company Shanda Interactive, said. "When it comes to the operations of online games, the most pressing problem is addiction, particularly the obsession of some minors who have harmed their physical health, neglected their studies and undermined the stability of their homes and society."

The Chinese government has began looking at potential solutions to the problem. They are developing an "anti-addiction system" that limits the amount of time citizens can play online games in hopes to protect players‚ mental and physical health, Murie Dickie, of the Financial Times Limited, said.

Hilarie Cash and other mental health professionals diagnose the behavior as internet addiction disorder and use the term onlineaholics, to describe those who suffer from the disorder. The New York Times said, according to specialist like Cash, as may as 10 percent of the 189 million internet users in the U.S. could be addicted.

It is an addiction which can scuttle social relationships, wreck workout schedules, and prevent one from leaving the house for hours and hours on end, Dr. Toa Ran, director of China's first internet addiction clinic said. Ran said he sees those who are suffering from addiction to online games and chat rooms. "They suffer from depression, nervousness, fear, an unwillingness to interact with others, panic and agitation," he said. "They also have sleep disorders, the shakes, numbness in their hands, and weight loss."

Daniel Hobbs said he doesn‚t feel addicted; he has not had any terrible life altering catastrophes because of gaming, other than missing a homework assignment or two and not doing so hot on an exam. He simply chooses to prioritize his schedule and his real life so that he can take part in his other life within the game, he said. And he also sympathizes with those who have been hurt by gaming, but he doesn‚t plan to stop. "I enjoy it and it's fun, I don‚t see a reason for me to quit," Hobbs said.

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