One of the more popular forms of video games nowadays is the concept of a Role-Playing Game, or RPG for short. An RPG essentially requires the player to actually live the life of a video game character and interact with other entities in the game as if he/she were the character itself. This is nothing more than just a fun way to play. However, when RPGs gave birth to MMORPGs, the social ramifications were hard-hitting.
MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. The concept of such a game is this: You create a character, and then start off playing your RPG. The only difference being, that the game is not only being played by you, but by a host of other players from around the world. Every player has his/her unique character, and they live and interact with the game world as if they were living in it. They can interact with other players, form guilds and teams, challenge other guilds to contests of strength and/or skill, do a myriad of quests, or even team up with other players to do it. Apart from all that is the fantasy world this is all set in, where one can choose to have great prowess in sword-fighting, or have access to magical powers, and dress up and equip their character as they see fit. Sounds fun? Oh it is. In fact, its so much fun that its bad for you.
People have been known to play MMORPGs to the extent that they would rather spend more than half their time living in the game world than they would in the real world. They would rather live as a powerful sorcerer who everyone wants in their team rather than a lonely average person with a 9 to 5 desk job, having nothing exciting or fulfilling in their lives except the game. They have no need to interact with people in person: they can socialize all they want in the game, since the other entities in the game are, after all, real people with real emotions. People become more and more wired to their computer, ultimately losing touch with all reality except the occasional stroll to the kitchen to grab a meal.
For most people, MMORPGs provide a way to escape from their everyday routines and make their life a little more exciting. They can express themselves in any way whatsoever, and exhibit behaviour that would normally be deemed anti-social in our society, simply because of the anonymity of such games. All players see is the other's person's character - They have no idea of the actual person who is controlling the character. A person may portray himself to be whatever he wishes, without any fear of any social ramifications, since if he comes across as an unpleasant person, he can simply hit the reset button, create a new character and start over. Romances have been known to sprung from online interaction in a virtual world, where people feel attracted to the character of another person on screen. In such a world, where you can be anything you want to be, and escape from reality, what are the bounds on what is and what is not acceptable? Fantasy words where everyone is content? Paying large amounts of money just for virtual items? These are some of the questions one should be asking about these MMORPGs before starting to play them. Especially if you get hooked easily, like me.
P.S. Wish me luck. I'm going into MMORPG rehab today...